I had a personal situation this past year that kept me from posting much but today I decided to sit down and write something – all by myself without any help from anyone or anything. I could have enlisted the help of Chat GPT or some other large language model (LLM) but I didn’t. These posts generally start out with a foggy idea, which then take on a life of their own. Part of my enjoyment of writing these things is that I really don’t know what they will say until I’m finished. But sometime in the near future I’m pretty sure that WordPress will have a little window where you can type an idea and a LLM will just write the post for you. At first I will resist using it but one day I might not feel well and I’ll try it and like it and eventually all my posts will be created by a generative AI. Soon afterwards, the AI will learn what I like to blog about and how often I do so and it will just start posting on it’s own without my input. Maybe most or all content will be generated by an AI.
These LLMs are created by training a neural network to predict the next word of a sentence, given the previous words, sentences, paragraphs, and essentially everything that has ever been written. The machine is fed some text and produces what it thinks should come next. It then compares its prediction with the actual answer and updates its settings (connection weights) based on some score of how well it did. When fed the entire corpus of human knowledge (or at least what is online), we have all seen how well it can do. As I have speculated previously (see here), this isn’t all too surprising given that the written word is relatively new in our evolutionary history. Thus, humans aren’t really all that good at it and there isn’t all that much variety in what we write. Once an AI has the ability to predict the next word, it doesn’t take much more tinkering to make it generate an entire text. The specific technology that made this generative leap is called a diffusion model, which I may describe in more technical detail in the future. But in the simplest terms, the model finds successive small modifications to transform the initial text (or image or anything) into pure noise. The model can then be run backwards starting from random noise to create text.
When all content is generated by AI, the AI will no longer have any human data on which to further train. Human written culture will then be frozen. The written word will just consist of rehashing of previous thoughts along with random insertions generated by a machine. If the AI starts to train on AI generated text then it could leave human culture entirely. Generally, when these statistical learning machines train on their own generated data they can go unstable and become completely unpredictable. Will the AI be considered conscious by then?