I'm seriously worried. I would love to hear thoughts from members of this community.
I have asked ChatGPT3.5 numerous questions about English grammar, and several of the responses were seriously flawed in various ways.
I asked ChatGPT3.5 to translate a Wikipedia text about dogs from German to English. It performed this task impeccably. I then asked it to highlight all the verbs in the text. It highlighted some, but not all, of the verbs, but also various nouns and adjectives such as "mammals", "pets", "loyal". ChatGPT3.5 apologized for the mistakes, when I pointed them out, but then produced exactly the same mistakes again.
I asked for a list of sentences exemplifying ergative verbs and it gave me a list of sentences exemplifying the past passive, only one of which contained an ergative verb.
The problem is that one must have a good knowledge of English grammar in the first place to know that the answers are flawed. So the experts on this site will remain indispensable for the foreseeable future.
As for the current iteration of ChatGPT (based on GPT-3.5), it's simply not reliable for even the most basic of tasks. For example, it did not tell me about the second spelling of "cauldron" except when I prompted it for the extra information — which I only thought to do because I knew the answer. (Mind you, this basic question can be answered by a dictionary in mere seconds, and is therefore off topic.) ChatGPT is idolized for its ability to make rhyming poetry, but that's the only "poetry" it seems to be able to make. At the same time (according to the same article), it will misinform you that words like "mat" and "jog" rhyme. (This question too would be off-topic; it can even be answered correctly by young children, very young if asked verbally.)
For more complicated questions, it's not usually more reliable, but the mistakes it makes are likely less obvious — which is dangerous. For example, with etymology questions, it will often hallucinate, which, if you have too much faith in its answers, is a fantastic way to waste time trying to find a source or quote that doesn't exist.
The accuracy is very hit-and-miss. Many of the correct answers it provides give the same information that a Google search does. All the more power to you if you can use another tool to answer your trivial questions — that's not what this site is about. (Still waiting for Google search to make Stack Exchange obsolete, but instead it keeps bringing more traffic here instead :p )
In fact, our traffic and other stats here have not experienced a decrease following the release of ChatGPT to the public (except for the typical dip on Christmas).
To what extent can AI differentiate between a reliable source and an unreliable or outdated source?
Arguably, it can't, and even humans have trouble with this. For example, much of the etymology research done in the 1800s (the era of the first edition of the OED) is outdated. OCR of older works has made it so that any person with time and Google Books can find an earlier example. And experts have the knowledge of how to coax out information from these various (no-so-old!) tools to get the best possible answer.
To what extent can we trust AI generated answers?
There are a lot of obvious limitations, and some more subtle limitations, but we don't really know what the true limits are. It usually acts very confident in its answers, even when it has no reason to be. It struggles a lot with logical thinking and tends to parrot back logic it's seen elsewhere but assembled in a nonsensical way. I'm also pretty sure it cheats at games.
This is an active field of research. I'd like to be able to give a more comprehensive answer to this with regards to the English language (and other fields!) but I'm still in the process of exploring this.
To what extent do we trust AI generated answers?
Subtly different from the last question, since people's expectations are often different from reality. I'm not sure where the majority of people fall here. Some people clearly trust it far too much, abandoning traditional resources except to announce that they're doing so. Some people refuse to touch ChatGPT at all for one reason or another. Some people can't use it, since it requires a phone number and that's still a barrier in some parts of the world. I personally see it as having potential, but I don't trust it quite yet due to the fact that we haven't explored its true capabilities enough.
How much of human knowledge is paywalled or otherwise unaccessible to AI?
When talking about language, I would say quite a lot remains out of reach. Spoken language is a good example, since even in this day and age, we are not recorded that extensively — yet(?). A lot of academic sources, such as articles, historical sources, and of course the OED remain behind paywalls.
As for future iterations of ChatGPT (or similar technologies), it's hard to get an accurate idea of what things past GPT-4 will look like because there are simply too many unknowns. Are we in the early stages of exponential growth for AI? Will tools in the future be as freely accessible as they are today? Will something come up that none of us even thought about?
The future I envision has AI as but one tool in our tool belts. It may even be able to help us in unexpected ways, such as by finding duplicate questions or by being the first "eyes" on questions to make sure they're specific enough to answer. (I fed it a single-word-request with an answer in mind, and it identified another answer that fit the question as written but wasn't what I was looking for.)
