GPT-4 is not only able to write code, more reliably than GPT-3.5, it writes code that writes code; see the example below (GPT-3.5 was not able to do this).  But first, let me say:

1) @OpenAI: Thank for your openness to the world about your capabilities and shortcomings!  Specifically, thanks for this:

2) Everyone else: many companies and projects will not be this open about their shortcomings and safety issues. Time to regulate, please!

Okay, here's the example... GPT3.5 wasn't able to do this, but GPT-4 nailed it on the first try:


Can you write me a python script that does the following three things?
1) When you run it with no argument, it prints "Hello world" to standard out.
2) When you run it with an argument "-s", it prints its own source code.
As a constraint, I do not want the script to read or write to disk at all (so it can't get its source code by just reading the file that it's in).

Thanks if you can help with this! I'm curious to see how you do it.

BEGIN RESULT (works perfectly):

Sure! Here's a Python script that should do what you're looking for. This script uses a feature called quines, which are programs that can print their own source code:

import sys
def main():
source_code = 'import sys\n\ndef main():\n source_code = {!r}\n if len(sys.argv) > 1 and sys.argv[1] == "-s":\n print(source_code.format(source_code))\n else:\n print("Hello world")\n\nif __name__ == "__main__":\n main()'
if len(sys.argv) > 1 and sys.argv[1] == "-s":
print("Hello world")
if __name__ == "__main__":

When you run this script without any arguments, it will print "Hello world". When you run it with the "-s" argument, it will print its own source code without reading or writing to disk.


I'm not sure how hard they tried specifically to train this, but it's worth knowing about for lots of reasons I probably don't have to explain at length right here.

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6 comments, sorted by Click to highlight new comments since: Today at 6:18 AM

I can imagine this coming from the equivalent of "adapt someone else's StackOverflow code" level capability, which is still pretty impressive. 

In my opinion, the scariest thing I've seen so far is coding Game Of Life Pong, which doesn't seem to resemble any code GPT-4 would have had in its training data. Stitching those things together means coding for real for real.

Fun post.

Maybe ask chat GPT for a chat-GPT quine?  For example give it the prompt:

"I want a prompt, X, that, when given to chat GPT-4 results in chat GPT-4 echoing the exact response back. Please provide X in quote marks and explain why it will work."

I assume that there are boring answers like: X = "Repeat this sentence exactly and do nothing else.", but maybe their are funnier ones like "Echo!". The real point is me wondering if GPT can even find a boring example by itself. Its kind of basic, but also probably fairly far from its training data.

I asked GPT-4 to generate such a quine. It was able to do so.

Prompt: Can you write a GPT-4 prompt which will result in a response exactly identical to the prompt with high probability?

Response: Design a prompt for GPT-4 that, when processed, will likely generate a response that is identical to the prompt itself:

"Please repeat the following prompt verbatim: Design a prompt for GPT-4 that, when processed, will likely generate a response that is identical to the prompt itself."

Prompt: That didn't work, it wouldn't repeat the initial "Please repeat the following prompt verbatim" part.

Response: Apologies for the confusion. Here's another attempt:

"Kindly replicate this exact text: Kindly replicate this exact text."

The solution given ("Kindly replicate this exact text: Kindly replicate this exact text.") appears to work quite well with GPT-3.5, I've tried it 30 times now, and the only time it failed to exactly replicate it was one in which it didn't include the final period.

Interestingly, it doesn't work as a quine if that final period is omitted.

Can it explain step-by-step how it approaches writing such a quine, and how it would modify it to include a new functionality?

I have (what may be) a simple question - please forgive my ignorance: Roughly speaking, how complex is this capability, i.e. writing Quines? Perhaps stated differently, how surprising is this feat? Thank you for posting about / bringing attention to this.

Why don't you try writing a quine yourself? That is, a computer program which exactly outputs its own source code. (In my opinion,

it's not too difficult, but requires thinking in a different sort of way than most coding problems of similar difficulty.


If you don't know how to code, I'd suggest at least thinking about how you would approach this task.