The Bullshit Fountain

danmcquillan: We come to bury ChatGPT, not to praise it:

ChatGPT is, in technical terms, a 'bullshit generator'. If a generated sentence makes sense to you, the reader, it means the mathematical model has made sufficiently good guess to pass your sense-making filter. The language model has no idea what it's talking about because it has no idea about anything at all. It's more of a bullshitter than the most egregious egoist you'll ever meet, producing baseless assertions with unfailing confidence because that's what it's designed to do. [...]

Of course, the makers of GPT learned by experience that an untended LLM will tend to spew Islamophobia or other hatespeech in addition to talking nonsense. The technical addition in ChatGPT is known as Reinforcement Learning from Human Feedback (RHLF). While the whole point of an LLM is that the training data set is too huge for human labelling, a small subset of curated data is used to build a monitoring system which attempts to constrain output against criteria for relevance and non-toxicity. It can't change the fact that the underlying language patterns were learned from the raw internet, including all the ravings and conspiracy theories. While RLHF makes for a better brand of bullshit, it doesn't take too much ingenuity in user prompting to reveal the bile that can lie beneath. The more plausible ChatGPT becomes, the more it recapitulates the pseudo-authoritative rationalisations of race science. [...]

ChatGPT is a part of a reality distortion field that obscures the underlying extractivism and diverts us into asking the wrong questions and worrying about the wrong things. Instead of expressing wonder, we should be asking whether it's justifiable to burn energy at "eye watering" rates to power the world's largest bullshit machine. [...]

Commentary that claims 'ChatGPT is here to stay and we just need to learn to live with it' are embracing the hopelessness of what I call 'AI Realism'. The compulsion to show 'balance' by always referring to AI's alleged potential for good should be dropped by acknowledging that the social benefits are still speculative while the harms have been empirically demonstrated. Saying, as the OpenAI CEO does, that we are all 'stochastic parrots' like large language models, statistical generators of learned patterns that express nothing deeper, is a form of nihilism. Of course, the elites don't apply that to themselves, just to the rest of us. The structural injustices and supremacist perspectives layered into AI put it firmly on the path of eugenicist solutions to social problems.

If the CEO of OpenAI thinks that you are a stochastic parrot, then that means that he doesn't really recognize you as a person. We have a word for that kind of systemic lack of empathy and that word is "psychopath".

Blake C. Stacey:

I confess myself a bit baffled by people who act like "how to interact with ChatGPT" is a useful classroom skill. It's not a word processor or a spreadsheet; it doesn't have documented, well-defined, reproducible behaviors. No, it's not remotely analogous to a calculator. Calculators are built to be *right*, not to sound convincing. It's a bullshit fountain. Stop acting like you're a waterbender making emotive shapes by expressing your will in the medium of liquid bullshit. The lesson one needs about a bullshit fountain is *not to swim in it*.

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What the Jan. 6 probe found out about social media, but didn't report

The House committee investigating the riot avoided detailed discussion in its report for fear of offending Republicans and tech companies:

Congressional investigators found evidence that tech platforms -- especially Twitter -- failed to heed their own employees' warnings about violent rhetoric on their platforms and bent their rules to avoid penalizing conservatives, particularly then-president Trump, out of fear of reprisals. [...]

"The sum of this is that alt-tech, fringe, and mainstream platforms were exploited in tandem by right-wing activists to bring American democracy to the brink of ruin," the staffers wrote in their memo. "These platforms enabled the mobilization of extremists on smaller sites and whipped up conservative grievance on larger, more mainstream ones." [...]

That focus on Trump meant the report missed an opportunity to hold social media companies accountable for their actions, or lack thereof, even though the platforms had been the subject of intense scrutiny since Trump's first presidential campaign in 2016, the people familiar with the matter said.

Confronting that evidence would have forced the committee to examine how conservative commentators helped amplify the Trump messaging that ultimately contributed to the Capitol attack, the people said -- a course that some committee members considered both politically risky and inviting opposition from some of the world's most powerful tech companies, two of the people said. [...]

The Washington Post has previously reported that Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), the committee's co-chair, drove efforts to keep the report focused on Trump. But interviews since the report's release indicate that Rep. Zoe Lofgren, a Democrat whose Northern California district includes Silicon Valley, also resisted efforts to bring more focus in the report onto social media companies.

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