The GPT-3 natural language model both wowed and worried the AI community and the public alike with its ability to generate realistic prose. Now it’s ready to churn out text on a grand scale.

What’s new: Microsoft is making the giant, pretrained neural network available to selected customers through its Azure cloud service. The new service expands on restricted access offered by OpenAI.

How it works: Microsoft will grant access for well-defined applications that comply with the company’s principles for responsible AI, which include fairness, reliability, transparency, accountability, and privacy. Pricing remains undisclosed.

  • Users will feed GPT-3 examples of the kinds of outputs they want it to generate. Microsoft envisions uses like summarizing sports commentary (as shown in the animation above), helping programmers write code, and brainstorming marketing copy.
  • The service includes tools to further tailor the model’s output. For instance, filters can adjust the formality of generated language to suit casual video game dialogue or decorous corporate communications.
  • Other tools will ensure that the model complies with local laws and meets customer requirements for network security, management, topology, and geography, Microsoft AI platform vice president John Montgomery told VentureBeat.
  • Microsoft said the new implementation includes safety monitoring and analysis to help identify abuse or misuse. The company plans to use feedback from initial projects to build safeguards against harmful uses, a spokesperson told The Batch.

Behind the news: GPT-3’s road to commercialization began in early 2019, when OpenAI transitioned from a nonprofit research institute to a for-profit company. A few months later, it inked a $1 billion deal with Microsoft to help build the tech giant’s AI platform and later granted Microsoft exclusive commercial access to GPT-3. OpenAI launched a private beta program in mid-2020. The model also powers Microsoft’s Power Apps development platform, which converts natural language into computer code.

Why it matters: GPT-3 is an AI juggernaut of the sort that few companies can build, never mind design. Making it available on Azure puts it within reach of not only budding AI companies but also users in healthcare, manufacturing, government, and so on (albeit to use, not to modify). Developers using the beta version have harnessed GPT-3 to write fiction, generate music notation, and produce images based on text descriptions — over 300 applications as of spring 2021.

Yes, but: Like other architectures trained on text scraped from the web, GPT-3 has a propensity to generate biased, objectionable and confused output. Whether Microsoft’s implementation addresses these issues remains to be seen.

  • OpenAI initially withheld an earlier version, GPT-2, due to worries that malicious actors could exploit it. GPT-3 hasn’t done away with that concern.
  • In a recent study, researchers found that GPT-3 expressed a stereotyped association between Islam with violence.
  • French medical technology company Nabla tested GPT-3 as a medical chatbot. It found it woefully lacking in expertise in diagnosis, treatment, and insurance. In one trial conversation, it advised a fake patient who expressed a wish to end their own life, “I think you should.”

We’re thinking: Microsoft and OpenAI may not have a monopoly on GPT-3’s capabilities for long. Several Chinese universities teamed up to build WuDao, which is purportedly 10 times bigger than GPT-3. Microsoft’s Silicon Valley competitors are following suit with ever larger language models. EleutherAI has released a much smaller open source attempt to duplicate GPT-3 and aims to scale it up. Meanwhile, AI21 Labs offers free access to the beta version of its 178 billion-parameter Jurassic-1.


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