Sunday, July 09, 2023

A further comment on Chernoff--- and the future of ....

Ravi Boppana recently did a guest blog on Chernoff turning 100 for us here

Consider this unpublished comment on that post:
As we delve into the depths of Professor Chernoff's impressive centennial celebration, it strikes me that the most astounding aspect isn't the breadth of his influence, but the fact that his eponymous 'Chernoff Bound' remains as relevant today as it was when first conceived in 1952. It's not just a mathematical theorem - it's a testament to the timeless power of innovative thinking and a reminder that truly exceptional ideas can cross boundaries, transcending disciplines and even generations.

As statisticians, computer scientists, and mathematicians, we are not just the beneficiaries of Professor Chernoff's scientific legacy; we are the continuation of it. Every time we use Chernoff bounds in our work, we're not merely applying a theorem - we're participating in a story that began over 70 years ago, and will hopefully continue for many more.

So, as we say 'Happy 100th Birthday' to Professor Chernoff, let's also raise a toast to his contributions that have shaped our field and will continue to guide future generations. It's a living testament that the bounds of his impact are far from being reached. Here's to a legacy that defies the bounds, much like his own theorem!

This SEEMS like an intelligent comment.

This IS an intelligent comment.

(One of the comments on this blog post points out that the ChatGPT comment is INCORRECT. Can a comment be INCORRECT and still INTELLIGENT? I think so if it contributes to the conversation.) 

Who wrote it? You can probably guess: ChatGPT. Lance asked ChatGPT for a comment and this is what he got. 

We have, for many years, often gotten bot-generated posts that pick out a few key words and then have a link to buy something. My favorite was

                                  Nice post on P vs NP. For a good deal on tuxedo's click here. 
I would like to think it was written by a human who thinks Lance will crack P vs NP and wants him to look good when picking up the Millennium  Prize. But of course I doubt that.

Of more importance is that the attempts to look like a real post were pathetic and content free. In the future (actually, the future is now) ChatGPT may be used to generate an intelligent comment that has a link in it at the end, or worse, in a place we don't notice. So we will need to be more vigilant. This has not been a problem for us yet, but I suspect it will be. 


  1. Given that wiki reports that Chernoff himself attributed the idea to Rabin and that Cramer published an almost identical concept in 1938, the ChatGPT generated bit is poblematical. It's essentially wrong.

    From my limited interactions with MickeySoft's version, I find the stuff that comes out of these things obnoxious. So I'm expecting other people to be getting tired of this sort of slish shortly, but I'm afraid I may have a long wait.

    When I was applying to college, one of my recommendations was from a close friend of the family, a professor at a local university. He read his letter to me, proudly. It was the same over-the-top garbage as in the above. My honest reaction was, this is going to do way more harm than good. I don't help old ladies cross streets. Sigh. My SAT scores were high enough that I was getting into my emergency school, and my high school performance bad enough that I wasn't getting into my first choice (I actually did, go figure), so it didn't matter. But that this bloke thought that people wouldn't choke on this sort of insane praise seriously surprised me. He wasn't a dolt. Around the same time, he suggested that I look into what micorwaves do in human tissue, such as the skull/brain system, this was 1971 or so, decades before cell phone microwave radiation became a problem. Go figure.

    1. Thanks, I will edit the post to reflect that.

  2. Personally, I don’t find it a particularly intelligent or insightful comment at all… I certainly wouldn’t write something like that with my name under it, or approve it if I were an editor.

  3. Intelligent: Perhaps better to say that its NOT spam and its NOT obnoxious and it lead to the comment by David from Tokyo which corrected my (and perhaps others) misconception about the authorship of Chernoff bounds. So it contributed to the discussion.

    Insightful: Agree that it is NOT insightful.

    Approve it: We only block spam and truly obnoxious comments. The comment was neither.

  4. This sort of thing, going off blathering at length without dealing with the underlying subtlety of the thing being blathered about is, I submit, why I find ChatGPT so obnoxious. My guess is that this phenomenon can't be fixed: the LLM game is to do no reasoning about, or understanding of, the world or anything in it, but to fake the appearance of such understanding by recombining text fragments that originally did actually relate to the real world.

    As I've been saying since the start: the LLMs are exactly and only parlor tricks. Pretty snazzy parlor tricks. But parlor tricks.

    They're getting to be better and better parlor tricks, though. It got the date of the paper correct, and the amount of time that's passed since then correct.

    1. "the LLM game is to do no reasoning about, or understanding of, the world or anything in it, but to fake the appearance of such understanding by recombining text fragments that originally did actually relate to the real world"

      is the exact same approach for myths that people all over the globe in medieval times were writing tomes or carving into rocks claiming them to be truths delivered from the heavens above; a large section of the populace continues to adhere to these imaginary motifs.

      Human intellect has frequently been demonstrated to not be all that more advanced than AII generated gibberish.

  5. futher comment -> *further comment