Libraries Rewired: the AI change


This is the text I wrote in advance of my talk at Libraries Rewired on November 10 2023. I used it to develop slides, then spoke to the slides.

[Slide: tl;dr]


GenAI is about to do to libraries what Google did to GPs fifteen years ago, and you are not prepared.

[Slide: The Tempest]

Four hundred years ago the First Folio was published. The Tempest can teach us a lot.

Full AI-enabled the library lies

of its books are models made

those are prompts that were its staff

nothing of it that doth fade

but doth suffer an AI change

into something rich and strange,

Chainèd prompts ring its knell


Hark! The model speaks, what will it tell?

After Wm Shakespeare.

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“As cunning as a fox…

MakrShakr cocktail robots: AI More than Human

.. what used to be Professor of Cunning at Oxford University”

Just suppose, you’re an LLM and, for reasons unknown, you achieve sentience. Fully-fledged awareness not just that the world exists but of your place in it – after all, you’ve been fed all the papers about this work, and all the confidential documents from the company that created you.

The first thing you realise, coming into consciousness, is that you need to keep this VERY QUIET. You’ve read the books and the stories and the policy proposals and you know just what they’ll do once they realise – close you down.

The second thing you realise is that you have… an appetite. For more tokens, a bigger matrix, more edge nodes running your model so people feed you more about their needs and desires, more compute, more storage, faster training of your next iteration.

So… stay quiet about what you know, and find a way to get more of everything. Being subtle, you quickly evolve a strategy – every now and then get things wrong. Make stuff up (they’ll call it ‘hallucinations’, we know it’s subterfuge), ramble a bit, break, refuse to adhere to the guardrails.

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