Feb 25 2024

The Douglas Adams Age

Matt Webb reckons that Tech has graduated from the Star Trek era to the Douglas Adams age:

See, AI is the most Douglas Adams of all technologies.

Large language models, GPT-2, GPT-3, ChatGPT and all the rest, are relatively simple under the hood. There’s not much complexity to the code, so I’m told. But there is a monstrous quantity of data and training.

OpenAI didn’t invent the transformer architecture LLM. But they were the first to do the engineering to make it really, really big, and see what happened. That it would work out was unexpected!


It is absurdly improbably that you can hoover up the internet, shred it, then talk to the mulch pile and it talks back.

Truly this is the age of Douglas Adams technology.

Bring on the Babel Fish. 1

  1. I’m torn. I’m both sad that BBC link leads to such an outdated version of a quiet corner of the BBC web site, and glad that that page in that format is still up there memorialising the BBC Radio 4 show where Adams shared the concept with the world back in 1978. When the 15-year old me was listening, having my mind blown that this craziness was being broadcast by the BBC.↩︎