In the Lex Fridman Podcast episode #385, guest Jimmy Wales, the founder of Wikipedia, shares insights about the origins of Wikipedia, its growth, the role of AI in its future, and much more. The episode begins with a discussion about Wikipedia's inception, inspired by the free software movement and the notion of collaboration. Wales describes the transition from Nupedia, a platform with a rigorous seven-stage review process, to Wikipedia, which offered more accessibility and collaboration in creating and editing encyclopedia entries.
Throughout the conversation, Wales touches on various aspects of Wikipedia, such as its definition of an encyclopedia, the formulation of entries, and its importance in recognizing and celebrating individuals and ideas. He also delves into the relationship between notability, verifiability, and the use of journalistic articles as sources for Wikipedia entries. Discussed throughout are the challenges the Wikipedia community faces in maintaining accuracy, using high-quality news sources, addressing controversies using neutral language, balancing freedom of expression, and incorporating multiple perspectives on controversial topics.
Wales shares his thoughts on AI and large language models, such as GPT-4, which are trained on Wikipedia content and have their own advantages and disadvantages. He highlights the importance of attribution, proper sourcing, and the potential of using AI models to identify biased terms, rewrite text neutrally, and extract truth from unreliable text.
In addition to discussing the challenges faced by platforms like Facebook and Twitter, including political polarization, toxicity, and echo chambers, Wales talks about his own experiences with harassment on social media. He further explains the philosophy behind WT.Social (WikiTribune Social), a platform focused on trustworthiness, member ratings, and prioritizing quality content that contributes positively to users' lives.
Wales also shares the behind-the-scenes challenges while growing the Wikimedia Foundation, handling server crashes, and dealing with employee conflicts. Finally, reflecting on the future of Wikipedia and his advice to young entrepreneurs, Wales emphasizes the importance of financial stability, persistence, openness to change, and embracing passion to find meaning in life.