Unknown Knowns and GPT4

One thing which comes up in chatting with GPT4 is that it seems to not always be aware of things that it does already know. Here’s an example from a conversation about a book.

Me: What is the first paragraph of Cat's Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut?

GPT4: "Call me Jonah. My parents did, or nearly did. They called me John. Jonah—John—if I had been a Sam, I would have been a Jonah still—not because I have been unlucky for others, but because somebody or something has compelled me to be certain places at certain times, without fail. Conveyances and motives, both conventional and bizarre, have been provided. And, according to plan, at each appointed second, at each appointed place this Jonah was there."

That’s all correct. Its possible of course to find the full text of the book online.

What if we ask it a question about the book?

Me: What metaphor did Felix Hoenikker use to describe the structure of ice-nine?

GPT4: Felix Hoenikker, a fictional character in Kurt Vonnegut's "Cat's Cradle," did not use a metaphor to describe the structure of ice-nine. Instead, it was Dr. Asa Breed, Hoenikker's supervisor at the research laboratory, who described ice-nine using a metaphor. He compared the crystal structure of ice-nine to a "child's jacks" or "jacks" (the children's game played with small metal pieces), emphasizing the unique arrangement of water molecules that made ice-nine distinct from regular ice.

This is both a great answer and a wrong one. It was in fact Asa breed who made the analogy but it was using cannonballs and not jacks. Let’s try this:

Me: Are cannonballs mentioned in the book?

GPT4: Yes, cannonballs are mentioned in "Cat's Cradle" by Kurt Vonnegut. In Chapter 20, titled "Ice-nine," Dr. Asa Breed uses cannonballs as a metaphor when explaining the concept of a seed crystal to the narrator. Dr. Breed compares the process of forming ice-nine to the way cannonballs can be stacked neatly when one is placed in the center, serving as a starting point for the others to follow. The seed crystal of ice-nine functions similarly, providing a template for other water molecules to arrange themselves around, ultimately leading to the formation of more ice-nine.

Again this is correct. Even the chapter reference is correct and non hallucinated (like it seems to do a lot in these kind of questions). GPT4 is able to explain that in fact cannonballs were the metaphor used for ice-nine so where did it decide to come up with the Jacks reference from?

Update: Some follow up here.







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