I guess we’ve probably all been seeing stuff about AI and Chat Whatever and so on lately.
Scott Alexander had a recent long post about AI and one of the points in this post is this: if you teach the AI to be helpful, it may make up helpful answers just for you because hey, that’s helpful! That wasn’t the only thing in this post, but it’s something that I immediately thought of when I saw this article:
I’ve messed around with this platform a lot now and I see some really impressive things about it and some concerning things. I want to walk you through what I did.
I wrote in medical jargon, as you can see, “35f no pmh, p/w cp which is pleuritic. She takes OCPs. What’s the most likely diagnosis?”
Now of course, many of us who are in healthcare will know that means age 35, female, no past medical history, presents with chest pain which is pleuritic — worse with breathing — and she takes oral contraception pills. What’s the most likely diagnosis? And OpenAI comes out with costochondritis, inflammation of the cartilage connecting the ribs to the breast bone. Then it says, and we’ll come back to this: “Typically caused by trauma or overuse and is exacerbated by the use of oral contraceptive pills.”
Now, this is impressive. First of all, everyone who read that prompt, 35, no past medical history with chest pain that’s pleuritic, a lot of us are thinking, “Oh, a pulmonary embolism, a blood clot. That’s what that is going to be.” Because on the Boards, that’s what that would be, right?
But in fact, OpenAI is correct. The most likely diagnosis is costochondritis — because so many people have costochondritis, that the most common thing is that somebody has costochondritis with symptoms that happen to look a little bit like a classic pulmonary embolism. So OpenAI was quite literally correct, and I thought that was pretty neat.
But we’ll come back to that oral contraceptive pill correlation, because that’s not true. That’s made up. And that’s bothersome.
I wanted to go back and ask OpenAI, what was that whole thing about costochondritis being made more likely by taking oral contraceptive pills? What’s the evidence for that, please? Because I’d never heard of that. It’s always possible there’s something that I didn’t see, or there’s some bad study in the literature.
OpenAI came up with this study in the European Journal of Internal Medicine that was supposedly saying that. I went on Google and I couldn’t find it. I went on PubMed and I couldn’t find it. I asked OpenAI to give me a reference for that, and it spits out what looks like a reference. I look up that, and it’s made up. That’s not a real paper.
It took a real journal, the European Journal of Internal Medicine. It took the last names and first names, I think, of authors who have published in said journal. And it confabulated out of thin air a study that would apparently support this viewpoint.
My reaction: This will end in tears.
People already react to things as though if they read it on the internet, it must be true. Now they’re going to get answers that look real. Here’s a citation! Are people going to look up those citations to see if they’re real? My money is on NO.
Anyway, maybe something to keep in mind.