Season 5, Post 2: Explain AI to my mum
Have some free time on your hands? Then sign up to https://chat.openai.com/chat. Your author, along with over 3m other people globally, has already done so. The programme provides a wonderful insight into the power, fun and problems of AI (artificial intelligence). Chatbots are not new, but this one is different, with more compute power and parameters – numbering over 175bn – than previous iterations.
The premise is simple. The tool (known as Chat-GPT) provides a conversational interface that allows users to ask it questions in natural language. Response time is typically no more than five seconds. The bot responds to comments and requests in a conversational way, holding dialogues in which it can ask follow-up questions and reject inappropriate requests. Beyond answering simple questions (such as the one provided in the Blog’s title – the response appears below), you can ask it to solve problems, write poems and songs, draft letters and so on.
Chat-GPT appears almost magical, particularly to the layperson. It has been programmed using a technique called Reinforcement Learning from Human Feedback. The ‘GPT’ in its name refers to Generative Pre-trained Transformer. Existing knowledge in the bot is used to answer questions. The organisation behind Chat-GPT, OpenAI, is a Silicon Valley start-up – albeit with a meaningful investment from Microsoft and currently valued at ~$30bn. Its aim is to promote openness and standards in artificial intelligence.
Despite the magic, tools such as Chat-GPT also have their limitations. Pose to it a question such as “is this a good time to invest in the stock market?” or “how do you define a future trend?” and the answer that comes back can appear highly generic or generalised. It provides a response which could be considered sufficient, but far from necessary to allow a user to make an informed decision. Answers often (even in the example above) can also appear overly verbose. The good news is that the system should only improve over time, learning from user-generated inputs and honing its answers. Like with any toy, the more it is played with, the quicker its designers should be able to make it into something better.
What next? AI will only get more sophisticated – and perhaps very quickly. This may imply a paradigm shift in terms of how we do things. Professors and journalists could find themselves in need of redefining (parts of) their roles. More broadly, chatbot companions could emerge as the centre of everything we do in the digital and real worlds. Google et al are search engines; chatbots will emerge as ‘answer engines.’ Not everyone will feel happy about this direction of travel. There is already no shortage of misinformation and biases online without more potentially being generated – even if inadvertently – by skilled bots. What odds then, of this Blog being written by a bot in the next twelve months? We wouldn’t bet on it, but if so, it ought theoretically to free up your author’s time to perform some even more valuable tasks. That’s the optimistic view…
11 January 2023
The above does not constitute investment advice and is the sole opinion of the author at the time of publication. Past performance is no guide to future performance and the value of investments and income from them can fall as well as rise.
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Alex Gunz, Fund Manager
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