NOTE: find updates at the bottom of the post.
Having learned the views of others, I'd like to offer some degree of summary in response, and to deliver some new suggestions.
How to answer to the future, today?
I acknowledge the points of those who claim that AI is the future, and that denying it is futile — foolish even. I also sense the intent of a warning that advises us not to make similar mistakes to those who initially dismissed major, history-shaping technological advancements as unimpactful fads (only to be proven wrong by history shortly afterwards).
Yet, I argue, in itself, this insight is not a sufficient foundation for us to unconditionally embrace "AI produced content" on our website today. Our (e.g. those who engage with meta.askubuntu) main goal here is to be the custodians of a collection of reliable answers about Ubuntu.
The current state of available AI technology is not adequate to meet our requirement for factually consistently correct — and therefore safe-to-apply — information.
ChatGPT seems like an early proof of concept whose primary mission was to produce passable contributions to random conversations.
[ Aside: I have seen arguments that it's not even an AI: it's merely a machine learning model oriented at language. ]
Until an AI or equivalent technology is not capable of installing Ubuntu in a virtual machine and verifying the effects of its assertions, all it can do is to collect information from other, already existing sources — quite possibly including unverified ones — recombine it with unreliable degree of accuracy, and pass it on repackaged into unique linguistic constructs. This is no way to produce reliable answers for our Ubuntu-related questions.
A further, massive deal-breaker — as some of us had already seen — is when the machine grants itself creative freedoms in recombining and reshuffling software configuration options, regardless of whether these inventions correspond to existing specifications or not.
On these grounds, I don't see the place for the term "luddite" in our argument, for when someone expresses unwillingness to work with information of such low reliability. I believe no one is against technology here. We are against a barrage of useless lies / fiction that the current iteration of ChatGPT is capable of producing under the guise of reliable facts.
Seeing the dialogue in this thread, I am convinced that as soon as an AI will be able to produce truly and consistently reliable information about Ubuntu-related challenges, we will re-evaluate our position. (Impactfully, at that point, we also will have to face the question: what mission would keep this community (and numerous other online collaborations) working together from that point on.)
In the meanwhile, our burden is to keep this site free from misleading, potentially dangerous garbage.
How to maintain a reliable stock of information on AskUbuntu?
We are seeing in this thread that several people:
- are against a blanket ban, for various motivations
- are in agreement about the prediction that with the rapid evolution and refinement of the AI / ML technology, enforcing a blanket ban might turn out to be technically challenging
The following suggestions aim to acknowledge these positions & considerations, and suggest measures for a modus operandi where we have to live together with a constant influx of AI-produced content.
I offer the following suggestions; feel free to cherry-pick the most feasible ideas:
Inform proactively: announce a policy
We need to communicate our issues regarding low quality AI posts: this needs to be mentioned in the onboarding process and it needs its dedicated section in the Code Of Conduct.
Additionally, we could consider putting up small, unobtrusive banners where relevant (maybe accompanying the question- and answer submission forms).
Demand disclosure of origin for AI-generated posts
As I have learned in the meanwhile, it is a general policy of StackExchange to demand disclosure of such material:
If it wasn't created by you, attribution is always required here.
Rely on community-delegated moderation
There is a threat that the volume of low quality posts could overwhelm our volunteer moderators. To relieve them, we should develop measures that could maintain order without needing explicit moderator attention for each individual case. This could be implemented through flagging, whose sufficient numbers could automatically lead to the removal of posts (comparable to how the "spam" flag works today).
Establish a new flag dedicated to the issue
Could be content-oriented:
Low effort answer with inadequate content
For lack of a better term currently, until we find something better, I would suggest "meddling".
to involve oneself in a matter without right or invitation; interfere officiously and unwantedly
We already have a behavior-oriented flag for spamming.
Now we could think about experimenting with a new, tailor-made flag for this new challenge:
[ Act of | A product of ] meddling
The poster appears to disseminate cheaply sourced third-party content while failing to demonstrate an ability to verify the adequacy of the information within.
Multiple posts being removed through flagging by the community could invite mod attention, where a temporary suspension could be used to discourage the unwanted activity.
Re-evaluate as necessary
Perhaps we don't get it right for the first try. Let's see how it goes, and, if under pressure, update the policies as necessity dictates.
At the end of the day, the ultimate goal is that AskUbuntu remains a reputable source of reliable information. We should maintain only such policies that do not endanger this primary mission.
I maintain my suggestion to address the problematic usage of ChatGPT by a tailor-made policy and corresponding countermeasure.
This time, I suggest contemplating the usefulness of the terms "impostor" and "charlatan".
a person who practices deception under an assumed character, identity, or name
"British Dictionary definitions for impostor":
a person who deceives others, esp by assuming a false identity; charlatan
a person who pretends or claims to have more knowledge or skill than he or she possesses; quack.
I opine, as long as the poster does not disclose up front that the core "value" of the post was generated through ChatGPT, their behavior amounts to acting both as an impostor and charlatan.
However, let's recognize that ChatGPT itself is acting as a charlatan. I interpret, that's at the core of our ban against it.
In that sense, could a single additional flag aimed at "charlatanism" cover the case?
I admit that I feel both "charlatan" and "impostor" are strong words, and carry heavy emotional weight on top of the intended correct semantical identification of the behaviors in question. Also, introducing them as-is could carry the risk of detrimentally impacting the community culture.
Nevertheless, I feel that the dictionary description of these words match the case we are experiencing.
As I explored earlier, ChatGPT is not (currently) in a position of verifying the adequacy of its assertions through testing the validity of those on a live Ubuntu system (e.g. running one in a virtual machine).
Out of this circumstance, attempting to compile valid information — short of quoting snippets from successfully version-matched(!) documentation — is akin to how one sits in the casino in front of a slot machine with the spinning fruit symbols. Sometimes things end up aligning succesfully, oftentimes however not.
I'd like to point out that the above is not analogous to the contemporary machine-learning practice of trial and error, because trial and error — it seems to me — implicitly involves the verification/evaluation of the results, and the iterative development of the conclusion. That's fundamentally missing from ChatGPT's capabilities.
Therefore we could create a flag along the lines of:
Information produced through means of gambling.
Information produced through means not accepted by this community.