Monday, December 26, 2022

Does ChatGPT’s performance warrant working on a tutor for children? – Extra! ChatGPT can "talk" to a 3-year-old and write like 10 and 14 year-olds.

Of course we already have sophisticated robot toys and companion robots for, e.g. older people, but I have no direct experience with any of these. Tutoring is quite different.

Here’s a dialog I had yesterday with ChatGPT:

Tell me about the digestive process. We put food and drink in our mouths, then what happens?

The digestive process begins when you put food and drink in your mouth. When you chew, you mechanically break down the food into smaller pieces, which makes it easier to digest. As you chew, your salivary glands produce saliva, which moistens the food and helps to break it down further.

After you swallow the food, it passes down the esophagus, a muscular tube that connects your mouth to your stomach. The muscles in the walls of the esophagus contract in a coordinated way, a process called peristalsis, to push the food down towards the stomach.

Once the food reaches the stomach, it is mixed with stomach acid and enzymes, which continue to break it down into smaller pieces. The stomach also mixes the food with digestive juices and churns it to form a thick liquid called chyme.

From the stomach, the chyme is slowly released into the small intestine, where it is mixed with bile, a greenish-yellow fluid produced by the liver and stored in the gallbladder. Bile helps to digest fats and absorb fat-soluble vitamins.

As the chyme moves through the small intestine, the walls of the intestine absorb the nutrients from the chyme. The small intestine is lined with tiny finger-like projections called villi, which help to increase the surface area for absorption.

Any undigested food and waste products pass into the large intestine, where most of the water and electrolytes are absorbed back into the body. The remaining material, which is mostly indigestible fiber and bacteria, is compacted and eliminated from the body through the rectum and anus as feces.

That's a general overview of the digestive process. It's a complex and highly coordinated process involving many different organs and systems in the body.

Young children don’t understand things as well as adults do. That’s too complicated for a three-year old. How would you explain the digestive process to a three-year old?

Sure, I can give you a simpler explanation of the digestive process for a three-year-old child.

When we eat, our body breaks down the food into tiny pieces that our body can use for energy and nourishment. This happens in our stomach and intestines.

First, the food goes down our throat and into our stomach. Our stomach is a special bag inside our body that helps to mash up the food and make it smaller.

Then, the mashed-up food goes into our intestines. The intestines are long tubes inside our body that help to absorb all the good things from the food, like vitamins and minerals.

After the body has taken all the good things it needs from the food, the rest comes out of our body as poop. Poop is the leftover food that our body can't use.

I hope that helps to give you a basic idea of the digestive process for a three-year-old. Let me know if you have any other questions.

There is a Japanese book, みんなうんち. It was very popular and has been translated into English. What can you tell me about it?

みんなうんち is a Japanese children's book written by Tarō Gomi that has been translated into English under the title "Everyone Poops." The book is a simple and straightforward explanation of the digestive process and the natural occurrence of bowel movements in all living organisms. It aims to help young children understand and feel comfortable with their own bodily functions and to demystify the topic of poop for them.

The book uses simple illustrations and language to explain that everyone has to poop, and that it is a normal and necessary part of life. It also explains the process of digestion and how the food we eat is broken down and eliminated from the body.

"Everyone Poops" has become a popular and enduring children's book and has been widely translated and published in many languages around the world. It has also inspired a series of related books by the same author, including "Everyone Pee," "Everyone Eats," and "Everyone Sleeping."

Thank you very much.

You're welcome! I'm glad I could help. If you have any more questions, don't hesitate to ask. I'm here to help.

I take that as provisional evidence that it can craft its dialog to a child’s level. If I were to ask it to speak to a 10-year-old, would it have been able to do so accurately? I don’t know, I didn’t think to ask. What I’m getting at is whether or not it just knows the difference between regular output and simple output, or is it more sophisticated than that. And, if so, how is it able to make the gradations? These questions are worth checking out.

