Educated AI with a moral blind spot

PARIS (AFP) – An artificial intelligence (AI) technology made by a firm co-founded by billionaire Elon Musk has won praise for its ability to generate coherent stories, novels and even computer code but it remains blind to racism or sexism.

GPT-3, as Californian company OpenAI’s latest AI language model is known, is capable of completing a dialogue between two people, continuing a series of questions and answers or finishing a Shakespeare-style poem. Start a sentence or text and it completes it for you, basing its response on the gigantic amount of information it has been fed.

This could come in useful for customer service, lawyers needing to sum up a legal precedent or for authors in need of inspiration.

While the technology is not new and has not yet learnt to reason like a human mind, OpenAI’s latest offering has won praise for the way its text resembles human writing.

“It is capable of generating very natural and plausible sentences,” said Bruce Delattre, an AI specialist at data consulting agency Artefact. “It’s impressive to see how much the model is able to appropriate literary styles, even if there are repetitions.”

GPT-3 is also capable of finding precise responses to problems, such as the name of an illness from a description of symptoms.

It can solve some mathematical problems, express itself in several languages, or generate computer code for simple tasks that developers have to do but would happily avoid.

Delattre told AFP it all works thanks to “statistical regularities. The model knows that a particular word is more or less likely to follow another.”

Amine Benhenni, Scientific Director at AI research and development firm Dataswati, told AFP that “the big difference” compared to other systems is the size of the model. GPT-3 has been fed the content of billions of web pages that are freely available online and all types of pieces of written work.

To give an idea of the magnitude of the project, the entire content of online encyclopaedia Wikipedia represents just three per cent of all the information it has been given.