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Monday, April 29, 2024


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Microsoft Copilot is just ChatGPT 4-Turbo, but with the added ability to access data you have given Microsoft. I suspect when you tried your original query, you posted it at ChatGPT 3.5, which is the version OpenAI makes available to free users on its website.

Adeon Writer

AI text generation should not be expected to give factual information. It's understandable why people continue to expect this (as that is how it is marketed) but that is never going to change reality. Please try to do your best to combat this pervasive misunderstanding in expectations.


>> human-type sentience that's simply not there at all.


n explained really well that to use a LLM as a substitute for Google or as a database for factual information is misunderstanding what the thing is doing. As Adeon re-iterates; AI text generation should not be expected to give factual information.

I really recommend this article: https://medium.com/@colin.fraser/hallucinations-errors-and-dreams-c281a66f3c35. Its long but does explain how the whole thing "is a dream". Also read the first response.


Thank you for listening and giving it a try, and I'm glad that you see that it's better! However, I recommended using Copilot in Precise mode specifically because it's designed to be more accurate. In the screenshot you shared, it appears you used the default mode (Balanced), instead.

You can click this (see the linked image) to switch to Precise mode and give it another go:


Here is what it returned for me when I used Precise mode:


As you can see, the results in Precise mode are even better and it didn't make any mistake. In the few cases it happens, you can still check the sources. This is indeed a much better approach than ChatGPT. Precise mode significantly mitigates "hallucinations", not only by using web search to stay grounded (and it tries to determine the most reliable among the available sources), but also by keeping the response more concise, moreover it likely has the hyperparameter “temperature” set to 0, which helps control the randomness of the output.

Hallucinations can be useful for creativity, so Copilot Creative’s temperature is set high, which can be fun for brainstorming or suggesting ideas. Balanced mode, like most general-purpose applications, has a moderate temperature setting (also it is powered by a less capable model). Precise mode, on the other hand, has its temperature likely set to low or zero for maximum accuracy. With local models, you have have more flexibility to set the temperature as you please.


As for the "hallucinations", that's how they are called. It's "lie" that may rather imply (or make think the listener of) awareness.

You wrote: «I'd quibble that "LLMs hallucinate" is more accurate than saying "LLMs lie", since a hallucination implies there's already a base stable awareness where none actually exists.»
But I think it's the other way around.

Lies are typically used with the purpose of deceiving or misleading someone, deliberately. This is not the case with LLMs, that generate an output based on patterns they have learned during training. The output may contain something that is inaccurate or nonexistent, in other words, they "hallucinate".

Hallucination, in the context of machine learning and AI research, has been used for decades and it does not imply any form of awareness:
(also, out of the metaphor, often people aren't aware they are hallucinating, e.g. with schizophrenia or dementia).
At most, among researchers, there is also who prefer to call them "confabulations".


As for the expectations, yeah, as I've repeatedly said, LLMs are not databases to retrieve factual information from. To expect that is a misunderstanding of how they work. Vice-versa, they aren't useless just because they don't meet such expectations or aren't a sci-fi AI (I don't mean you told that).

You said: «So overall I still question the usefulness of LLMs beyond being a highly imperfect, unreliable assistant», when you were looking for factual information and accurate responses (and you used Balanced). The Copilot's Creative mode would have been even worse than Balanced for that task, as it tends to generate fictional facts. This not because it's flawed, but because it's not designed for such tasks: the Creative mode is intended for generating imaginative content, hence the name "creative". That task was better suited for Copilot Precise: the language model (GPT-4) processes your natural language input, calls the search engine, quotes the results as precisely as possible. Then it's still a good thing (and I appreciate it a lot) that it provides links to the sources, so you can verify.

However, it's clear that there's a demand for assistants that provide factual information. LLMs, trained on enormous datasets, end up with a wast, but imperfect, knowledge base. Would you consider an expert useless simply because they can't recall every detail flawlessly? Obviously, you wouldn't rely entirely on memory, but rather consult data and sources. Similarly, there are various ways in which LLMs can do a better job at this task. Even so, again, not always perfect, but not so terribly imperfect and so unreliable. And they can do many other things too.

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