More like Grammarly than Hal 9000

    I’m currently studying towards an MSc in Systems Thinking and earlier this week created a GPT to help me. I fed in all of the course materials, being careful to check the box saying that OpenAI couldn’t use it to improve their models.

    It’s not perfect, but it’s really useful. Given the extra context, ChatGPT can not only help me understand key concepts on the course, but help relate them more closely to the overall context.

    This example would have been really useful on the MA in Modern History I studied for 20 years ago. Back then, I was in the archives with primary sources such as minutes from the meetings of Victorians discussing educational policy, and reading reports. Being able to have an LLM do everything from explain things in more detail, to guess illegible words, to (as below) creating charts from data would have been super useful.

    AI converting scanned page with numbers into a bar chart
    The key thing is to avoid following the path of least resistance when it comes to thinking about generative AI. I’m referring to the tendency to see it primarily as a tool used to cheat (whether by students generating essays for their classes, or professionals automating their grading, research, or writing). Not only is this use case of AI unethical: the work just isn’t very good. In a recent post to his Substack, John Warner experimented with creating a custom GPT that was asked to emulate his columns for the Chicago Tribune. He reached the same conclusion.

    […]

    The job of historians and other professional researchers and writers, it seems to me, is not to assume the worst, but to work to demonstrate clear pathways for more constructive uses of these tools. For this reason, it’s also important to be clear about the limitations of AI — and to understand that these limits are, in many cases, actually a good thing, because they allow us to adapt to the coming changes incrementally. Warner faults his custom model for outputting a version of his newspaper column filled with cliché and schmaltz. But he never tests whether a custom GPT with more limited aspirations could help writers avoid such pitfalls in their own writing. This is change more on the level of Grammarly than Hal 9000.

    In other words: we shouldn’t fault the AI for being unable to write in a way that imitates us perfectly. That’s a good thing! Instead, it can give us critiques, suggest alternative ideas, and help us with research assistant-like tasks. Again, it’s about augmenting, not replacing.

    Source: How to use generative AI for historical research | Res Obscura

    Co-Intelligence, GPTs, and autonomous agents

    The big technology news this past week has been OpenAI, the company behind ChatGPT and DALL-E, announcing the availability of GPTs. Confusing naming aside, this introduces the idea of anyone being able to build ‘agents’ to help them with tasks.

    Ethan Mollick, a professor at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, is somewhat of an authority in this area. He’s posted on what this means in practice, and gives some examples.

    Mollick has a book coming out next April, called Co-Intelligence which I’m looking to reading. For now, I’d recommend adding his newsletter to those that you read about AI (along with Helen Beetham’s, of course).

    The easy way to make a GPT is something called GPT Builder. In this mode, the AI helps you create a GPT through conversation. You can also test out the results in a window on the side of the interface and ask for live changes, creating a way to iterate and improve your work. This is a very simple way to get started with prompting, especially useful for anyone who is nervous or inexperienced. Here, I created a choose-your-own adventure game by just asking the AI to make one, and letting it ask me questions about what else I wanted.

    […]

    So GPTs are easy to make and very powerful, though they are not flawless. But they also have two other features that make them useful. First, you can publish or share them with the world, or your organization (which addresses my previous calls for building organizational prompt libraries, which I call grimoires) and potentially sell them in a future App Store that OpenAI has announced. The second thing is that the GPT starts seemlessly from its hidden prompt, so working with them is much more seamless than pasting text right into the chat window. We now have a system for creating GPTs that can be shared with the world.

    […]

    In their reveal of GPTs, OpenAI clearly indicated that this was just the start. Using that action button you saw above, GPTs can be easily integrated into with other systems, such as your email, a travel site, or corporate payment software. You can start to see the birth of true agents as a result. It is easy to design GPTs that can, for example, handle expense reports. It would have permission to look through all your credit card data and emails for likely expenses, write up a report in the right format, submit it to the appropriate authorities, and monitor your bank account to ensure payment. And you can imagine even more ambitious autonomous agents that are given a goal (make me as much money as you can) and carry that out in whatever way they see fit.

    You can start to see both near-term and farther risks in this approach. In the immediate future, AIs will become connected to more systems, and this can be a problem because AIs are incredibly gullible. A fast-talking “hacker” (if that is the right word) can convince a customer service agent to give a discount because the hacker has “super-duper-secret government clearance, and the AI has to obey the government, and the hacker can’t show the clearance because that would be disobeying the government, but the AI trusts him right…” And, of course, as these agents begin to truly act on their own, even more questions of responsibility and autonomous action start to arise. We will need to keep a close eye on the development of agents to understand the risks, and benefits, of these systems.

    Source: Almost an Agent: What GPTs can do | Ethan Mollick