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Whatever You Do, Don’t Ask GPT for Sources

The chatbot will give you a lot of links that don't necessarily direct you where you want to go
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One of the more amusing things I’ve found from OpenAI’s GPT-3 and ChatGPT is the fact that it will very confidently provide you with sources on anything you ask—and they will often be completely made up. It will even provide fake (but real-looking) URLs for you!

I stumbled across this feature when researching a previous GPT-3 article about how well it could write blog posts compared to real authors. I initially tried asking GPT-3 to include sources, and it generated complete nonsense for the sources. I decided that, for that article, sources were not the main question, so I left it out of the final queries.

However, in response to my latest article about ChatGPT not being a Google replacement, someone commented that, in the future, it would be simple to expand ChatGPT to auto-include sources. I doubted that, since most AI models can’t trace the path from their sources to their decisions. Nonetheless, I decided to put it to the test. Additionally, I posed my questions on ChatGPT, which seems to include a better amount of curation, whether that is done beforehand or in-the-moment.

My question was this, “Can you give me some URLs of articles which discuss the relationship between music and moods?” The results were…interesting. Here is what ChatGPT gave me:

  1. “The Power of Music to Affect the Brain” by Jessica D. Payne, Ph.D.: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/music-and-the-mind/201209/the-power-music-affect-the-brain
  2. “How Music Affects Your Mood” by Rachel Nall: https://www.healthline.com/health/mental-health/how-music-affects-mood
  3. “The Science of Music and Emotion” by Daniel J. Levitin: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/brain-babble/201407/the-science-music-and-emotion
  4. “Music and Mood: How Does Music Affect Our Emotions?” by Verywell Mind: https://www.verywellmind.com/music-and-mood-how-does-music-affect-our-emotions-3144583
  5. “The Emotional Power of Music: How Music Enhances Psychological Well-being” by Lisa Aziz-Zadeh: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fnhum.2012.00074/full

If you click on the links, you will find that none of them are real links!  Well, actually, the last one is a real link, but the article it is linking to is actually “Oscillatory Power Decreases and Long-term Memory” not “The Emotional Power of Music”. Some of the titles are titles of real articles, but not by the claimed authors. Googling found an article called “‘The Power of Music’ to Affect the Brain”, but it is an NPR piece, not a Psychology Today article, and it is written by someone else entirely. Some of the authors mentioned do write about the brain, and at least one of them actually writes about music and the brain, but, nonetheless, the source list is entirely fabricated.

I pointed this out to ChatGPT and said, “None of those articles actually exist.” ChatGPT responded by saying, “I apologize for the errors in my previous response. Here are some revised articles that discuss the relationship between music and moods.” It then proceeded to give me yet another list of fake articles. I asked it yet again, and I got another fake response.

For really straightforward topics, GPT will sometimes provide real sources. When asked about what links I could go to learn more about quantum mechanics, ChatGPT gave me the following list, of which only a third of them were total fabrications (shown with an asterisk mark):

  1. *The Open QM Project: https://openqm.org/
    • *The Quantum Computing Playground: https://quantumplayground.net/
    • *The Institute of Physics’ Quantum World: https://quantum.iop.org/
    • The Quantum Computing Institute: https://www.quantum-computing.ibm.com/
    • *The Quantum Computing for the Complete Beginner: https://quantumcomputingfordevelopers.com/
    • MIT OpenCourseWare: Introduction to Quantum Mechanics: https://ocw.mit.edu/courses/physics/8-04-quantum-physics-i-spring-2013/
    • The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Quantum Mechanics: https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/qm/
    • The Quantum Computing Report: https://quantumcomputingreport.com/
    • The Qiskit Community: https://community.qiskit.org/
    • The Quantum Computing Stack Exchange: https://quantumcomputing.stackexchange.com/

    Whether this issue is inherent in the GPT-3 model or is simply and engineering issue, I don’t know. Nonetheless, for the time being, I wouldn’t trust that any source that GPT-3 mentions is real, accurate, or actually related to what it is discussing.

    Jonathan Bartlett

    Senior Fellow, Walter Bradley Center for Natural & Artificial Intelligence
    Jonathan Bartlett is a senior software R&D engineer at Specialized Bicycle Components, where he focuses on solving problems that span multiple software teams. Previously he was a senior developer at ITX, where he developed applications for companies across the US. He also offers his time as the Director of The Blyth Institute, focusing on the interplay between mathematics, philosophy, engineering, and science. Jonathan is the author of several textbooks and edited volumes which have been used by universities as diverse as Princeton and DeVry.

    Whatever You Do, Don’t Ask GPT for Sources