ChatGPT and other AI chatbots will never stop making stuff up, experts warn

OpenAI ChatGPT, Google Bard, and Microsoft Bing AI are incredibly popular for their ability to generate a large volume of text quickly and can be convincingly human, but AI “hallucination”, also known as making stuff up, is a major problem with these chatbots. Unfortunately, experts warn, this will probably always be the case.

A new report from the Associated Press highlights that the problem with Large Language Model (LLM) confabulation might not be as easily fixed as many tech founders and AI proponents claim, at least according to University of Washington (UW) professor Emily Bender, a linguistics professor at UW's Computational Linguistics Laboratory.

“This isn’t fixable,” Bender said. “It’s inherent in the mismatch between the technology and the proposed use cases.”

In some instances, the making-stuff-up problem is actually a benefit, according to Jasper AI president, Shane Orlick.

“Hallucinations are actually an added bonus,” Orlick said. “We have customers all the time that tell us how it came up with ideas—how Jasper created takes on stories or angles that they would have never thought of themselves.”

Similarly, AI hallucinations are a huge draw for AI image generation, where models like Dall-E and Midjourney can produce striking images as a result. 

For text generation though, the problem of hallucinations remains a real issue, especially when it comes to news reporting where accuracy is vital.

“[LLMs] are designed to make things up. That’s all they do,” Bender said. “But since they only ever make things up, when the text they have extruded happens to be interpretable as something we deem correct, that is by chance,” Bender said. “Even if they can be tuned to be right more of the time, they will still have failure modes—and likely the failures will be in the cases where it’s harder for a person reading the text to notice, because they are more obscure.”

Unfortunately, when all you have is a hammer, the whole world can look like a nail

LLMs are powerful tools that can do remarkable things, but companies and the tech industry must understand that just because something is powerful doesn't mean it's a good tool to use.

A jackhammer is the right tool for the job of breaking up a sidewalk and asphalt, but you wouldn't bring one onto an archaeological dig site. Similarly, bringing an AI chatbot into reputable news organizations and pitching these tools as a time-saving innovation for journalists is a fundamental misunderstanding of how we use language to communicate important information. Just ask the recently sanctioned lawyers who got caught out using fabricated case law produced by an AI chatbot.

As Bender noted, a LLM is built from the ground up to predict the next word in a sequence based on the prompt you give it. Every word in its training data has been given a weight or a percentage that it will follow any given word in a given context. What those words don't have associated with them is actual meaning or important context to go with them to ensure that the output is accurate. These large language models are magnificent mimics that have no idea what they are actually saying, and treating them as anything else is bound to get you into trouble.

This weakness is baked into the LLM itself, and while “hallucinations” (clever technobabble designed to cover for the fact that these AI models simply produce false information purported to be factual) might be diminished in future iterations, they can't be permanently fixed, so there is always the risk of failure. 

TechRadar – All the latest technology news

Read More

Zoom’s new animated avatars are the stuff of nightmares

Zoom has rolled out an update for its video conferencing platform that introduces a new feature that may well fuel your nightmares for weeks to come.

In addition to virtual backgrounds and video filters, Zoom now lets users appear as an animated avatar in animal form, with choices ranging from cat to cow, raccoon, bunny, dog and more.

The avatars not only replace the original video feed, but also mirror the person’s head movements and facial expressions courtesy of a few AI tricks.

Zoom avatars

Zoom set out the rationale for its eccentric new feature in a company blog post, saying the Avatars tool will be useful on multiple fronts, both breathing a bit of levity into meetings and concealing the video feed of those that would prefer not to feature on camera.

“Video communication is a modern marvel, but creating those magical and spontaneous moments that make in-person interactions so special can be difficult in a virtual setting,” the company says.

“Avatars are an easy and entertaining way to engage with attendees and create a bit of fun. They also provide a good middle ground for users who don’t want to appear on camera, but still want to express body language and facial expressions.”

Although the novelty value is clear and users will likely have plenty of fun messing around with the feature, the idea it might be employed in a business context feels farfetched.

Zoom avatars

(Image credit: Zoom)

Once you’ve seen your co-worker metamorphose into an animated cow, it’s unlikely you’ll care much about the spreadsheet they are presenting. Indeed, you may never look at them the same again.

Although the new avatars are charming enough at first glance, there is also a sinister quality to them. It’s difficult to identify precisely why, but it has at least something to do with the beady little eyes.

In reality, the new feature is more of a marketing stunt than a genuine platform upgrade. If it wasn’t, Zoom would have started with human avatars, which will supposedly land in a future update. But to the company’s credit, the strategy appears to have paid off.

The Avatars feature is available now on Zoom for Windows, macOS and iOS. TechRadar Pro has asked for clarification as to when Android users will gain access to the feature.

TechRadar – All the latest technology news

Read More