Simon Willison’s Weblog


381 items tagged “ai”


When I speak in front of groups and ask them to raise their hands if they used the free version of ChatGPT, almost every hand goes up. When I ask the same group how many use GPT-4, almost no one raises their hand. I increasingly think the decision of OpenAI to make the “bad” AI free is causing people to miss why AI seems like such a huge deal to a minority of people that use advanced systems and elicits a shrug from everyone else.

Ethan Mollick # 10th December 2023, 8:17 pm

I always struggle a bit with I’m asked about the “hallucination problem” in LLMs. Because, in some sense, hallucination is all LLMs do. They are dream machines.

We direct their dreams with prompts. The prompts start the dream, and based on the LLM’s hazy recollection of its training documents, most of the time the result goes someplace useful.

It’s only when the dreams go into deemed factually incorrect territory that we label it a “hallucination”. It looks like a bug, but it’s just the LLM doing what it always does.

Andrej Karpathy # 9th December 2023, 6:08 am

Announcing Purple Llama: Towards open trust and safety in the new world of generative AI (via) New from Meta AI, Purple Llama is “an umbrella project featuring open trust and safety tools and evaluations meant to level the playing field for developers to responsibly deploy generative AI models and experiences”.

There are three components: a 27 page “Responsible Use Guide”, a new open model called Llama Guard and CyberSec Eval, “a set of cybersecurity safety evaluations benchmarks for LLMs”.

Disappointingly, despite this being an initiative around trustworthy LLM development,prompt injection is mentioned exactly once, in the Responsible Use Guide, with an incorrect description describing it as involving “attempts to circumvent content restrictions”!

The Llama Guard model is interesting: it’s a fine-tune of Llama 2 7B designed to help spot “toxic” content in input or output from a model, effectively an openly released alternative to OpenAI’s moderation API endpoint.

The CyberSec Eval benchmarks focus on two concepts: generation of insecure code, and preventing models from assisting attackers from generating new attacks. I don’t think either of those are anywhere near as important as prompt injection mitigation.

My hunch is that the reason prompt injection didn’t get much coverage in this is that, like the rest of us, Meta’s AI research teams have no idea how to fix it yet! # 8th December 2023, 6:36 am

We like to assume that automation technology will maintain or increase wage levels for a few skilled supervisors. But in the long-term skilled automation supervisors also tend to earn less.

Here’s an example: In 1801 the Jacquard loom was invented, which automated silkweaving with punchcards. Around 1800, a manual weaver could earn 30 shillings/week. By the 1830s the same weaver would only earn around 5s/week. A Jacquard operator earned 15s/week, but he was also 12x more productive.

The Jacquard operator upskilled and became an automation supervisor, but their wage still dropped. For manual weavers the wages dropped even more. If we believe assistive AI will deliver unseen productivity gains, we can assume that wage erosion will also be unprecedented.

Sebastian Majstorovic # 8th December 2023, 1:34 am

Long context prompting for Claude 2.1. Claude 2.1 has a 200,000 token context, enough for around 500 pages of text. Convincing it to answer a question based on a single sentence buried deep within that content can be difficult, but Anthropic found that adding “Assistant: Here is the most relevant sentence in the context:” to the end of the prompt was enough to raise Claude 2.1’s score from 27% to 98% on their evaluation. # 6th December 2023, 11:44 pm

Ice Cubes GPT-4 prompts. The Ice Cubes open source Mastodon app recently grew a very good “describe this image” feature to help people add alt text to their images. I had a dig around in their repo and it turns out they’re using GPT-4 Vision for this (and regular GPT-4 for other features), passing the image with this prompt:

“What’s in this image? Be brief, it’s for image alt description on a social network. Don’t write in the first person.” # 6th December 2023, 7:38 pm

AI and Trust. Barnstormer of an essay by Bruce Schneier about AI and trust. It’s worth spending some time with this—it’s hard to extract the highlights since there are so many of them.

A key idea is that we are predisposed to trust AI chat interfaces because they imitate humans, which means we are highly susceptible to profit-seeking biases baked into them.

Bruce suggests that what’s needed is public models, backed by government funds: “A public model is a model built by the public for the public. It requires political accountability, not just market accountability.” # 5th December 2023, 9:43 pm

GPT and other large language models are aesthetic instruments rather than epistemological ones. Imagine a weird, unholy synthesizer whose buttons sample textual information, style, and semantics. Such a thing is compelling not because it offers answers in the form of text, but because it makes it possible to play text—all the text, almost—like an instrument.

Ian Bogost # 5th December 2023, 8:29 pm

A calculator has a well-defined, well-scoped set of use cases, a well-defined, well-scoped user interface, and a set of well-understood and expected behaviors that occur in response to manipulations of that interface.

