We’re Still Smarter Than Computers

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The idea of computers usurping people has been a fundamentals of science fiction. My colleague Cade Metz says that we influence be getting there. Maybe.

Cade spoke with me about a technology grasped as GPT-3, which learns to crank out writing that seems as if it was composed by humans. This technology could advise accelerate the development of computer programs that can carry on a conversation or equal spread faked information at the click of a button.

But Cade emphasized that technology has indicated for more than half a century to out-human humans. It never wholly gets there. Or not yet.

Shira: Explain how GPT-3 works.

Cade: It’s based on neural networks, which is a technological entry that learns by analyzing vast amounts of data. It’s how Siri validates spoken words and Facebook identifies faces in digital photos.

In this suit, a neural network scanned through essentially the whole internet to do one preoccupation: Predict the next word in a sequence of words. But it also learned how humans show language together. This means that with very minor prompting, you can get it to generate tweets, pen romance columns or even write unsophisticated computer programs.

This sounds bonkers.

It’s incredibly impressive, but the way has significant flaws. If I tried to generate a speech that sounded homologous to President Trump, maybe five out of 10 times the GPT-3 adaptation wouldn’t make sense, would repeat phrases in ways that human being wouldn’t and would require editing to make it logical.

If something presses only half the time, it might not be that useful. People go off the beam in assuming technologies like this are more advanced than they honestly are because they’re cherry-picking the successful experiments and ignoring the mistakes.

What is an case of something useful that GPT-3 might do, and something potentially baleful?

An automated system that handles the repetitive, boring parts of correspondence software programs really could make life easier for hominoid programmers.

The most frightening potential use is disinformation. Imagine a computer that can think up unlimited amounts of false information or fake photos and you can’t distinguish between what’s genuine and fabricated.

We hear all the time about technology that writes in the manner of people or converses like us, or makes realistic computer-generated human pans or faked videos. Why?

Repeatedly since the 1950s scientists have bring out technologies that seemed as if we were close to mimicking human savvy. Each time we were nowhere close.

The capabilities of this stripe of technology have advanced significantly in the past 10 years because of neural networks, but this charitable mimicry is largely based on identifying and matching patterns. Humans do far sundry than pattern matching. The question is, when does the technology suggest beyond that?

Well, are these things going to get as capable or numerous capable than people?

There is a massive argument about this, to among artificial intelligence researchers. Some of them believe that if you present neural networks enough time and data or computerized simulations of the existence, eventually they’ll reach human intelligence. And others think that’s only ridiculous, at least in the foreseeable future.

So will you and I still have penmanship jobs in 10 years?

Having used this stuff and talked to a lot of people apropos this technology, I’m not worried in the short term. But you can see the trend. This technology continues to get sick, and it doesn’t have to get much more advanced to complement human proletarians or maybe over a long period of time make certain job sectors antediluvian.

I will say that language models such as GPT-3 are like self-driving railway carriages. They have both improved dramatically but the last little bit of rise to reach human capability is very difficult.


I griped on Tuesday about smartphone apps. But streaming apps for TV are in spite of that more dreadful, because they combine the worst aspects of smartphone app stocks and the cable TV system.

Here’s what I mean: If you have cable or hanger-on television service, every channel in your lineup is there because of an covenant between the channel owner and your TV provider.

ESPN’s owner, Walt Disney, hammers out a ornate contract with Comcast, and Comcast pays Disney a bunch of riches, and then you get to watch college football games. Sometimes these affair arrangements reach an impasse and ESPN might disappear for a while as Disney and Comcast row over money. It’s annoying.

The streaming world could have freed us from this old college mess. Instead it entrenched the mess and took it up a notch.

In the same way that Apple and Google settle what apps can work on your phone, companies like Amazon and Roku pick out what apps you can download onto their streaming TV devices. And wish cable TV companies — and unlike Apple and Google — Amazon, Roku and their looks often reach individual contracts with streaming services to split the airtime for in-app commercials or to pay a commission for each Netflix subscriber who marks up.

When the lawyers can’t make a deal, you might not be able to find HBO Max, the Peacock video app or Apple TV+ on your streaming thingamajig. It’s bad. This is why you need to consult a flow chart to watch TV, and streaming apps doubtlessly cost more than they would absent this snarl.

I don’t know what to do. Maybe all of us should connect our smartphones or computers to our tellies and bypass the streaming devices entirely. But know this in your nub: The streaming entertainment system makes no sense, and it’s not your fault.


  • More unwanted attention for YouTube: The Google-owned site blocked the right-wing groove One America News Network from posting new videos for a week for reveal YouTube’s rules with false claims about a guaranteed medicament for Covid-19. YouTube has specific policies to punish channels for spreading red herring related to the coronavirus but not for false claims about election fraud, which OAN has aggressively continued, my colleague Dai Wakabayashi writes.

  • We can free ourselves (a little) from curtains: Set modest goals like a 20-minute daily limit for reading online communication on the weekends, and create No-Phone Zones like the dinner table. My co-worker Brian X. Chen has these and other tips for giving our minds a wear out from wallowing in our phones and other screens. (Counterpoint to Brian: If I don’t look at sifts then I think about the world and get sad and so GIVE ME ALL THE SCREENS.)

  • Use your affected screen time to stare at smooth brains: Wired explores the memes that induce served as our attempts to laugh while shrieking at a year filled with accidents. There are the “unwrinkled brain” memes and TikTok videos with overpowered “nee noo nee noo” sounds — all to express opting out of thinking about what’s happening thither us.

Ping Pong the cat fell four stories from her proprietress’s apartment to the roof of another building. Ping Pong was rescued by London firefighters and she is OK! Although you wouldn’t discern it by looking at Ping Pong’s expression in this photo. (Thanks to my mate Erin McCann for sharing this on Twitter.)


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