🐙 Octopii, Very fast, very heavy toddlers made of steel and self-driving tests

Jason points to a great piece on Large Language Models, ChatGPT etc

“Say that A and B, both fluent speakers of English, are independently stranded on two uninhabited islands. They soon discover that previous visitors to these islands have left behind telegraphs and that they can communicate with each other via an underwater cable. A and B start happily typing messages to each other.

Meanwhile, O, a hyperintelligent deep-sea octopus who is unable to visit or observe the two islands, discovers a way to tap into the underwater cable and listen in on A and B’s conversations. O knows nothing about English initially but is very good at detecting statistical patterns. Over time, O learns to predict with great accuracy how B will respond to each of A’s utterances.

Soon, the octopus enters the conversation and starts impersonating B and replying to A. This ruse works for a while, and A believes that O communicates as both she and B do — with meaning and intent. Then one day A calls out: “I’m being attacked by an angry bear. Help me figure out how to defend myself. I’ve got some sticks.” The octopus, impersonating B, fails to help. How could it succeed? The octopus has no referents, no idea what bears or sticks are. No way to give relevant instructions, like to go grab some coconuts and rope and build a catapult. A is in trouble and feels duped. The octopus is exposed as a fraud.”

https://nymag.com/intelligencer/article/ai-artificial-intelligence-chatbots-emily-m-bender.html via Kottke.org

He goes onto talk about his experiences ‘managing’ a semi-self driving car (I think it might be a Volvo, like I used to own?) where you have to be aware that the thing is an incredible heavy, very fast toddler made of steel, with dunning-kruger-ish marketing promises pasted all over the top of it.

You can’t ever forget the self-driver is like a 4-year-old kid mimicking the act of driving and isn’t capable of thinking like a human when it needs to. You forget that and you can die.”

That was absolutely my experience of my previous car too.

It was great for long stretches of motorway (freeway) driving in normal conditions, but if it was raining or things got more twisty/rural (which they do in most of the UK quite quickly), you switched it off sharpish.

I’m renting a tesla (I know, I know) for the first time on my next trip to the states. It was a cheap deal, and it’s an EV, and it’s California so I figure why not. I however will not use autopilot I don’t think, having used semi (level 2? 3?) autonomous driving before.

Perhaps there needs to be a ‘self-driving test’ for the humans about to go into partnership with very fast, very heavy semi-autonomous non-human toddlers before they are allowed on the roads with them…

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