ChatGP-Why: When, if Ever, is Synthetic Text Safe, Appropriate, and Desirable?

An invited lecture

Dr. Emily Bender

Professor of Linguistics
Adjunct Professor, School of Computer Science and the Information School
University of Washington

Thursday, September 14, 3:00-4:00 pm
H. F. DeLuca Forum, Discovery Building

Reception from 4:00-5:00 pm, hosted by the UW-Madison Data Science Institute in the Atrium of the Discovery Building. Light refreshments and cash bar.

Thank you for joining us!

The presentation slides can be found here: 


About the talk

Ever since OpenAI released ChatGPT, the internet has been awash in synthetic text, with suggested applications including robo-lawyers, robo-therapists, and robo-journalists. Emily Bender posits that these applications present unacceptable risks because ChatGPT and all other language models are nothing more than ungrounded text synthesis machines. In this invited lecture, Dr. Bender will overview how language models work and why they can seem to be using language meaningfully-despite only modeling the distribution of word forms. This leads to a discussion of the risks identified in the paper, On the Dangers of Stochastic Parrots  (Bender, Gebru et al 2021) and how they are playing out in the era of ChatGPT. Finally, Dr. Bender will explore what must hold for an appropriate use case for text synthesis.

About the speaker

Dr. Emily M. Bender is a Professor of Linguistics and an Adjunct Professor in the School of Computer Science and the Information School at the University of Washington, where she has been on the faculty since 2003. Her research interests include multilingual grammar engineering, computational semantics, and the societal impacts of language technology.  She is the co-author of recent influential papers such as Climbing towards NLU: On Meaning, Form, and Understanding in the Age of Data (ACL 2020), On the Dangers of Stochastic Parrots: Can Language Models Be Too Big? 🦜(FAccT 2021), and AI and the Everything in the Whole Wide World Benchmark (NeurIPS 2021). In 2022 she was elected as a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).



Sponsors: Language Institute, with the Data Science Institute, Language Sciences, and Center for the Humanities

Funding: Anonymous Fund, Data Science Institute

Contact: Dianna Murphy

The UW-Madison Language Institute is committed to inclusive and accessible programming. To request an accommodation for this event, please contact Language Institute associate director Jana Martin three business days in advance.