May 11 2024

Is My Toddler a Stochastic Parrot?

I am reliably informed1 that Angie Wang’s New Yorker cartoon pondering the question Is my toddler a stochastic parrot? earned her a Pulitzer nomination last year.

Seems like a reasonable nomination. Had I been aware of the cartoon’s existence prior to getting word of it from today’s From The Editor’s Desk email, if the New Yorkers content management system permitted it then I’d have happily thrown them US$1 to read the whole thing.2 As it stands, that was my first look at the New Yorkers web site for a bit so it was my one free look this month. Had I read something else at the New Yorker earlier this month, I’d have had to hope that someone had arranged for to grab a copy.

One day our supposed AI successors may deem Angie Wang’s cartoon to be unbearably sentimental about her child’s development, but I can buy that what she’s seeing is not remotely like what LLMs are giving to the world.

Just because Large Language Models (LLMs) are at present a shiny new toy for executives who are willing to throw vast sums at the companies that claim to understand them in the hope of reaping efficiency gains, that doesn’t mean that a decade from now that particular bubble won’t have burst. Perhaps we’ll all look back on how much money was spent on LLMs when public services were starved for funding and feel bad about that.

[Via From The Editor’s Desk (The New Yorker)]

  1. Not that there was any doubt. When I say reliably informed”, this is in the context of a promotional email from the New Yorker hoping to tempt me into subscribing again, so they are somewhat expected to be bigging themselves up. Last time I gave in to their blandishments to subscribe I ended up conforming to the cliche and ending up with a pile of back issues that I meant to come back to and read later yet never quite did. While I’m happy to link to their content occasionally if I feel the urge, I refuse to get sucked back into a subscription, particularly for a magazine with such a focus on the state of politics and culture in an entirely different nation. (Why yes, I do subscribe to the London Review of Books. Not quite the same thing, but nearer to what I hope for from a subscription.)↩︎

  2. I’m never going to stop being sad that micropayments didn’t take off.↩︎