Structured Like a Language Model: Analysing AI as an Automated Subject

by   Liam Magee, et al.

Drawing from the resources of psychoanalysis and critical media studies, in this paper we develop an analysis of Large Language Models (LLMs) as automated subjects. We argue the intentional fictional projection of subjectivity onto LLMs can yield an alternate frame through which AI behaviour, including its productions of bias and harm, can be analysed. First, we introduce language models, discuss their significance and risks, and outline our case for interpreting model design and outputs with support from psychoanalytic concepts. We trace a brief history of language models, culminating with the releases, in 2022, of systems that realise state-of-the-art natural language processing performance. We engage with one such system, OpenAI's InstructGPT, as a case study, detailing the layers of its construction and conducting exploratory and semi-structured interviews with chatbots. These interviews probe the model's moral imperatives to be helpful, truthful and harmless by design. The model acts, we argue, as the condensation of often competing social desires, articulated through the internet and harvested into training data, which must then be regulated and repressed. This foundational structure can however be redirected via prompting, so that the model comes to identify with, and transfer, its commitments to the immediate human subject before it. In turn, these automated productions of language can lead to the human subject projecting agency upon the model, effecting occasionally further forms of countertransference. We conclude that critical media methods and psychoanalytic theory together offer a productive frame for grasping the powerful new capacities of AI-driven language systems.


page 8

page 9

page 11

page 12

page 13

page 14


On the application of Large Language Models for language teaching and assessment technology

The recent release of very large language models such as PaLM and GPT-4 ...

Mini-Giants: "Small" Language Models and Open Source Win-Win

ChatGPT is phenomenal. However, it is prohibitively expensive to train a...

Truth Machines: Synthesizing Veracity in AI Language Models

As AI technologies are rolled out into healthcare, academia, human resou...

Prompt Programming for Large Language Models: Beyond the Few-Shot Paradigm

Prevailing methods for mapping large generative language models to super...

Large-Scale Text Analysis Using Generative Language Models: A Case Study in Discovering Public Value Expressions in AI Patents

Labeling data is essential for training text classifiers but is often di...

The politics of deceptive borders: 'biomarkers of deceit' and the case of iBorderCtrl

This paper critically examines a recently developed proposal for a borde...

Please sign up or login with your details

Forgot password? Click here to reset