AI, ML, and ChatGPT

Disclaimer: this article starts a little bashy, but I promise, it gets positive at the end ;)

In Juli 2023, after a few months of wonder all over the world, ChatGPT started losing precision.

Well, this was to be expected. Let me start with the disclaimer: ChatGPT and in general LLMs are ABSOLUTELY AWESOME. They are the next step in the evolution of machine learning.

Still, let's take a deep breath and a step back. Even though strictly speaking LLMs are indeed AI, they are situated within the "machine learning" subset of AI which some even call "statistical learning".

Stating that LLMs are a form of AI, or Artificial Intelligence, is formally correct but misleading.

Saying that LLMs are machine or statistical learning on the other hand clearly suggests that it's all about estimating probabilities.

A lot of ML has to do with sophisticated methods of Bayesian Inference which all do the same: guess the probability distribution (with which we can make predictions on live data) based on the observed outcomes so far (the training set).

LLMs do just this. Based on a lot of previous words in the conversation (the "context") they predict the next word. That's it.

Ok, of course the mathematics behind it are quite sophisticated, so "that's it" is a bit of an understatement, but the most important thing to remember is:


Intelligence as we know it requires the combination of two things: an understanding (model) of the world, which humans do but ChatGPT lacks, and understanding (model) of language, which both humans and ChatGPT have, and the link between the two: an understanding of what language means in the world, which humans have and ChatGPT does not.

And now, for the good part

So ChatGPT has no idea what it's talking about. Still, it is very, very useful. ChatGPT cannot think for us, because it has no clue what thinking means, but it can reinforce existing thoughts, or even help us search, explore, and (re)formulate our own thoughts according to a model of language that might well be bigger and more accurate than that of the average English speaker (especially non-native).

ChatGPT is a wonderful tool that can help us in expressing thoughts, searching large bodies of information, and even rewrite this information by extracting the average content structure from multiple bodies. It is an absolute little gem that has the potential to redefine the way we access information.

Possible applications we can foresee are in the field of web search. Not only might this provide the next Google, but it might also provide websites with incredible search functionality, compared to which modern auto-suggest will look like a toy.

The future is bright, even if we keep our feet firmly on the ground ;)

Thank you for reading!

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