ChatGPT goes ‘off the rails’ with gibberish answers


Days after wowing the world with incredibly photorealistic demos of its new AI video generation model, Sora, OpenAI is hitting a big roadblock.

The startup’s signature product, ChatGPT, began returning gibberish, nonsensical outputs to users yesterday afternoon, Tuesday, February 20, 2024, and many took to X (formerly Twitter) to complain.

Some of ChatGPT’s outputs mixed Spanish and English unintelligibly, while others made up words or repeated phrases over and over, despite the large language model (LLM)-powered chatbot not being asked to do so.

One astute user compared the seemingly random strings of disconnected words to the unsettling “weird horror” extraterrestrial graffiti from Jeff VanderMeer’s seminal 2014 novel Annihilation, and it’s true from the perspective of this reader of both that they bare a similarly eerie quality of an inhuman intelligence that apepars out of whack or illogical.

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While various respondents joked about the strange outputs being the beginning of a “robot uprising” such as that depicted in numerous sci-fi film franchises including Terminator and The Matrix, others shrugged them off as glitches, and many pointed out that they undermined the idea of generative AI tools performing as well as human beings for writing and code generating activities.

As of 3:40 pm PST on February 20, OpenAI was aware of the issue and posted as much on its public status dashboard webpage. By 3:47 pm PST, the company said it had identified the issue and was “remediating” it. And by almost 5 pm PST, the company said it was “continuing to monitor the situation.”

Still, even with a quick fix, the erroneous and rambling answers out of nowhere couldn’t help but make me and others question the underlying reliability and integrity of ChatGPT and using it or other OpenAI products such as the LLMs powering it — GPT-4 and GPT-3.5 — for enterprise uses, especially “safety critical” tasks such as those in transportation, healthcare/medicine, power, and engineering.

We’ve reached out to OpenAI for more insight on what exactly happened to make ChatGPT begin behaving or misbehaving in this way, and will update when we hear back.

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