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The Survey Is Dead; Long Live the Survey: Can ChatGPT Replace Traditional Research Surveys?

RIPS Law Librarian Blog – Iantha Haight: “Our library recently hosted a guest speaker, David Wingate, a professor in BYU’s computer science department who does research on large language models, for a faculty lunch and learn. The entire presentation was fascinating, but the most intriguing part for me and many of the law faculty in attendance was the idea that generative AI systems will become so good they will be able to replace human subjects in answering research surveys. How? Generative neural networks trained on huge amounts of data—terabytes and even petabytes—ingest enough information about people that they can answer survey questions as if they were members of the survey population. Researchers provide the machine with the rough profiles for the individuals they want to survey, and the AI will generate the survey responses. Would this really work? Can a generative AI system learn enough about a person tell us how they will think and act in the future? We all have people in our lives that we know well enough to predict what they will do or say. For example, I know my daughter will always try to catch any baby duckling she sees and will choose Oreo-flavored anything every time. But that doesn’t mean I can read her mind. She surprised me when she chose Poland for her country report at school “because they have been in lots of wars and are helping people from Ukraine.” …

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