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blog: Don Marti

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use a Large Language Model, or eat Tide Pods?

31 December 2022

The current hot Internet trend is large language models (LLMs). Before that it was NFTs, and before that it was eating Tide Pods. I know that these things go in cycles, but perhaps this hype cycle may have moved on too quickly, and there may be some advantages to the previous generation. Let's compare.

Availability

  • Tide Pods are available from many sources including online retailers, supermarkets, and convenience stores.

  • LLMs require substantial training investment, so are available from a limited number of sources at present.

  • Advantage: Tide Pods

Mitigating the adverse effects

  • The health effects of eating Tide Pods are already well understood. Poison control center staff members are already trained in this area, and are reachable quickly with a convenient toll-free call.

  • Fixing the results of actions taken based on LLM output could require specialized knowledge that presents challenges in training and/or hiring.

  • Advantage: Tide Pods

Time required

  • Tide Pods can be eaten in seconds, with or without chewing.

  • LLMs can produce text faster than most humans can read it, so may represent an open-ended time commitment.

  • Advantage: Tide Pods

Repurposing

  • After you have learned not to eat Tide Pods, the rest of the pods in the package are useful for laundry.

  • Clearly useful applications of LLMs remain to be discovered.

  • Advantage: Tide Pods

Educational value

  • Eating Tide Pods helps teach you not to believe everything you find on the Internet

  • LLMs help teach you not to believe everything you find on the Internet

  • Advantage: (tie)

This objective evaluation shows that organizations considering investing in LLMs should also consider, as an alternative, eating Tide Pods, which may be a technical direction that is faster and less costly to evaluate. Winding down from an investment in a hot technology is always challenging, but will likely be more manageable for organizations that did not buy in at the top—where LLMs are today and NFTs were last year—but instead consider the lessons to be drawn from organizations that are now ending NFT projects, and increase the ratio of learning to both cost and risk by choosing a better characterized technology.

Don't eat Tide Pods. Don't believe everything you read on the Internet. Don't eat Tide Pods.

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