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Today, the Cambridge Dictionary announces its Word of the Year for 2023: hallucinate. You might already be familiar with this word, which we use to talk about seeing, hearing, or feeling things that don’t really exist. But did you know that it has a new meaning when it’s used in the context of artificial intelligence?
To celebrate the Word of the Year, this post is dedicated to AI terms that have recently come into the English language. AI, as you probably know, is short for artificial intelligence – the use of computer systems with qualities similar to the human brain that allow them to ‘learn’ and ‘think’. It’s a subject that arouses a great deal of interest and excitement and, it must be said, a degree of anxiety. Let’s have a look at some of these new words and phrases and see what they mean and how we’re using them to talk about AI.
A word that we hear all the time now is chatbot. A chatbot is a computer program designed to have conversations with people, usually over the internet. Most chatbots have learned from, or are trained on, a small amount of language that is based around problems that a company’s customers most commonly have, such as returning a purchase or cancelling a contract. But recently a new breed of chatbot has appeared that uses a kind of AI called generative AI (or GenAI) in which computer models can create text and images. Text-based generative AI is based on huge amounts of language data in the form of a large language model (LLM), and can apparently have a natural conversation with you about any subject you choose, as well as writing poems, stories or even essays. These models are becoming increasingly impressive, with some even able to pass exams in law and medicine! But don’t expect them to get everything right when you ask them a question – there have been some notable cases when AI models have simply ‘made something up’ that wasn’t true at all. We call these mistakes hallucinations or confabulations. In general, the accuracy and quality of the results you get from AI models are based on the amount and quality of the data that they are trained on.
It’s hard to predict exactly what the effects of AI will be for the world. Some people are convinced that it will make certain professions redundant. However, it is possible that the new skill of prompt engineering – knowing how to phrase questions and requests to AI tools to get exactly the responses that you want – will help workers be more efficient and make many jobs easier to do.
As the field of AI continues to develop quickly, so does the language we use to talk about it. In a recent New Words post, we shared some words about AI that are being considered for addition to the Cambridge Dictionary. Find out what they mean and vote on whether you think they should be added to the dictionary.
Have you tried to use any generative AI tools? Have you come across any strange, funny or worrisome AI hallucinations? Share your thoughts in the comments below!