Improving Wetware

Because technology is never the issue

More things Derek Lowe will not work with

Posted by Pete McBreen 25 Feb 2023 at 15:24

Thioacetone, the punchline is the best.

So there you have it - just install a fireplace next to your hood (what every lab needs, for sure) and remember that, in a thioacetone situation, fogging the area with brown nitrogen oxide fumes will actually improve the air.

ChatGPT - do not fall for the hype

Posted by Pete McBreen 07 Feb 2023 at 03:50

Dam McQuillan is calling it a bullshit generator

Despite the impressive technical ju-jitsu of transformer models and the billions of parameters they learn, it’s still a computational guessing game. ChatGPT is, in technical terms, a ‘bullshit generator’. If a generated sentence makes sense to you, the reader, it means the mathematical model has made sufficiently good guess to pass your sense-making filter. The language model has no idea what it’s talking about because it has no idea about anything at all. It’s more of a bullshitter than the most egregious egoist you’ll ever meet, producing baseless assertions with unfailing confidence because that’s what it’s designed to do.

The Register is even less complimentary, calling it a confidence trickster

Do enough talking to the bot about subjects you know, and curiosity soon deepens to unease. That feeling of talking with someone whose confidence far exceeds their competence grows until ChatGPT’s true nature shines out. It’s a Dunning-Kruger effect knowledge simulator par excellence. It doesn’t know what it’s talking about, and it doesn’t care because we haven’t learned how to do that bit yet.

As is apparent to anyone who has hung out with humans, Dunning Kruger is exceedingly dangerous and exceedingly common. Our companies, our religions and our politics offer limitless possibilities to people with DK. If you can persuade people you’re right, they’re very unwilling to accept proof otherwise, and up you go. Old Etonians, populist politicians and Valley tech bros rely on this, with results we are all too familiar with. ChatGPT is Dunning-Kruger As-a-Service (DKaaS). That’s dangerous.

And a fun take on AI replacing software developers by Dawson Eliasen

All this talk I’m seeing about AI being close to replacing programmers indicates there’s a significant gap between what people think programming is like and what programming is actually like. I get the sense that most people who don’t work in tech think that programming is like sitting down in front of a computer, saying to yourself, “alrighty, let’s make an app,” and expertly busting out code until you have a fresh app. It’s more like getting onboarded into an organization that has hundreds of thousands of lines of archaic, institutional code, and being tasked with finding and fixing the 1-10 lines that happen to be somehow causing the most urgent bug, and then doing this over and over.