Since OpenAI first described its new AI language-generating system called GPT-3 in May, hundreds of media outlets (including MIT Technology Review) have written about the system and its capabilities. Twitter has been abuzz about its power and potential. The New York Times published an op-ed about it. Later this year, OpenAI will begin charging companies for access to GPT-3, hoping that its system can soon power a wide variety of AI products and services.
Is GPT-3 an important step toward artificial general intelligence—the kind that would allow a machine to reason broadly in a manner similar to humans without having to train for every specific task it encounters? OpenAI’s technical paper is fairly reserved on this larger question, but to many, the sheer fluency of the system feels as though it might be a significant advance.
We doubt it. At first glance, GPT-3 seems to have an impressive ability to produce human-like text. And we don’t doubt that it can used to produce entertaining surrealist fiction; other commercial applications may emerge as well. But accuracy is not its strong point. If you dig deeper, you discover that something’s amiss: although its output is grammatical, and even impressively idiomatic, its comprehension of the world is often seriously off, which means you can never really trust what it says.