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GPT-3: an AI game-changer or an environmental disaster?

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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........

© The Guardian