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Generative Artificial Intelligence: What is Generative Artificial Intelligence?

What is Generative Artificial Intelligence?

Generative artificial intelligence (AI) is a category of web-based tools that use algorithms, data, and statistical models to draw reasonable inferences to create content of its own (e,g., text, images, etc.). They are not search engines but rather trained chatbots. Using a prompt, a chatbot strives to fill in the next missing content piece, "what one might expect" (Wolfram). 

These tools use large language models to provide bots with the data they need to reply to a prompt you have given it appropriately. For example, when ChatGPT writes a response to a prompt, it provides text based on what words came before and what is the most likely next word. Because AI uses natural language and computes so quickly, it can often seem like the chatbot is, in fact, intelligent. 

The field of AI is changing at a rapid pace. We know that these generative tools help users synthesize information and create content (code, essays, art, music, etc.). However, these tools can also "hallucinate", or make up facts or sources and create biased content. 

Be sure to make sure it is ethical to use AI (see AI and Academic Integrity) and fact-check any content and sources you plan to use in the work you share with others or publish that has been generated by AI.

Generative AI in Action

Image generated by Craiyon from the prompt "University of California San Diego"

It s important to use critical thinking to evaluate and interpret AI-generated results.

Looking at these AI-generated images, and comparing them to what the UC San Diego campus actually looks like, we can see that these aren't at all accurate. In fact, many of these resemble locations at University of San Diego, a different university in San Diego.

While we can't determine precisely how the model went awry, it is likely that the underlying training data (1) included many images of University of San Diego, but not UC San Diego or (2) did not label UC San Diego images as "University of California San Diego". The model does not know or understand that "University of California San Diego" and "UC San Diego" are the same entity and so the image results draw from the "university" and "San Diego" portions of the prompt.


Group of images depicting fantastical ocean life, palm tress and Spanish Colonial architecture.