Long-term Language Misery

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AI is irritatingly everywhere in news and discussions as I write this, like sand after a beach trip. Working in IT, I could hold forth on such issues as reliability, power consumption or how they’re really “Large Language Models” (Clippy on steroids). But I’d like to explore something that does not involve complaining about AI – hold your surprise.

Instead, I’d like to complain about people. What can I say, sometimes you stick with traditions.

As is often noted in critique of AI is they really are sort of advanced autocomplete, which is why I prefer the term Large Language Model (LLM). They don’t think or feel or have morals, anything we attribute to humans and intelligence. They just ape the behavior, delivering information and misinformation in a way that sounds human.

(Yeah, yeah it’s a talk about AI but I’m going to call them LLM. Live with it.)

However when I look at LLM bullshit, misinformation, and mistakes, something seems familiar. The pretend understanding, the blatant falsehood, the confident-sounding statements of utter bullshit. LLM’s remind me of every conspiracy theorist, conspirtualist, political grifter, and buy-my-supplement extremist. You could replace Alex Jones, TikTok PastelAnon scammers, and so on with LLMs – hell, we should probably worry how many people have already done this.

LLM’s are a reminder that so many of our fellow human beings spew lies no differently than a bunch of code churning out words assembled into what we interpret as real. People falling for conspiracy craziness and health scams are falling for strings of words that happen to be put n the right order. Hell, some people fall for their own lies, convinced by by “LLM’s” they created in their own heads.

LLM’s require us to confront many depressing things, but how we’ve been listening to the biological equivalent of them for so long has got to be up there.

I suppose I can hope that critique of LLMs will help us see how some people manipulate us. Certainly some critiques to call out conspiracy theories, political machinations, and the like. These critiques usually show how vulnerable we can be – indeed, all of us can be – to such things.

I mean we have plenty of other concerns about LLMs an their proper and improper place. But cleaning up our own act a certainly can’t hurt.

Steven Savage