As the Bot explained it:

There are some similarities between a chatbot like GPT and the ancient Greek philosophers known as sophists, but there are also significant differences.

Like the sophists, GPT is designed to persuade and influence through language. GPT uses natural language processing (NLP) and machine learning to generate responses to user input that are meant to sound natural and convincing. Similarly, the sophists were known for their ability to use language to argue any side of a debate and to persuade others to their point of view.

However, there are also important differences between GPT and the sophists. One of the key differences is that GPT is a machine, while the sophists were human beings. GPT is programmed to generate responses based on a set of algorithms and data inputs, while the sophists relied on their own intellect and rhetorical skills.

Another difference is that GPT is not capable of independent thought or critical thinking, while the sophists were known for their ability to think creatively and critically. GPT is only as good as the data it has been trained on, and it cannot come up with new ideas or think outside the box.

In summary, while there are some similarities between GPT and the sophists in terms of their use of language to persuade and influence, there are also significant differences in their underlying capabilities and limitations.

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I asked Chat to write a sonnet about Death in preparation for a eulogy I was going to give and it didn't do a half-bad job. I tweaked a couple of lines but it did most of the work.

O Death, our great and feared enemy,

You come to all, both the low and high-born,

Inevitable, you take us eventually,

To a place from which we cannot return.

You are the darkness that fills us with dread,

A mystery that none can fully understand,

From the moment we draw our first breath,

We know you wait with outstretched hand.

But though you come with oppressive might,

You cannot steal the memories that remain,

Of those who've passed beyond our mortal sight,

Those who've linked love's unbroken chain.

O Death, though mighty, you are behind us,

You cannot break the love that binds us.

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Completely agree with all points, particularly that Chat and other language model programs aren't really AI. I think they get hyped because it's often assumed that the Turing Test, tests what it actually doesn't.

For example, my dogs often mistake balloons for living things. (My apartment complex deploys balloons to...gain tenants? Idk but they're there.) So, I think the bar for tricking a human is likely to be lower than we care to admit and not actually indictive of intelligence in the observed other.

I do think that these language prediction machines can be powerful tools for both good and bad. Particularly liked the examples you had of the programmer. So obviously useful in that application, a god send even. But in the hand of someone who wants to "flood the zone with shit"-s.Bannon, Chat could really present some problems for us well intentioned folks.

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I used Chat and it's definitely not a T800. Not even a T100 (Terminator references, for those not obsessed with SciFi). More like a gabby search engine. But I'm sure it will be misused and my ongoing transition to a Luddite will continue. :-)

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Mar 16, 2023Liked by Massimo Pigliucci

Sono perfettamente d'accordo con le tue considerazioni, comunque ho trovato una utilità della ChatGPT: correggere e semplificare i miei testi in inglese togliendo gli inutili giri di parole che noi italiani siamo così bravi a fare.

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Thank you, I appreciate your thoughtful article about Chat and AI in general. It’s fascinating to me how much our own need to anthropomorphize the world is so flexible- I wonder if attribution of thought to Chat is the same primitive impulse that attributed agency to the weather. Are we all just technological animists at heart?

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