Doing Research with Generative AI Bots

By Amir Tabakovic

Image by DALLE 3

Yesterday, I had a really interesting talk with some old colleagues from the FinTech world. We were sharing anecdotes about using AI chatbots like ChatGPT or Google Bard for research. We’ve all found ourselves asking these chatbots for help, especially when we can’t find what we’re looking for with regular search engines. No matter how unusual our questions are, these AI tools always seem to have an answer. The eloquence and self-assurance in these responses tend to hypnotize us, forcing us to lower our guard and take the chatbot’s answers for granted without questioning them.

This uncritical acceptance of information sources isn’t new. A few years back, I saw a FinTech project get funding based on an article from a satirical news site, mistakenly believed to be factual. Today, what used to be a chain of coincidences leading an unsuspecting person to a satirical website and an article crafted by a humorist is now simplified to a single prompt. Just type your question and hit enter. The cost of producing misleading information has drastically dropped to just a few cents per thousand tokens.

It’s well-acknowledged that ‘hallucinations’ are a fundamental characteristic of auto-regressive LLMs. Yann LeCun has stated that making LLMs consistently factual and controllable will necessitate a major redesign. As we await advancements in technology to address these issues, I suggest taking a balanced approach. 

Utilize these AI tools for creative exploratory purposes. When exploring new or less-defined areas, where precision may be secondary to ideation or broad exploration, generative AI tools like ChatGPT or Google Bard can be great assets. They excel in navigating uncharted territory, offering a breadth of ideas and perspectives that can spark creativity and open new avenues for consideration. Looking for a recipe for beef liver fondue to surprise your wife’s relatives during Christmas dinner? ChatGPT and Google Bard have got you covered.

But when we need information that has to be accurate, take an old-school-approach and stick to reliable sources and the usual ways of finding information.

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