The world might be raving about ChatGPT and its capabilities, but one of its most independent — and outspoken — thinkers isn’t impressed.
Nassim Nicholas Taleb, the author of books such as Fooled by Randomness and Black Swan, has been steadfast in his assertions that ChatGPT isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be. “ChatGPT is the modern version of Flaubert’s “Dictionary of Received Ideas” (Dictionnaire des idées reçues), that is, a powerful cliché parroting engine,” he most recently tweeted. “
And, as they say in trading: “what most people know isn’t worth knowing,” he added.
Taleb seemed to be hinting that ChatGPT could only regurgitate the information it had been shown, and this problem would only exacerbate in the coming years. “ChatGPT is a statistical representation of things found on the web, which will increasingly include ITS OWN output (directly and second hand). You post something picked up from it & it will use it to reinforce its own knowledge. Progressively a self-licking lollipop. Enjoy,” he dismissively tweeted.
Nassim Nicholas Taleb also says that ChatGPT provides some general information, but stumbles when confronted with experts in a subject. “Something people are not getting about ChatGPT: it is impressive but ONLY if you don’t have domain knowledge. Exactly like someone who came out of journalist school. In real life, you ask the EXPERT and specialist to teach you stuff, not the journalist,” he says.
Nassim Taleb also seems peeved by ChatGPT’s tendency to hallucinate, or come with with made-up answers in a convincing way. “An expert is someone who knows exactly what not to be wrong about,” Taleb says. “One lesson connected to ChatGPT is that reliable pple aren’t those who have good answers in general, but those who answer ONLY things they know v. well. When lost, you’d rather get no direction than a wrong one. Real doctors let you know what is outside their expertise,” he adds.
Taleb isn’t also particularly impressed with ChatGPT having passed many exams in the fields of engineering, law and medicine. “That ChatGPT passes exams is much more a reflection on exams than information about ChatGPT,” Taleb says.
It’s now apparent that Nassim Nicholas Taleb isn’t a fan of ChatGPT. It’s a position that’s almost expected of someone like him — Taleb is famously a contrarian, and often takes up stands that might seem odd to most people. But Taleb is also a towering intellectual, having written bestsellers which have brought concepts like Skin in the Game and Black Swan into everyday usage. Some of Taleb’s criticism is valid — ChatGPT still hasn’t demonstrated the ability to create new insights, and it does often hallucinate and come up with completely fake answers. And this, Taleb seems to indicate, is evidence that ChatGPT isn’t quite the AGI precursor that many are touting it to be — it could be a while before humans manage to create actual intelligence that can create new knowledge that’ll be useful.