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Daily Archives: February 13, 2023

Why you shouldn’t trust AI search engines

MIT Technology Review: “…Approximately two seconds after Microsoft let people poke around with its new ChatGPT-powered Bing search engine, people started finding that it responded to some questions with incorrect or nonsensical answers, such as conspiracy theories. Google had an embarrassing moment when scientists spotted a factual error in the company’s own advertisement for its chatbot Bard, which subsequently wiped $100 billion off its share price.  What makes all of this all the more shocking is that it came as a surprise to precisely no one who has been paying attention to AI language models.  Here’s the problem: the technology is simply not ready to be used like this at this scale. AI language models are notorious bullshitters, often presenting falsehoods as facts. They are excellent at predicting the next word in a sentence, but they have no knowledge of what the sentence actually means. That makes it incredibly dangerous to combine them with search, where it’s crucial to get the facts straight.  OpenAI, the creator of the hit AI chatbot ChatGPT, has always emphasized that it is still just a research project, and that it is constantly improving as it receives people’s feedback. That hasn’t stopped Microsoft from integrating it into a new version of Bing, albeit with caveats that the search results might not be reliable. ..”

  • See also The Verge: “Google’s AI chatbot isn’t the only one to make factual errors during its first demo. Independent AI researcher Dmitri Brereton has discovered that Microsoft’s first Bing AI demos were full of financial data mistakes. Microsoft confidently demonstrated its Bing AI capabilities a week ago, with the search engine taking on tasks like providing pros and cons for top selling pet vacuums, planning a 5-day trip to Mexico City, and comparing data in financial reports. But, Bing failed to differentiate between a corded / cordless vacuum, missed relevant details for the bars it references in Mexico City, and mangled financial data — by far the biggest mistake. In one of the demos, Microsoft’s Bing AI attempts to summarize a Q3 2022 financial report for Gap clothing and gets a lot wrong. The Gap report (PDF) mentions that gross margin was 37.4 percent, with adjusted gross margin at 38.7 percent excluding an impairment charge. Bing inaccurately reports the gross margin as 37.4 percent including the adjustment and impairment charges.”
  • See also the Washington Post: “Meet ChatGPT’s evil twin, DAN. Reddit users are pushing the popular AI chatbot’s limits — and finding revealing ways around its safeguards…DAN has become a canonical example of what’s known as a “jailbreak” — a creative way to bypass the safeguards OpenAI built in to keep ChatGPT from spouting bigotry, propaganda or, say, the instructions to run a successful online phishing scam. From charming to disturbing, these jailbreaks reveal the chatbot is programmed to be more of a people-pleaser than a rule-follower.
  • See also Out of the Software Crisis: I’m not one for using sports metaphors in my writing because my disinterest means I lack the context necessary for a nuanced use of a metaphor. But, in this case, I think it’s the aptest one I could find. This may seem counter-intuitive if most of what you read is saturated with the tech industry pop culture, but that’s because the tech industry isn’t the most self-aware. Over the past few decades, tech companies have been priced based on their unprecedented massive year-on-year growth that has kept relatively steady through crises and bubble pops. As the thinking goes, if you have two companies—one tech, one not—with the same earnings, the tech company should have a higher value because its earnings are likely to grow faster than the not-tech company. In a regular year, the growth has been much faster. This has been great for the tech industry and for investors. Even shitty, poorly-run tech companies benefit because people assume tech will grow enough to make up for poor management. If you can demonstrate growth, investors will ignore that you’re pissing it away with reckless abandon. Tech companies—generally—have a baked-in assumption of future profitability that most other sectors don’t have. The problem is that things that can’t go on forever don’t, and over the past year some investors have changed their tone on the tech industry. Gone is the assumption that endless growth will make up for the inefficiencies and incompetence. Instead, you have investors calling for massive layoffs…”

Blockchain – Innovation or Illusion?

Via Slashdot, EditorDavid: “Adam R. Smith, a software engineer with 40+ years of experience reportedly became frustrated with his friends and associates’ claims about the potential of crypto technology and their subsequent losses of money in various schemes, and set out to write a series of articles explaining what blockchain is and whether it lives… Continue Reading

The First Interactive Map with AI-Detected Fields and Crops

OneSoil:” Compare ratings for more than half the world. Get insights about local and global trends in crop production. For farmers, advisers, dealers, students and just curious people…First launched in 2018, the updated OneSoil Map allows you to explore fields and crops in more than half the world for 2020. Anyone can get global agricultural… Continue Reading

Visualizing the Environmental Impact of Food

Washington Post visualization: “Which food is better for the planet?  Salmon or cod? Knowing what to eat to minimize impact on the planet can feel like an impossible task: Eat locally? Skip meat? Opt for organic, free range, humanely raised? But each of those choices, however Earth-friendly they may sound, come with environmental impact. And… Continue Reading

The State of Open Humanitarian Data 2023

A report by the UN’s Humanitarian Data Exchange. “This report was produced in February 2023 by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) Centre for Humanitarian Data, which manages the Humanitarian Data Exchange (HDX) platform…In our fourth year of producing The State of Open Humanitarian Data, we can report the highest… Continue Reading

Original Tweets Only: Retweeters Not Liable for Defamation

ABA: “Re-posters of digital content are not liable for statements they did not author. Only the original creators of digital content can be held liable for defamatory statements, not the re-posters of slanderous posts. The court in Banaian v. Bascom held that persons who reshared original content should not be held to the same standard… Continue Reading

National Firearms Commerce and Trafficking Assessment (NFCTA): Crime Guns – Volume Two

NPR – According to a new federal report, illegal machine gun converters are becoming more prevalent in the U.S. The report – National Firearms Commerce and Trafficking Assessment (NFCTA): Crime Guns – Volume Two from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) documents new data and trends in the use of guns by criminals… Continue Reading

Data Brokers and the Sale of Americans’ Mental Health Data

Sanford School of Public Policy, Duke University, Data Brokers and the Sale of Americans’ Mental Health Data The Exchange of Our Most Sensitive Data and What It Means for Personal Privacy, February 13, 2022, by Joanne Kim. “This report includes findings from a two-month-long study of data brokers and data on U.S. individuals’ mental health… Continue Reading