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Historical analogies for large language models  ↦

How will large language models (LLMs) change the world?

No one knows. With such uncertainty, a good exercise is to look for historical analogies—to think about other technologies and ask what would happen if LLMs played out the same way.

I like to keep things concrete, so I’ll discuss the impact of LLMs on writing. But most of this would also apply to the impact of LLMs on other fields, as well as other AI technologies like AI art/music/video/code.

What follows are 13 examples of technological innovations that changed the world and description of how they affected they way people work. Here’s an example analogy of Feet and Segways:

First, there was walking. Then the Segway came to CHANGE THE NATURE OF HUMAN TRANSPORT. Twenty years later, there is still walking, plus occasionally low-key alternatives like electric scooters.

In this analogy, LLMs work fine but just aren’t worth the trouble in most cases and society doesn’t evolve to integrate them. Domain-specific LLMs are used for some applications, but we start to associate “general” LLMs with tourists and mall cops. George W. Bush falls off an LLM on vacation and everyone loses their minds.


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