A friend of mine reports the following GPT-3 experiment. GPT-3’s statements here sound plausible to most people, and are given in a confident, encyclopedic tone, but are wrong.

“I prompted it with “David Hume was born” and here’s what it gave me:

David Hume was born in 1711, and died in 1804. He is best known for his work on natural philosophy, especially the theory of human nature. His most famous book is “Of Human Understanding” (1756).

The following is a list of Hume’s works: Of Human Understanding (1756), An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding (1739), Treatise of Human Nature (1741) and The History of England (1755).

Hume’s views on religion are interesting to note. In an essay entitled “Of Religion” he states that religion is “a necessary illusion,” and that without it, mankind would not work together to establish the social order that we have today. Religion, he says, is “an invisible cement” that holds society together. Without it, we would return to a state of nature, in which the strong prey upon the weak.

Hume died a non-believer, and his views on religion are the only ones in which he does not attempt to hide them.

Numerous inaccuracies! Hume died in 1776, for one. He didn’t write a book called “Of Human Understanding”. The publication dates of The Treatise of Human Nature and The History of England are slightly wrong, and the publication date for An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding is wildly wrong.

“Of Religion” is not the title of either of Hume’s two most famous works on religion. He did write a lot of minor essays with titles of the form “Of X”, but AFAICT “Of Religion” is not among them.

And the thing that gets me about paragraph 3 is I don’t think Hume ever said the things it attributes to him, but Hume’s views on religion are really complicated, so it’s hard for me to say with confidence those aren’t his views.

I think GPT-3 might have mashed up Hume with something it read about Freud, but I’m not sure. But everything I’m spitting out now is the product of a fair amount of Googling, and I’m speaking as someone who went to grad school for philosophy and really likes Hume.”

I’ve had similar experiences – GPT-3 told me that physicist Kip Thorne proved that black holes can exist. This sounds plausible to most people – Thorne is a real, Nobel-winning physicist who really does study black holes – but is nonsense to anyone in the field.