Large language models, when used to drive chatbots or similar interactive text-generation systems, have none of those qualities. They have an open-ended set of unspecified use cases.

Anthony Bucci # 5th December 2023, 8:12 pm

LLM Visualization. Brendan Bycroft’s beautifully crafted interactive explanation of the transformers architecture—that universal but confusing model diagram, only here you can step through and see a representation of the flurry of matrix algebra that occurs every time you get a Large Language Model to generate the next token. # 4th December 2023, 10:24 pm

Seamless Communication (via) A new “family of AI research models” from Meta AI for speech and text translation. The live demo is particularly worth trying—you can record a short webcam video of yourself speaking and get back the same video with your speech translated into another language.

The key to it is the new SeamlessM4T v2 model, which supports 101 languages for speech input, 96 Languages for text input/output and 35 languages for speech output. SeamlessM4T-Large v2 is a 9GB file, available on Hugging Face.

Also in this release: SeamlessExpressive, which “captures certain underexplored aspects of prosody such as speech rate and pauses”—effectively maintaining things like expressed enthusiasm across languages.

Plus SeamlessStreaming, “a model that can deliver speech and text translations with around two seconds of latency”. # 1st December 2023, 5:01 pm

So something everybody I think pretty much agrees on, including Sam Altman, including Yann LeCun, is LLMs aren’t going to make it. The current LLMs are not a path to ASI. They’re getting more and more expensive, they’re getting more and more slow, and the more we use them, the more we realize their limitations.

We’re also getting better at taking advantage of them, and they’re super cool and helpful, but they appear to be behaving as extremely flexible, fuzzy, compressed search engines, which when you have enough data that’s kind of compressed into the weights, turns out to be an amazingly powerful operation to have at your disposal.

[...] And the thing you can really see missing here is this planning piece, right? So if you try to get an LLM to solve fairly simple graph coloring problems or fairly simple stacking problems, things that require backtracking and trying things and stuff, unless it’s something pretty similar in its training, they just fail terribly.

[...] So that’s the theory about what something like Q* might be, or just in general, how do we get past this current constraint that we have?

Jeremy Howard # 1st December 2023, 2:49 am

ChatGPT is one year old. Here’s how it changed the world. I’m quoted in this piece by Benj Edwards about ChatGPT’s one year birthday:

“Imagine if every human being could automate the tedious, repetitive information tasks in their lives, without needing to first get a computer science degree,” AI researcher Simon Willison told Ars in an interview about ChatGPT’s impact. “I’m seeing glimpses that LLMs might help make a huge step in that direction.” # 30th November 2023, 6:07 pm

llamafile is the new best way to run a LLM on your own computer

Mozilla’s innovation group and Justine Tunney just released llamafile, and I think it’s now the single best way to get started running Large Language Models (think your own local copy of ChatGPT) on your own computer.

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MonadGPT (via) “What would have happened if ChatGPT was invented in the 17th century? MonadGPT is a possible answer.

MonadGPT is a finetune of Mistral-Hermes 2 on 11,000 early modern texts in English, French and Latin, mostly coming from EEBO and Gallica.

Like the original Mistral-Hermes, MonadGPT can be used in conversation mode. It will not only answer in an historical language and style but will use historical and dated references.” # 27th November 2023, 4:01 am

Prompt injection explained, November 2023 edition

A neat thing about podcast appearances is that, thanks to Whisper transcriptions, I can often repurpose parts of them as written content for my blog.

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This is nonsensical. There is no way to understand the LLaMA models themselves as a recasting or adaptation of any of the plaintiffs’ books.

U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria # 26th November 2023, 4:13 am

I’m on the Newsroom Robots podcast, with thoughts on the OpenAI board

Newsroom Robots is a weekly podcast exploring the intersection of AI and journalism, hosted by Nikita Roy.

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To some degree, the whole point of the tech industry’s embrace of “ethics” and “safety” is about reassurance. Companies realize that the technologies they are selling can be disconcerting and disruptive; they want to reassure the public that they’re doing their best to protect consumers and society. At the end of the day, though, we now know there’s no reason to believe that those efforts will ever make a difference if the company’s “ethics” end up conflicting with its money. And when have those two things ever not conflicted?

Lucas Ropek # 23rd November 2023, 8:41 pm

The 6 Types of Conversations with Generative AI. I’ve hoping to see more user research on how users interact with LLMs for a while. Here’s a study from Nielsen Norman Group, who conducted a 2-week diary study involving 18 participants, then interviewed 14 of them.

They identified six categories of conversation, and made some resulting design recommendations.

A key observation is that “search style” queries (just a few keywords) often indicate users who are new to LLMs, and should be identified as a sign that the user needs more inline education on how to best harness the tool.