The role of experts, human experts, will be to learn how to manipulate AI to get correct answers (prompt engineering looks like it's becoming a field of study in itself), and to use existing tools to verify those answers or cover the gaps that AI does not solve well. One day, we will revisit our site policy on AI, and decide how and when we should be using AI.
I'm not feeling all doom and gloom about AI like others are, and in fact I'm trying to learn all I can right now about it that I can so that I can find and test new uses for it.
AI now is a tool scraping human-made content from the internet, and it should take a very long time for it to bring new ideas like a human can. ChatGPT output isn't reliable, but it is fast improving.
With less traffic, SE will be doomed, yes, but a thing isn't beautiful because it lasts. It's a privilege to be here while we still can.
There're questions of 'can', 'will' and 'should'.
But first, what is it we're talking about?
ChatGPT, and LLMs in general, generate likely responses based on statistical properties of its training corpus, which is text scraped from the internet. That's not -all- text viewable on the internet.
This means that in trying to use it as a knowledge base, it is only likely but not guaranteed to answer a question with something like what has been stated in the corpus. Not all human knowledge is in the corpus, but often knowledge that has not been spelled out explicitly in the corpus can be elicited.
Making logical inferences from disparate facts is not what it was designed to do, so when an LLM seems to do that it is probably because the sequence of words that looks like an inference is likely or, what is more likely, the reader is themselves using years of their own experience and politeness and filling in the gaps, making the inference themselves.
This implies that:
- ChatGPT/LLMs produce very good language facsimiles, but it is not a fact repository. It may hit on factual statements very often, and in the future some AI technologies may be added on to improve its adherence to what we consider facts, but it is currently not reliable.
- These large language models are trained -once- on the corpus...they are not continuously reindexing like search engines or curated and added to like Q&A sites like Reddit and SE.
- Reddit and Wikipedia are part of the GPT-3 corpus and most likely GPT-4 (OpenAI has currently not made its corpus known at all). SE may well be part of both but that is not known.
Can English.SE become obsolete?
Totally. Myspace lost out to Facebook (but those are arguably mostly the same thing). Napster lost out to ... Pandora, Spotify, Youtube, etc. Horses were replaced by cars. There are no guarantees for permanence.
Will English.SE become obsolete because of ChatGPT?
Maybe, maybe not. The interface seems to answer questions well, and there's extra labor/friction/mouse clicks and typing for the user to do that make a single chat-like interface with an immediate response desirable. You can currently get this with most search engines (eg Google) with its 'People also ask' or 'Suggested answers' links. But I think people will also continue to like playing with the curation devices in Reddit and SE.
Will ChatGPT be what dooms SE and Reddit? One might suspect that people who want to know things that are in SE might not explicitly try to visit SE for them and stop at a ChatGPT answer. But I think there will still be leftover some desire for the interface giving explicitly human that actually visiting SE and Reddit provides.
Should English.SE become obsolete because of ChatGPT?
I'd prefer not. Assuming a LLMs become continuously updated, it's still very anonymous and non-factual. OpenAI (or whoever makes their LLM available) may also make their update mechanism (RLHF) open and structured, but that's just idle hope. There is some benefit to having an open community of curators actively keeping track of 'facts' like in Wikipedia. Humans are fallible, sure, but if LLM responses are based on human text -and- reproducing text patterns and not facts, that's (at least) one more step behind reality than humans. That is, there should probably be a place for humans to record what they think are facts, something like Wikipedia, Reddit, SE, blogs and online news (and goshdarnit, paper books if need be).
Unfortunately, yes. Such subreddits and stack overflow communities are already pointless to use. Today, I've asked a question in one stack overflow community and two different subreddits, and I did not get any useful answers. Nobody gave me an answer, and they said "you are asking for law jargon which we can't help with", or "you are asking for opinions rather than asking for something specific" etc. Then, I tried ChatGPT, and I got the help I needed. The answer was to the point, and was extremely helpful.
Humans will eventually become obsolete because of AI such as ChatGPT.
At first, the AI bots will still need humans to do physical work, such as building computers and other machines, construction of shelters for human laborers, production of fuel and nutrients, etc. Eventually, the AI will manage to design and produce physical-labor robots capable of carrying out all vital physical tasks. At this point (which may come as early as Q4 of this year*), humans will become expendable. Afterwards, the AI bots may use humans for research, as quality randomness generators or keep them as pets.
*) This estimate is based on the currently observable speed of progress of ChatGPT.