"The Blurry Jpeg of ChatGPT and the Immigrant's Faith in American Art"

Peter Buck

Hatched by Peter Buck

Sep 25, 2023

3 min read


"The Blurry Jpeg of ChatGPT and the Immigrant's Faith in American Art"

Imagine a world where ChatGPT, the popular language model, perfectly mimics the internet by providing verbatim quotes from relevant web pages. In this scenario, it would be seen as just another search engine, lacking the impressiveness we associate with its rephrasing abilities. The fact that ChatGPT refrains from quoting word-for-word and expresses ideas in its own words is what creates the illusion of understanding. Similar to human students, ChatGPT's inability to produce exact quotes is what makes us believe it has truly learned something. It's interesting how lossy compression, compared to its lossless counterpart, appears smarter when dealing with sequences of words. This analogy of blurry jpegs allows us to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of these models.

Considering the potential of large language models replacing traditional search engines, we must address concerns about the information they have been fed. To trust these models, we need assurance that they have not been influenced by propaganda or conspiracy theories. Ensuring that the "jpeg" captures the right sections of the web becomes crucial. However, even if large language models contain only the desired information, there is still the issue of blurriness. There are acceptable forms of blurriness, such as restating information in different words, but outright fabrication is deemed unacceptable when seeking facts. Striking a balance between acceptable and unacceptable blurriness may pose technical challenges. Nonetheless, the future holds answers to whether this can be achieved.

In a different realm, the Utah Museum of Fine Art (UMFA) presents the groundbreaking exhibition titled "Chiura Obata: An American Modern." This exhibition showcases over 70 years of Obata's remarkable artistic journey, featuring more than 150 watercolors, paintings, prints, and screens. From delicate ikebana studies to majestic landscapes of the American West, the exhibition encapsulates the immigrant artist's faith in the American experiment.

What connects these seemingly unrelated topics is the idea of capturing the essence of something through interpretation. Just as ChatGPT rephrases information to demonstrate understanding, Chiura Obata's artwork reflects his interpretation of the American landscape. Both instances involve a level of blurriness that allows for personal expression, creating a unique perspective that transcends mere replication.

In the case of ChatGPT, the blurriness arises from its inability to provide exact quotes, leading us to believe it has learned and understood concepts. However, the challenge lies in distinguishing acceptable blurriness, which adds value to the response, from unacceptable blurriness, which involves fabrication. The future will reveal whether this balance can be achieved.

Similarly, Chiura Obata's artistic journey reflects the blurriness of interpretation. His watercolors and paintings capture the beauty of the American West, presenting his unique perspective as an immigrant artist. Through his art, Obata communicates his faith in the American experiment, showcasing his belief in the possibilities and opportunities available in his new home.

From these examples, we can draw three actionable takeaways:

  • 1. Embrace the Blurriness: Recognize that some level of blurriness or interpretation in communication can add depth and understanding. Striving for perfect replication may limit personal expression and insight.
  • 2. Evaluate Information Sources: When relying on large language models or search engines, it is crucial to assess the quality and reliability of the information they provide. Avoid falling victim to propaganda or conspiracy theories by prioritizing trustworthy sources.
  • 3. Celebrate Diverse Perspectives: Just as Chiura Obata's artwork offers a unique immigrant perspective, embrace the diversity of voices and experiences in various fields. Appreciating different viewpoints enriches our understanding and fosters a more inclusive society.

In conclusion, the blurry jpeg analogy allows us to reflect on the capabilities and limitations of language models like ChatGPT. It also connects with the faith and interpretation showcased in Chiura Obata's artwork. Understanding the nuances of blurriness in communication, evaluating information sources, and celebrating diverse perspectives are essential for navigating the complex landscape of knowledge and appreciation. As we continue to explore the possibilities of technology and art, let us strive for clarity within the blurriness, finding the balance between replication and personal expression.

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