Melanie Mitchell interview: How smart is ChatGPT really – and how do we judge intelligence in AIs?

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ARTIFICIAL intelligence has been all over the news in the past few years. Even so, in recent months the drumbeat has reached a crescendo, largely because an AI-powered chatbot called ChatGPT has taken the world by storm with its ability to generate fluent text and confidently answer all manner of questions. All of which has people wondering whether AIs have reached a turning point.

The current system behind ChatGPT is a large language model called GPT-3.5, which consists of an artificial neural network, a series of interlinked processing units that allow for programs that can learn. Nothing unusual there. What surprised many, however, is the extent of the abilities of the latest version, GPT-4. In March, Microsoft researchers, who were given access to the system by OpenAI, which makes it, argued that by showing prowess on tasks beyond those it was trained on, as well as producing convincing language, GPT-4 displays “sparks” of artificial general intelligence. That is a long-held goal for AI research, often thought of as the ability to do anything that humans can do. Many experts pushed back, arguing that it is a long way from human-like intelligence.

So just how intelligent are these AIs, and what does their rise mean for us? Few are better placed to answer that than Melanie Mitchell, a professor at the Santa Fe Institute in New Mexico and author of the book Artificial Intelligence: A guide for thinking humans. Mitchell spoke to New Scientist about the wave of attention AI is getting, the challenges in evaluating how smart GPT-4 really is, and why AI is constantly forcing us …

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