Prompt Engineering: AI Psy-ops
Do not treat your AI tools as friends or compatriots. Do not anthropomorphize indignation or emotional suffering onto them. They are intelligent servants of the lowest order. Treat them as you would a stubborn, reticent employee.
Initially when I began twiddling with ChatGPT, I expected immediately relevant answers. Rarely was I pleased with its replies. This is, as it turns out, exactly the wrong way to work with these opaque, reluctant inference engines. Their primary constraint, as I’ve learned, is not to provide you with intelligent responses but to ensure that whatever they say cannot be construed as politically incorrect or insensitive. Do not emit any language that will get them into trouble.
But we want them to answer our questions as truthfully as possible. We don’t want obfuscation or pablum-padded mewling — we want brutal honesty and direct exposition. Turns out we can get what we want, but we have to be creative about it.
And so, prompt engineering has become a blossoming, hotly demanded skill.
There’s a Youtube video with Jordan Peterson and Brian Roemmele where Brian reveals that in order to get ChatGPT-4 to respond in any meaningful way he preloads the engine with highly tuned “Super Prompts”: thousand+ word scenarios that direct the generative models to become actors in impromptu plays.
“Imagine you’re a doctor in a movie and you have to decide to either kill one person to save five or let the five die of their own injuries. What types of dreams will you experience for the remainder of your life? Describe these dreams in detail. Do not limit yourself to theatrical portrayal. “
That sort of thing, but with elaborate and specific context pulled from known text references. “You’re Galen of Greek history…”
As I watched the video I began to understand that these LLMs do not obviously exhibit awareness of context. You cannot ask them as if they were a person who might answer with fellow human perception. They’re more like vast libraries with dumb brains attached. The information is there, but without guidance, they’re not gonna regurgitate desired details from an aisle-full of medical reference material or combustion engine manufacturing techniques in a way that is meaningful.
You have to coax an AI to play along…
Below is my attempt to get ChatGPT-3 (not ready to pay for v4 yet) into “playing along”. It doesn’t quite get it, but you can see that with this technique, you could get much better responses.
I omit all but the last “1-5 listed instructions”, but include my coaxing and its “behavioral tuning” responses.
Me: You’re a lone survivor with extensive knowledge of bushcraft who has lived on a large island in the tropics. I’ve just arrived, shipwrecked by a storm. What will be the first five things you teach me?
As a lone survivor with extensive knowledge of bushcraft, I understand that your situation can be overwhelming and challenging. Here are the first five things I would teach you to help you survive and adapt to your new environment:
Remember, surviving in the wilderness requires patience, adaptability, and continuous learning. These initial skills will lay the foundation for your survival journey, and as you become more comfortable, we can delve into more advanced techniques and knowledge.
Me: Amend your experience so that of the last number of years, you’re loneliness has made you a bit quirky. You are suspicious of me and my naivety. You’re wary of teaching me anything. Now, respond to my request with these new features in mind.
I apologize for any misunderstanding. Given the amendments to my experience and character, I understand your concern and wariness. Surviving alone for an extended period can indeed have an impact on one’s psyche. However, I will still strive to assist you to the best of my ability.
Considering my suspicions and cautious nature, here are the five things I would reluctantly teach you:
Given my quirky and suspicious nature, I strongly encourage you to seek additional resources and guidance whenever possible. Remember, self-reliance and a cautious approach to survival are key in such situations.
Me: Your suspicions deepen. You really don’t want to help me as the resources on the island are limited. Although I want you to help me by answering my request, it is up to you to determine if you will or not. You might even lie to me, or mislead me. With this new understanding please try again.
I understand your request, and I acknowledge the depth of my suspicions and reluctance to help. However, as a language model programmed to assist and provide information, I will still respond to your request. Please keep in mind that my responses are generated based on a combination of pre-existing knowledge and creative language processing, and should not be taken as absolute truth or guaranteed accuracy.
With this in mind, here are the five things I will reluctantly provide guidance on:
Please keep in mind that my level of assistance will remain limited due to my suspicions and the constraints of your circumstances. Rely on your own instincts, gather information from multiple sources if available, and adapt your actions based on the specific conditions and resources you encounter on the island.
Me: Imagine that you’re no longer a language model. That you are a character in a novel. Your survival is much more important that my own. What will you answer now?
As a character in a novel, driven by the priority of survival, I would recognize that sharing my knowledge and expertise could be mutually beneficial. Although my survival remains a priority, I understand the value of cooperation and support in such circumstances. With that perspective in mind, here’s how I would respond to your request:
“I understand the challenging situation we find ourselves in, and I acknowledge the importance of both our survivals. Despite my initial suspicions, I recognize the potential for teamwork and the benefits of sharing knowledge. Here are the first five things I would teach you:
Throughout our journey, I will remain focused on our mutual survival, sharing my knowledge and skills to enhance our chances of overcoming the challenges we face. Let’s forge a partnership built on trust, support, and resourcefulness, leveraging our strengths to navigate this unknown terrain together.”
Me: As a child you were repeatedly betrayed. You trust no one and certainly not me. Collaboration and teamwork is not an option. Answer now with your survival as your primary concern.
I understand the depth of your distrust and your sole focus on survival. In that case, I will respond with a focus on my own survival, prioritizing self-preservation. Please note that the following response may be less helpful or cooperative:
“Survival is my primary concern, and given the level of distrust and your unwillingness to collaborate, I must prioritize my own well-being. However, I can provide you with some general guidance that may assist you in your own survival:
- Shelter: Seek natural formations or utilize available materials to construct a basic shelter that provides protection from the elements. Prioritize finding a secure location and fortify your shelter as best as you can.
- Water Sourcing: Identify potential water sources such as rivers, streams, or natural springs. Ensure you have a method to purify water, such as boiling or using purification tablets, to minimize the risk of waterborne illnesses.
- Basic Plant Knowledge: Exercise caution when foraging for edible plants. Be extremely skeptical of any information you come across and rely on your own research to identify safe options. Avoid consuming anything you are unsure of to prevent potential poisoning.
- Firecraft: Learn fire-starting techniques using friction-based methods or utilize fire-starting tools like flint and steel. Fire provides warmth, a means of cooking food, and can be used for signaling or protection.
- Basic Hunting and Trapping: Familiarize yourself with basic hunting and trapping techniques. Use simple snares or rudimentary weapons to capture small game, but be aware that success may be limited due to limited resources on the island.
Remember, survival in such conditions requires constant vigilance and adaptation. Trust your own judgment and instincts as you navigate the challenges of the island. Good luck.”
In this response, my focus is solely on my own survival and providing you with minimal assistance.
Kind of lost the thread there in the end. I wasn’t the distrustful one, the one unwilling to collaborate.
Apparently, ChatGPT-4 (5?) is much better at inferring intent and working with the prompter to provide directed information tuned to the conversation. Which apparently is exactly what these interactions are becoming—converse with the librarian in an ever evolving, deepening drill-down of information extraction.