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  • Writer's pictureHirokazu Kobayashi

ChatGPT stands at the top of the digital revolution and is surprisingly moody!

Updated: May 21

Hirokazu Kobayashi

CEO, Green Insight Japan, Inc.

Professor Emeritus and Visiting Professor, University of Shizuoka

For me, who was born in the 1950s, when I think of robots, I remember “Astro Boy'' and “Tetsujin 28-go." The image of the future was the anime series “Space Family." At that time, Japan was in the midst of rapid economic growth. So, such a society would become part of my life. I encountered digital technology before robots became objects. My research field deals with genetic information. In the late 1970s, it became possible to decipher DNA base sequences (genetic codes). The genetic code is hidden in the sequence of A, C, G, and T. Each of A, C, G, and T is called a base, but if there were 100 bases, the possibility of how they could be arranged would be 4 to the 100th power (1.6 × 10 to the 60th power). It has become impossible for human brains to handle this information. So, we started using computers. IBM and Commodore were the leading players in the United States; in Japan, NEC was the mainstay. When I returned to Japan after completing my postdoctoral research in 1984, I purchased NEC's PC98 series. It costs about four months of my monthly salary, so my wife still holds a grudge. It can also be used as a word processor. My workplace was the Radioisotope Research Center at Nagoya University, where digital technology is directly connected on-site. Since radioactive isotopes are used in experiments there, it is necessary to control researchers' access. In the late 1980s, a computer-controlled access system for restricted areas was constructed through outsourcing. They even installed a retinal image reader similar to the one from the 007 movie to identify people. At that time, modems were used to communicate with computers via telephone. When I moved to the University of Shizuoka in 1991, I was impressed that newly built buildings had LAN cables buried inside the walls. At many universities, including Nagoya University, many wires were exposed and crawled through the ceilings of building corridors. After that, there was a transition from modem communication to the Internet via SINET.

Until now, I have been buying new PCs, mainly Macintoshes, every three to four years, and I am impressed by how the storage capacity increases tenfold each time. It started with MB (megabytes, 10 to the 6th power), then 1,000 times more to GB (gigabytes, 10 to the 9th power), and now 1,000 times more to TB (terabytes, 10 to the 12th power). In other words, it has increased by a million times. The current total amount of digital information worldwide is estimated to be around 150 ZB (zettabytes, 10 to the 21st power). 1,000 times TB is PB (petabyte, 10 to the 15th power), 1000 times that is EB (exabyte, 10 to the 18th power), and 1,000 times ZB. Such numbers are not used for purposes other than understanding information science. In Japanese, the upper part of "兆" (cho: 10 to the 12th power) is “京" (kei: 10 to the 16th power) and “垓" (gai: 10 to the 20th power). That is, 1500 "垓". Search technology is used to extract what you want from such a vast amount of information, and the current most advanced version is ChatGPT4, released in March 2023. “GPT” stands for “Generative Pre-trained Transformer.” I find this useful as someone who wants to use cutting-edge technology, but the process often feels fuzzy. In other words, it has a "human touch." A warning outside the display says, " ChatGPT can make mistakes. Consider checking important information." One limitation is that some of the information on the 150 ZB is protected by copyright and cannot be used. I cannot judge how ChatGPT works, so I asked ChatGPT itself about it. This includes my points, “Limitations of data and training,'' and “Technical constraints." With current technology, it isn't easy to interpret and reproduce all information completely and accurately. This is due to the uncertainties and limitations inherent in the understanding and generation. Finally, “interpretation of abstract concepts'' results from the interpretation of abstract concepts and ambiguous descriptions. In other words, cutting-edge digital technology is quite moody. It is so close to being human that it makes us feel like we must not use it to make it angry.

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