Can AI chatbots replace writers and generate credible content for Wikipedia?

Wikipedia's co-founder is hopeful that such systems can help to plug the gaps in the existing system.
Jijo Malayil
Ai robot concept image
Ai robot concept image


Language models powered by Artificial Intelligence, spearheaded by ChatGPT, have disrupted the technology sector. OpenAI's masterstroke has resulted in market leaders like Google and Microsoft scrambling to release their versions of such chatbots to users. Foreseeing its potential, the latter has swiftly closed a $10 billion investment with OpenAI. 

Such applications have made AI accessible for the masses to perform daily tasks like paper writing, translation, coding, and more, all through question-and-answer-based interactions. 

Now, a future in which applications like ChatGPT can replace writers to produce a lot of written content available online is been considered by Jimmy Wales, the co-founder of Wikipedia. In an interview given to the Evening Standard, Wales sheds his insights on how the world's largest online repository of information will evolve in the future. 

“The discussion in the Wikipedia community that I’ve seen so far is…people are cautious in the sense that we’re aware that the existing models are not good enough but also intrigued because there seems like there’s a lot of possibility here,” he said.

"I think we’re still a way away from: ‘ChatGPT, please write a Wikipedia entry about the empire state building,’ but I don’t know how far away we are from that, certainly closer than I would have thought two years ago.”

A lot of flaws in the existing system make it less reliable

The team at Wikipedia has expressed concern regarding the "hallucinating" practice of such AI chatbots with their responses. “It has a tendency to just make stuff up out of thin air, which is just really bad for Wikipedia — that’s just not OK. We’ve got to be really careful about that,” said the co-founder.

The founder is also worried about the technology's inability to identify or spot the internal contradictions in its responses. 

Even though giving total freedom for AI systems to generate information is off-limits now, the team is looking at how the technology can improve content with the encyclopedia. “I do think there are some interesting opportunities for human assistance where if you had an AI that was trained on the right corpus of things — to say, for example, here are two Wikipedia entries, check them and see if there are any statements that contradict each other and identify tensions where one article seems to be saying something slightly different to the other,” said Jimmy to Evening Standard.

AI-enabled systems can solve inherent biases by analyzing available information

An establishment run by volunteer writers running into millions, Wikipedia is often criticized for bias in its descriptions and coverage of topics. This is accentuated by the demographics of its contributors, who are primarily male and white. 

Wikipedia's founder is doubtful about AI's scope in solving such a predicament. “We know a lot of AI work has run into bias very quickly, because if you train an AI on biased data, then it’s just going to just follow that bias, and a lot of people in the AI world are focused on that problem, and they are aware of it,” said Jimmy. 

However, according to Evening Standard, the team is optimistic that such systems can expand their coverage by analyzing all possible online information on a subject, and cross-checking it with other entries, hence plugging the gaps. Such an exercise would generate huge quantities of information, but Jimmy is not worried. “Using AI to triple the number of Wikipedia entries wouldn’t increase our running costs by more than £1,000 a year."

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