ChatGPT’s parasitic machine

In tech we are all, ultimately, parasites. As Drupal creator Dries Buytaert’s said years ago, we are all more “taker” than “maker.” Buytaert was referring to common practice in open source communities: “Takers don’t contribute back meaningfully to the open source project that they take from,” hurting the projects upon which they depend. Even the most ardent open source contributor takes more than she contributes.

This same parasitic trend has played out for Google, Facebook, and Twitter—each dependent on others’ content—and is arguably much more true of generative AI (GenAI) today. Sourcegraph developer Steve Yegge dramatically declares, “LLMs aren’t just the biggest change since social, mobile, or cloud—they’re the biggest thing since the World Wide Web,” and he’s likely correct. But those large language models (LLMs) are essentially parasitic in nature: They depend on scraping others’ repositories of code (GitHub), technology answers (Stack Overflow), literature, and much more.

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