What is an LLM? Understanding Large Language Models

Welcome to the fascinating world of Artificial Intelligence (AI). You’ve likely heard the term AI, as it’s become increasingly prevalent in our day-to-day lives, from our smartphones to our home appliances.

Today, we’ll focus on a specific type of AI called a Large Language Model, or LLM. What is an LLM, and why does it matter? It’s the method used to “train” most AI systems. Even if you’ve never actually used the new AI systems like ChatGPT and Google Bard, you’ve almost certainly used an LLM before.

What is an LLM? A Simplified Explanation

AI is essentially about building machines and software that can think and learn like humans. It’s a broad field, but today’s spotlight is on a particular type of AI called a Language Model.

Imagine a friend who finishes your sentences for you—sometimes it can be annoyingly accurate, right? That’s essentially what a Language Model does.

It’s a computer program designed to understand, generate and complete pieces of text.

Now, what makes a Large Language Model “large” is its remarkable ability to understand and generate text based on a significantly larger volume of data. An example of an LLM is OpenAI’s GPT-3, a model that was trained on a vast amount of internet text. You can see whether your favorite website was part of the training data here.

LLMs in Everyday Life

Now, you might be wondering where you would encounter these LLMs. The truth is, they’re closer than you think.

Have you ever asked Siri, Alexa, or Google Assistant a question? Or perhaps used Google Translate? These services often use LLMs to understand and respond to your queries.

Have you ever asked Siri, Alexa, or Google Assistant a question? Or perhaps used Google Translate? These services often use LLMs to understand and respond to your queries.

Understanding How LLMs Work

How does an LLM work? Think of it as a gigantic sponge that soaks up vast amounts of text data. It learns patterns, structures, and information from what it has ‘read’ during its training. For instance, if it’s read many books, articles, and websites, it can generate text that seems quite humanlike because it’s seen how humans write and communicate.

This ‘learning’ happens during a process called training, where the LLM sifts through large amounts of data, learning and predicting what text should come next based on the text it’s already seen.

Importance and Benefits of Large Language Models

LLMs have immense potential in the technology landscape. They can help make technology more accessible and interactive. For instance, LLMs can assist those with visual impairments by reading text out loud or help non-native speakers by translating text or simplifying complex language.

They also boost efficiency.

Virtual assistants powered by LLMs can schedule appointments, answer queries, and even draft emails, saving us time for the things that matter most.

For a few other ideas on what LLMS like ChatGPT can do, see:

Ethical and Societal Considerations

However, it’s crucial to recognize that LLMs, like all technology, must be used responsibly. Because they learn from data available on the internet, they can sometimes reflect biases present in that data. This issue of AI fairness and bias is an active area of research.

Moreover, there’s the potential for misuse. We must ensure that LLMs are not used to generate harmful or misleading information. Developing guidelines and standards for the responsible use of LLMs is therefore essential.

Of course, people generate harmful and misleading information all the time, so the same concerns about LLM accuracy apply to your neighbor, your favorite media personalities, and even… you (and me)!

The Future of LLMs

The future of LLMs is exciting. They’re expected to become even more integrated into our lives, making our interactions with technology more natural and intuitive. Yet, it’s also a future that needs careful shaping to ensure the benefits of LLMs are shared widely while minimizing their potential pitfalls.


And there you have it, a whirlwind tour of Large Language Models! They are powerful tools that are already reshaping how we interact with technology. While they carry great potential, it’s also crucial to recognize and navigate their challenges.

The world of AI is ever-evolving, and LLMs are a significant part of that journey. So let’s keep learning and exploring together!