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Links for 2023-03-27

  • What Will Transformers Transform? – Rodney Brooks

    This is a great essay on GPT and LLMs:

    Roy Amara, who died on the last day of 2007, was the president of a Palo Alto based think tank, the Institute for the future, and is credited with saying what is now known as Amara’s Law: “We tend to overestimate the effect of a technology in the short run and underestimate the effect in the long run.” This has been a common problem with Artificial Intelligence, and indeed of all of computing. In particular, since I first became conscious of the possibility of Artificial Intelligence around 1963 (and as an eight year old proceeded to try to build my own physical and intelligent computers, and have been at it ever since), I have seen these overestimates many many times.
    I think that GPTs will give rise to a new aphorism (where the last word might vary over an array of synonymous variations): “If you are interacting with the output of a GPT system and didn’t explicitly decide to use a GPT then you’re the product being hoodwinked.” I am not saying everything about GPTs is bad. I am saying that, especially given the explicit warnings from OpenAI, that you need to be aware that you are using an unreliable system. Using an unreliable system sounds awfully unreliable, but in August 2021 I had a revelation at TED in Monterey, California, when Chris Anderson (the TED Chris), was interviewing Greg Brockman, the Chairman of Open AI about an early version of GPT. He said that he regularly asked it questions about code he wanted to write and it very quickly gave him ideas for libraries to use, and that was enough to get him started on his project. GPT did not need to be fully accurate, just to get him into the right ballpark, much faster than without its help, and then he could take it from there. Chris Anderson (the 3D robotics one, not the TED one) has likewise opined (as have responders to some of my tweets about GPT) that using ChatGPT will get him the basic outline of a software stack, in a well tread area of capabilities, and he is many many times more productive than with out it. So there, where a smart person is in the loop, unreliable advice is better than no advice, and the advice comes much more explicitly than from carrying out a conventional search with a search engine. The opposite of useful can also occur, but again it pays to have a smart human in the loop. Here is a report from the editor of a science fiction magazine which pays contributors. He says that from late 2022 through February of 2023 the number of submissions to the magazine increased by almost two orders of magnitude, and he was able to determine that the vast majority of them were generated by chatbots. He was the person in the loop filtering out the signal he wanted, human written science fiction, from vast volumes of noise of GPT written science fiction. Why should he care? Because GPT is an auto-completer and so it is generating variations on well worked themes. But, but, but, I hear people screaming at me. With more work GPTs will be able to generate original stuff. Yes, but it will be some other sort of engine attached to them which produces that originality. No matter how big, and how many parameters, GPTs are not going to to do that themselves. When no person is in the loop to filter, tweak, or manage the flow of information GPTs will be completely bad. That will be good for people who want to manipulate others without having revealed that the vast amount of persuasive evidence they are seeing has all been made up by a GPT. It will be bad for the people being manipulated. And it will be bad if you try to connect a robot to GPT. GPTs have no understanding of the words they use, no way to connect those words, those symbols, to the real world. A robot needs to be connected to the real world and its commands need to be coherent with the real world. Classically it is known as the “symbol grounding problem”. GPT+robot is only ungrounded symbols. It would be like you hearing Klingon spoken, without any knowledge other than the Klingon sound stream (even in Star Trek you knew they had human form and it was easy to ground aspects of their world). A GPT telling a robot stuff will be just like the robot hearing Klingonese. My argument here is that GPTs might be useful, and well enough boxed, when there is an active person in the loop, but dangerous when the person in the loop doesn’t know they are supposed to be in the loop. [This will be the case for all young children.] Their intelligence, applied with strong intellect, is a key component of making any GPT be successful.

    (tags: gpts rodney-brooks ai ml amaras-law hype technology llms future)

  • Employees Are Feeding Sensitive Business Data to ChatGPT

    How unsurprising is this? And needless to say, a bunch of that is being reused for training:

    In a recent report, data security service Cyberhaven detected and blocked requests to input data into ChatGPT from 4.2% of the 1.6 million workers at its client companies because of the risk of leaking confidential information, client data, source code, or regulated information to the LLM.  In one case, an executive cut and pasted the firm’s 2023 strategy document into ChatGPT and asked it to create a PowerPoint deck. In another case, a doctor input his patient’s name and their medical condition and asked ChatGPT to craft a letter to the patient’s insurance company.

    (tags: chatgpt openai ip privacy data-protection security)

  • GitHub Copilot is open to remote prompt-injection attacks

    GitHub Copilot is also based on a large language model. What does indirect prompt injection do to it? Again, we demonstrate that, as long as an attacker controls part of the context window, the answer is: pretty much anything. Attackers only have to manipulate the documentation of a target package or function. As you reference and use them, this documentation is loaded into the context window based on complex and ever-changing heuristics. We show […] how importing a synthetic library can lead Copilot to introduce subtle or not-so-subtle vulnerabilities into the code generated for you.

    (tags: injection copilot security exploits github llms chatgpt)

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