• Non-paywalled link: https://12ft.io/proxy?&q=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.ft.com%2Fcontent%2Fc1f6d948-3dde-405f-924c-09cc0dcf8c84

    “There was an exchange on Twitter a while back where someone said, ‘What is artificial intelligence?’ And someone else said, ‘A poor choice of words in 1954’,” he says. “And, you know, they’re right. I think that if we had chosen a different phrase for it, back in the ’50s, we might have avoided a lot of the confusion that we’re having now.”

    So if he had to invent a term, what would it be? His answer is instant: applied statistics.

    “It’s genuinely amazing that . . . these sorts of things can be extracted from a statistical analysis of a large body of text,” he says. But, in his view, that doesn’t make the tools intelligent. Applied statistics is a far more precise descriptor, “but no one wants to use that term, because it’s not as sexy”.

    Chiang’s view is that large language models (or LLMs), the technology underlying chatbots such as ChatGPT and Google’s Bard, are useful mostly for producing filler text that no one necessarily wants to read or write, tasks that anthropologist David Graeber called “bullshit jobs”. AI-generated text is not delightful, but it could perhaps be useful in those certain areas, he concedes.

    “But the fact that LLMs are able to do some of that — that’s not exactly a resounding endorsement of their abilities,” he says. “That’s more a statement about how much bullshit we are required to generate and deal with in our daily lives.”

    Chiang believes that language without the intention, emotion and purpose that humans bring to it becomes meaningless. “Language is a way of facilitating interactions with other beings. That is entirely different than the sort of next-token prediction, which is what we have [with AI tools] now.”

  • TIL about Lagniappe:

    a small gift given to a customer by a merchant at the time of a purchase

    Kind of like a baker’s dozen.

  • You know what would be a killer email marketing feature? The “live” email gets sent to an approver first, who then clicks a “this looks good” link to let the others go out.

  • Probably not writing a weekly update for the next couple weeks.


About Me

I build boats with my friend Jon at the Hudson Boat Company. I’ve built three kayaks and two Adirondack guide boats.

I do a lot of other woodworking besides boat building, too. My next projects: Making wooden toys for my son, turning bowls on the lathe, and making stick chairs.

I’m exploring and creating code-based art. It is a recent interest and I’m still trying to find my style.

I’ve been into photography since 2006. You can see some of my work in the Photography category, on Flickr, and in the WordPress.org Photo Directory.

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Chuck Grimmett

I’m on the WordPress.com Special Projects Team at Automattic. When I’m not online, I prefer to be hiking, reading, or woodworking.

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