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ChatGPT can’t access the internet, even though it really looks like it can

Simon Willison’s Weblog: “A really common misconception about ChatGPT is that it can access URLs. I’ve seen many different examples of people pasting in a URL and asking for a summary, or asking it to make use of the content on that page in some way. One recent example: “List the processors on“. Try that in ChatGPT and it produces a list of processors. It looks like it read the page! I promise you ChatGPT cannot access URLs. The problem is it does an incredibly convincing impression of being able to do so, thanks to two related abilities:

  • Given a URL with descriptive words in it, ChatGPT can hallucinate the contents of the page
  • It appears to be able to make judgement calls about whether or not a given URL is likely to exist!
  • …I do think this is an enormous usability flaw though: it’s so easy to convince yourself that it can read URLs, which can lead you down a rabbit hole of realistic but utterly misguided hallucinated content. This applies to sophisticated, experienced users too! I’ve been using ChatGPT since it launched and I still nearly fell for this.”

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