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The Guardian view on artificial intelligence’s revolution: learning but not as we know it | Editorial

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August 11, 2020 at 06:05PM

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GPT-3, the software behind the world’s best non-human writer, is a giant step forward for machines. What about humanity?

Bosses don’t often play down their products. Sam Altman, the CEO of artificial intelligence company OpenAI, did just that when people went gaga over his company’s latest software: the Generative Pretrained Transformer 3 (GPT-3). For some, GPT-3 represented a moment in which one scientific era ends and another is born. Mr Altman rightly lowered expectations. “The GPT-3 hype is way too much,” he tweeted last month. “It’s impressive … but it still has serious weaknesses and sometimes makes very silly mistakes.”

OpenAI’s software is spookily good at playing human, which explains the hoopla. Whether penning poetry, dabbling in philosophy or knocking out comedy scripts, the general agreement is that the GPT-3 is probably the best non-human writer ever. Given a sentence and asked to write another like it, the software can do the task flawlessly. But this is a souped up version of the auto-complete function that most email users are familiar with.

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