“The limits of my language means the limits of my world.”

Ludwig Wittgenstein, Austrian-British philosopher

ChatGPT and the large language models (LLMs) have arrived since last year and have very quickly become part of the artificial intelligence (AI) conversations, but Stephen Wolfram has been writing and discussing AI for a few decades.

Wolfram, an internationally-renowned scientist and progenitor of software systems such as Mathematica (a symbolic mathematical processing program) and Wolfram|Alpha (a natural language knowledge resource), has successfully published this short (102 pages) yet impactful book on fundamental aspects of ChatGPT and its remarkable disruption, including its origins in neural nets and later advances in transformers and attention mechanisms as well as natural language processing and large language models.

The book has two parts: the first is a well-written description of ChatGPT and elucidation of its inner technological workings with just enough details to render it interesting for the above average AI reader without excessive jargon, and the second part is an extension of the first part into the author’s own Wolfram|Alpha answer machine (initially launched in 2009) that uses externally sourced data to compute answers by a multi-paradigm programming language called the Wolfram Language. It should be noted that no one really understands just how ChatGPT works, not even the esteemed author! Perhaps LLMs have reached the beginning of the enigma of our own brains (beyond black boxes).

The first part of the book is very enjoyable to read and perhaps a set up for the second part that indirectly attacks ChatGPT and its constraints as well as lack of intelligence. He promotes his own Wolfram|Alpha as a coupling with LLMs to increase the value of AI, and this may distract or even annoy the reader. The material at the end demonstrates how ChatGPT struggles with simple computational queries. On a side note, the illustrations are below average in quality but are sufficiently good to understand the basic concepts these figures are illustrating.

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