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The Ethics of Using Large Language Models - Guest Blog @Benjamin Endersen

”With great power comes great responsibility.” When Stan Lee wrote these words for Spider-Man in 1962, it was purely fantastical. Yet, today, these words echo in the vast, intangible realm of artificial intelligence, especially when we consider Large Language Models (LLMs). Before we delve into the ethical quandaries, let’s review what an LLM is. Essentially, an LLM is a type of artificial intelligence trained on a broad swath of the internet text. They predict, or generate, the next words in a sentence based on the context of the preceding words. This ability allows them to perform a variety of tasks, including translation, question-answering, summarization, and more. The Ethics of the Echo One of the most interesting aspects of LLMs is their capability to mirror the language, tone, and style of a given text. This feature can be a writer’s dream or an ethical minefield. “The line between creativity and mimicry can sometimes blur,” as James Patterson once said, and nowhere is this more true than in the world of LLMs. Consider, for example, a budding writer who uses an LLM to help generate ideas or even complete drafts. On the one hand, this could be seen as a novel tool, similar to brainstorming software or automatic spell check. On the other, it raises questions about authenticity and originality. Who is the true author of a text that’s been significantly shaped or even generated by an LLM? The Echo and the Echo Chamber LLMs don’t just echo individual users; they echo society as a whole. Trained on vast amounts of text from the internet, they inherently reflect the biases present in those texts. As an English proverb goes, “the mirror reflects all objects without discrimination.” But while mirrors reflect light, LLMs reflect language, culture, and, unfortunately, biases. To make matters more complex, LLMs are probabilistic, meaning that they generate responses based on the frequency of patterns in their training data. As such, they can sometimes propagate harmful stereotypes or offensive content, even if unintentionally. This is a key ethical concern surrounding LLMs, as it underscores the responsibility of those who design and deploy these models to ensure they are as fair and unbiased as possible. Gatekeepers of the Textual Realm There are also ethical considerations related to who gets to decide what an LLM says and doesn’t say. With the capacity of LLMs to generate near-human-like text, concerns about misinformation, propaganda, and ‘deepfakes’ are not unfounded. As the philosopher Immanuel Kant wisely observed, “The possession of power unavoidably spoils the free use of reason.” Just as we place limits on the power of individuals and organizations in the physical world, so too must we consider limits in the digital one. This raises questions about the governance of LLMs. Should there be rules or restrictions? Who should make them, and based on what principles? Our Future With the Textual Titans ”We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be,” Kurt Vonnegut once said. This quote feels apt when considering our relationship with LLMs. We’re training these models to mimic human language and thought, and in doing so, we’re implicitly shaping a reflection of ourselves. As such, we need to consider the ethical implications carefully. From questions of authenticity and authorship, to the propagation of biases and misinformation, there are many ethical considerations to grapple with. Yet, as with any powerful technology, the benefits of LLMs are substantial. They can augment our abilities, democratize access to information, and catalyze new forms of creativity. Navigating the ethical landscape of LLMs is a challenge that we, as a society, must undertake with careful thought, open discussion, and a strong commitment to our shared values. It’s a complex and uncertain journey, but with the right mindset and principles, we can ensure that we use these powerful tools responsibly and to the benefit of all. As we continue to create and interact with these textual titans, let us always remember that they are a reflection of us. Let’s make that reflection one we’re proud to behold.

Guest blog by Benjamin Endersen, show the support and head to his medium page and give him a follow:

Thanks Ben!