Stack Overflow, the go-to Q&A site for coders and software engineers, has briefly prohibited clients from sharing reactions produced by the AI chatbot ChatGPT.
The site’s mods said that the boycott was impermanent and that the last decision would be made eventually after a discussion with its local area. However, as the mods made sense of, ChatGPT essentially makes it excessively simple for clients to create reactions and flood the site with answers that appear to be right from the start yet are in many cases wrong on close assessment.
“The essential issue is that while the responses which ChatGPT produces have a high pace of being mistaken, they regularly seem as though they may be great and the responses are extremely simple to deliver,” composed the mods (accentuation theirs). “Accordingly, we really want the volume of these presents to lessen, Thus, for the time being, the utilization of ChatGPT to make posts here on Stack Overflow isn’t allowed. Assuming that a client is accepted to have utilized ChatGPT after this impermanent strategy is posted, authorizations will be forced to keep clients from proceeding to post such happy, regardless of whether the posts would somehow be satisfactory.”
ChatGPT is an exploratory chatbot made by OpenAI in view of its autocomplete text generator GPT-3.5. A web demo for the bot was delivered last week and has since been energetically embraced by clients around the web. The bot’s connection point urges individuals to seek clarification on pressing issues and consequently offers great and liquid outcomes across a scope of inquiries; from producing sonnets, tunes, and television scripts, to responding to random data questions and composing and troubleshooting lines of code.
But while many users have been impressed by ChatGPT’s capabilities, others have noted its persistent tendency to generate plausible but false responses. Ask the bot to write a biography of a public figure, for example, and it may well insert incorrect biographical data with complete confidence. Ask it to explain how to program software for a specific function and it can similarly produce believable but ultimately incorrect code.
AI text models like ChatGPT learn by looking for statistical regularities in text
This is one of several well-known failings of AI text generation models, otherwise known as large language models or LLMs. These systems are trained by analyzing patterns in huge reams of text scraped from the web. They look for statistical regularities in this data and use these to predict what words should come next in any given sentence. This means, though, that they lack hard-coded rules for how certain systems in the world operate, leading to their propensity to generate “fluent bullshit.”
Given the huge scale of these systems, it’s impossible to say with certainty what percentage of their output is false. But in Stack Overflow’s case, the company has judged for now that the risk of misleading users is just too high.
Stack Overflow’s decision is particularly notable as experts in the AI community are currently debating the potential threat posed by these large language models. Yann LeCun, the chief AI scientist at Facebook-parent Meta, has argued, for example, that while LLMs can certainly generate bad output like misinformation, they don’t make the actual sharing of this text any easier, which is what causes harm. Others say the potential for these systems to generate text cheaply at a scale necessarily increases the risk that it is later shared.
To date, there’s been little evidence of the harmful effects of LLMs in the real world. But these recent events at Stack Overflow support the argument that the scale of these systems does indeed create new challenges. The site’s mods say as much in announcing the ban on ChatGPT, noting that the “volume of these [AI-generated] answers (thousands) and the fact that the answers often require a detailed read by someone with at least some subject matter expertise in order to determine that the answer is actually bad has effectively swamped our volunteer-based quality curation infrastructure.”
The worry is that this pattern could be repeated on other platforms, with a flood of AI content drowning out the voices of real users with plausible but incorrect data. Exactly how this could play out in different domains around the web, though, would depend on the exact nature of the platform and its moderation capabilities. Whether or not these problems can be mitigated in the future using tools like improved spam filters remains to be seen.
“The scary part was just how confidently incorrect it was.”
Meanwhile, responses to Stack Overflow’s policy announcement on the site’s own discussion boards and on related forums like Hacker News have been broadly supportive, with users adding the caveat that it may be difficult for Stack Overflow’s mods to identify AI-generated answers in the first place.
Many users have recounted their own experiences using the bot, with one individual on Hacker News saying they found that its answers to queries about coding problems were more often wrong than right. “The scary part was just how confidently incorrect it was,” said the user. “The text looked very good, but there were big errors in there.”
Others turned the question of AI moderation over to ChatGPT itself, asking the bot to generate arguments for and against its ban. In one response the bot came to the exact same conclusion as Stack Overflow’s own mods: “Overall, whether or not to allow AI-generated answers on Stack Overflow is a complex decision that would need to be carefully considered by the community.”
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