Written by Andy Croxall, Hello Lamp Post’s Senior Developer
AI – and GPT in particular – is very much in the zeitgeist right now. It’s no exaggeration to suggest, as many have, that AI as we have come to know and use it in the last few years will go down as the biggest technological breakthrough since the emergence of the internet in the early-mid 90s.
If you’re hazy on GPT, it stands for Generative Pre-trained Transformer. It’s a form of AI that has been “trained” on millions of web pages, books, Wikipedia articles and more. In doing so, its engineers have helped it “learn” about, well, almost everything, and how to use language and construct sentences. Debate rages among philosophers and technologists as to whether GPT (and AI in general) can be said to “think” in any meaningful sense.
So that’s the background. Not that it’s gone smoothly, of course. This being humans, we like to take a while to iron out the kinks. Like with the emergence of the internet, a lot of problems presented themselves pretty quickly. With the internet, we were ill-equipped to deal with spam, scammers, e-commerce fraud, harmful content, dancing hamsters and all sorts of other problematic areas.
And so it is with AI; questions about neutrality, ideological bias and content relating to harmful activity are not even close to being resolved just yet – and never will be satisfactorily. OpenAI, the company behind GPT, has a strict content policy for GPT and has programmed it with all sorts of failsafes (GPT will typically refuse to engage in conversation promoting violence, for example). Moreover, they’re constantly tweaking its source code to stop it doing silly things not predicted when it was built.
But that hasn’t stopped people “jailbreaking” (gaming) it to, for example, generate ideologically-charged content, or provide instructions on how to make Molotov Cocktails. Sheesh. Even when it’s taking time off from advising on bomb construction it can raise eyebrows; in some of our testing it responded to a question on religion by asserting that god was a figment of the imagination. As an atheist, I loved this, until I quickly realised that, just because GPT accorded with my own view on that occasion, it may well accord with someone else’s (potentially hateful) view some other time.
So these are the early days of popular AI, then. But that has meant the barriers to entry are lower than ever before for a company (or just an enterprising bedroom programmer) to set up a chatbot service. And sure enough, these have been springing up everywhere.
Suddenly, anyone with access to a web server and a modicum of basic programming knowledge can provide a chatbot service, simply farming out the user input to GPT via GPT’s API (a means for one system to talk to another in a structured way.) You could spin up such a service in less than a day. Seriously; here’s what the (simplified) code would look like to send user input to GPT and get a response back: