How the Shoggoth Meme Has Come to Symbolize the State of A.I.

In a nutshell, the joke was that in order to prevent A.I. language models from behaving in scary and dangerous ways, A.I. companies have had to train them to act polite and harmless. One popular way to do this is called “reinforcement learning from human feedback,” or R.L.H.F., a process that involves asking humans to score chatbot responses, and feeding those scores back into the A.I. model.

Most A.I. researchers agree that models trained using R.L.H.F. are better behaved than models without it. But some argue that fine-tuning a language model this way doesn’t actually make the underlying model less weird and inscrutable. In their view, it’s just a flimsy, friendly mask that obscures the mysterious beast underneath.

@TetraspaceWest, the meme’s creator, told me in a Twitter message that the Shoggoth “represents something that thinks in a way that humans don’t understand and that’s totally different from the way that humans think.”

Comparing an A.I. language model to a Shoggoth, @TetraspaceWest said, wasn’t necessarily implying that it was evil or sentient, just that its true nature might be unknowable.

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