Unless you've been holidaying on Mars, or perhaps in Spain (alongside the transport secretary), you may have noticed some fuss on social media about something called GPT-3. The GPT bit stands for the "generative pre-training" of a language model that acquires knowledge of the world by "reading" enormous quantities of written text. The "3" indicates that this is the third generation of the system.
GPT-3 is a product of OpenAI, an artificial intelligence research lab based in San Francisco. In essence, it's a machine-learning system that has been fed (trained on) 45 terabytes of text data. Given that a terabyte (TB) is a trillion bytes, that's quite a lot. Having digested all that stuff, the system can then generate all sorts of written content – stories, code, legal jargon, poems – if you prime it with a few words or sentences.
One explanation for the current excitement is that the machine strikes people as being rather good at "writing" original-sounding stuff. Recently, for example, someone primed it with a quote from an aphoristic blogger that went something like this: "I think I find information suicide (is there a better term for this that's not so depressing? identity switching?) interesting for the same reasons that other people find longevity interesting."
In response, GPT-3 produced a blog post that began: "I get it. But I've always been more interested in the other lever; resets. There's little reason identity should persist across 80 (or 200) years. French Foreign Legionnaires and cheating husbands have always presumed new identities. Identity persistence has only recently happened as a result of strong government record-keeping and centralisation. If we are going to pursue biological longevity – we should allow a diversity of lives to be lived… So maybe it's just that I don't see why our first lives should be the only ones that we can explore. Maybe we can have lives for different spaces in our limited time. Or maybe this is just wishful thinking on my part?"
From The Guardian (U.K.)
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