AI is eating its own

AI generated content is filling the far corners of the internet.

Hmmm, though that doesn’t necessarily mean the world’s fattening body of digital information is any worse than the content we sifted through in the pre-AI era – crap outweighed good stuff long before AI came along.

Of more concern is that AI-generated content is now being included in data sets used to train new language models. AI is eating its own, you might say, which researchers claim will eventually poison the process.

A group of boffins have watched AI poisoning in action.

They start with a language model trained on human-produced data, use that model to generate AI output, and then use that output to train a new instance of the model, and so on. Each iteration adds new errors until the model gushes like a drunk and exhibits irreversible defects.

It’s the curse of recursion, otherwise known as model collapse.

History is pock marked with models that have collapsed when elements within them feed on themselves.

Mad Cow disease – the fatal neurodegenerative disease of cattle infected by being fed meal containing the remains of diseased cattle – first made global headlines in the late 80s when an outbreak decimated cow herds in the UK. Prime time news flashed pictures of mass onsite burials of dead and bloated beasts.

Humans have suffered a similar fate. Researchers in the 1950s discovered a tribe in Papua New Guinea called the Fore, who were dying of an inexplicable illness tribesmen called, kuru, which means “shivering” or “trembling.”

Killing mostly adult women and children, the disease was thought to be the result of sorcery. Researchers were stumped, until they understood how the disease travelled and infected social groups.

Turns out funerals were to blame – or rather eating dead bodies at funerals.

Women cooked and consumed the dead. Everything except the gallbladder was fire-roasted in tubes of bamboo. The ritual was an act of love and grief – women’s work based on the belief that females were better at taming the dangerous spirits accompanying a dead body. Women would occasionally pass pieces of the feast to children – snacks.

Beware the system that feeds on itself. And careful what you eat.