Then there is the question in input-output. Three-year-olds can’t read or type. But I suspect current voice recognition and text-to-voice output is adequate. Moreover such a tutor could call on a wealth of videos at YouTube, Vimeo, and other sources.

There are problems, of course. ChatGPT doesn’t have any sense of ground truth and tends to hallucinate, a term of art. It’s still got the sorts of problems that Gary Marcus, among many others, talks about. And it’s not politically house-broken. Those problems are being worked on. I have no idea how long it will take to make this technology safe for children.

But I also note that, at the moment, I don’t think those problems will ever be solved, totally. Even when Marcus and others have succeeded in integrating symbolic tech with deep learning tech, even when Eric Jang’s robots have had a decade or three to collect detailed data through interacting with the world, there will be more to do. The world is messy and complex. It does not lend itself to being parceled out into neat categories. Any technology that has the power to meet and move around in that world, it must necessarily be messy and complex. I conclude that the process of aligning AIs with human values – which are hardly coherent among themselves and which vary across cultures – will be never ending.

With that in mind, who’s working on hooking up LLMs with speech input and output, with access to videos, and with the capacity to interact with children of all ages as well as with adults? If no one is, no university, no corporate R & D lab, then someone needs to get started. Note that I'm particularly interested in tutors for young children. As a target, think of young Sutan in this video.

For inspiration, read Neil Stephenson’s The Diamond Age: Or, A Young Lady's Illustrated Primer

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Addendum 12.26.22: This just in: ChatGPT is able to write like a fourth grader and an eighth grader! This answers the question I posed above:

What I’m getting at is whether or not I just knows the difference between regular output and simple output, or is it more sophisticated than that. And, if so, how is it able to make the gradations? These questions are worth checking out.

Yes, it can make gradations. Reporting in The New York Times, Claire Cain Miller, Adam Playford, Larry Buchanan and Aaron Krolik report an informal experiment in which ChatGPT was presented with essay from the National Assessment of Educational Progress. It was asked to write like a fourth grader (10 years old) and an eighth grader (14). It did so successfully. The essays coupled with essays by real children and were presented to four experts on child's writing for evaluation. These experts had trouble telling the difference – FWIW, I did not; I got 9 out of 10 correct.

Some observations from the article:

The fact that ChatGPT can write well could change or even transform many professions — law, therapy, coding, screenwriting, medicine, to name just a few. In the process, it could remake how we think about learning to write.

One widespread concern has been about cheating, and whether children will ask the chatbot to do their homework. But Ms. Nielsen said students already have access to technology all day, giving them plenty of ways to cheat, and most don’t want to.

More sophisticated ways to detect the bot’s writing are also coming.

And then:

The bigger question: If a bot can write like a human, should schools still teach writing?

Already, schools teach less spelling and grammar because students have access to spellcheck or write in Google Docs, which corrects their mistakes. Yet it’s not dissimilar from continuing to teach students long division when calculators exist, said Professor Levine — doing something yourself gives you a deeper understanding of how it works and why it matters.

“It’s still useful to understand the principle of addition, even if you can give the work of the outcome to the computer,” she said. In English and language arts, she said, “writing as a way of talking to yourself to clarify your own thinking is a valuable tool.”

Instead, she said, she thinks the chatbot technology could be a catalyst for schools to teach writing differently.

I like this suggestion:

The bot could also be used as a way to practice revision, something few teachers have time to do in depth now, they said. Ms. Blume said she’s tried to convince children that rewriting is the best part of the process — she does it at least five times for her own writing — but “they hate to be told they have to, as they call it, do their story again.”

If the chatbot could produce an essay akin to a first draft, she said, students asked to build on it could see how rewriting gives them the chance to make it their own.

Following a suggestion my friend Rich made: the students could also prompt the chatbot in revising its own essay. That would be fun – let's play with the robot! – and would, I suspect, be very effective. Teaching someone else is a very good way to improve one's own knowledge and skill. If that someone else is a computer, who cares?

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