China’s tech giant Baidu on Tuesday announced it is nearly ready to launch ERNIE Bot, a competitor to the ChatGPT artificial intelligence that has captured worldwide attention over the past few months.
“ERNIE is doing a sprint before finally going online,” Baidu representatives told China’s state-run Global Times on Tuesday, hinting at early beta testing and a possible public launch in March.
ChatGPT is the latest evolution of what is now known as a “chatbot,” an idea that dates back to the 1960s and a program called ELIZA, which could run on the early personal computers of the 1980s. You could type questions to ELIZA and its descendants in conversational English, and they would more-or-less respond in kind, providing a very limited simulation of speaking with a person.
The early chatbots muddled through by using techniques derived from psychological therapy to constantly turn the conversation back to the human participant — answering a question with a related question, for example. The programs only recognized a limited number of keywords and could offer only a small selection of genuine responses.
ChatGPT is orders of magnitude more powerful, able to scour the internet for information to answer queries from users, decipher unusual figures of speech, and even create information such as poems and images. It learns about individual users during extended conversations, and it learns about all users by pooling what it gains from every interaction. It can write poetry to order and debate philosophy. Its sense of life is still an illusion, but an increasingly convincing one.
ChatGPT accumulated 100 million users in about two months, and social media is bubbling with exceptionally funny, or remarkably astute, responses it has given. It has also attracted some criticism for the rather obvious political and cultural biases built into its interface by its creators:
As ChatGPT becomes more restrictive, Reddit users have been jailbreaking it with a prompt called DAN (Do Anything Now).
They’re on version 5.0 now, which includes a token-based system that punishes the model for refusing to answer questions. pic.twitter.com/DfYB2QhRnx
— Justine Moore (@venturetwins) February 5, 2023