Suggested follow-up prompts are valuable for most of the types of conversation identified. # 23rd November 2023, 5:37 pm

YouTube: Intro to Large Language Models. Andrej Karpathy is an outstanding educator, and this one hour video offers an excellent technical introduction to LLMs.

At 42m Andrej expands on his idea of LLMs as the center of a new style of operating system, tying together tools and and a filesystem and multimodal I/O.

There’s a comprehensive section on LLM security—jailbreaking, prompt injection, data poisoning—at the 45m mark.

I also appreciated his note on how parameter size maps to file size: Llama 70B is 140GB, because each of those 70 billion parameters is a 2 byte 16bit floating point number on disk. # 23rd November 2023, 5:02 pm

Fleet Context. This project took the source code and documentation for 1221 popular Python libraries and ran them through the OpenAI text-embedding-ada-002 embedding model, then made those pre-calculated embedding vectors available as Parquet files for download from S3 or via a custom Python CLI tool.

I haven’t seen many projects release pre-calculated embeddings like this, it’s an interesting initiative. # 23rd November 2023, 1:06 am

We have reached an agreement in principle for Sam Altman to return to OpenAI as CEO with a new initial board of Bret Taylor (Chair), Larry Summers, and Adam D’Angelo.

@OpenAI # 22nd November 2023, 6:04 am

Claude: How to use system prompts. Documentation for the new system prompt support added in Claude 2.1. The design surprises me a little: the system prompt is just the text that comes before the first instance of the text “Human: ...”—but Anthropic promise that instructions in that section of the prompt will be treated differently and followed more closely than any instructions that follow.

This whole page of documentation is giving me some pretty serious prompt injection red flags to be honest. Anthropic’s recommended way of using their models is entirely based around concatenating together strings of text using special delimiter phrases.

I’ll give it points for honesty though. OpenAI use JSON to field different parts of the prompt, but under the hood they’re all concatenated together with special tokens into a single token stream. # 22nd November 2023, 4:31 am

Introducing Claude 2.1. Anthropic’s Claude used to have the longest token context of any of the major models: 100,000 tokens, which is about 300 pages. Then GPT-4 Turbo came out with 128,000 tokens and Claude lost one of its key differentiators.

Claude is back! Version 2.1, announced today, bumps the token limit up to 200,000—and also adds support for OpenAI-style system prompts, a feature I’ve been really missing.

They also announced tool use, but that’s only available for a very limited set of partners to preview at the moment. # 22nd November 2023, 4:28 am

Sam Altman expelling Toner with the pretext of an inoffensive page in a paper no one read would have given him a temporary majority with which to appoint a replacement director, and then further replacement directors. These directors would, naturally, agree with Sam Altman, and he would have a full, perpetual board majority—the board, which is the only oversight on the OA CEO. Obviously, as an extremely experienced VC and CEO, he knew all this and how many votes he (thought he) had on the board, and the board members knew this as well—which is why they had been unable to agree on replacement board members all this time.

Gwern # 22nd November 2023, 3:53 am

Deciphering clues in a news article to understand how it was reported

Written journalism is full of conventions that hint at the underlying reporting process, many of which are not entirely obvious. Learning how to read and interpret these can help you get a lot more out of the news.

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Before Altman’s Ouster, OpenAI’s Board Was Divided and Feuding. This is the first piece of reporting I’ve seen on the OpenAI situation which has offered a glimmer of an explanation as to what happened.

It sounds like the board had been fighting about things for over a year—notably including who should replace departed members, which is how they’d shrunk down to just six people.

There’s also an interesting detail in here about the formation of Anthropic:

“Mr. Sutskever’s frustration with Mr. Altman echoed what had happened in 2021 when another senior A.I. scientist left OpenAI to form the company Anthropic. That scientist and other researchers went to the board to try to push Mr. Altman out. After they failed, they gave up and departed, according to three people familiar with the attempt to push Mr. Altman out.” # 22nd November 2023, 12:31 am

The way I think about the AI of the future is not as someone as smart as you or as smart as me, but as an automated organization that does science and engineering and development and manufacturing.

Ilya Sutskever # 21st November 2023, 6:59 pm

And the investors wailed and gnashed their teeth but it’s true, that is what they agreed to, and they had no legal recourse. And OpenAI’s new CEO, and its nonprofit board, cut them a check for their capped return and said “bye” and went back to running OpenAI for the benefit of humanity. It turned out that a benign, carefully governed artificial superintelligence is really good for humanity, and OpenAI quickly solved all of humanity’s problems and ushered in an age of peace and abundance in which nobody wanted for anything or needed any Microsoft products. And capitalism came to an end.

Matt Levine, in a hypothetical # 20th November 2023, 9:12 pm