Explaining Chatbot AI “Temperature” (and Why It’s Terribly Named)

I’ve seen a few people ask about the “temperature” setting seen in some generative AI apps. Here’s the scoop. Please share this with any confused souls.

First of all, know that the term “temperature” comes from the world of AI, not from from a particular app. Which frees me to say that it’s terribly named. 🙂

A better name for it might be “creativity”. The AI builds a response one-word-at-a-time, this setting controls how that next word gets chosen. With the creativity dial at zero, it will generate the exact same response to a given prompt, every time. As you move the dial to the right, instead of picking the most probable word, once in a while it will instead pick the 2nd best word, and so on. This tends to make responses feel more creative–up to a point.

If you max out the dial at 1.0, you can imagine sometimes you might get some pretty wacky results. Maybe this is the closest thing to an AI free-association stream-of-consciousness. 🙂

Most apps default to around 0.6 or 0.7 which is probably good for most things. Feel free to experiment with different settings to get a more intuitive feel for it.

P.S. So why did the AI guys call it “temperature”? You need to think like a physicist. (seriously) If a cup of water has a higher temperature, it’s more likely that molecules will randomly go flying into space (aka evaporation). So a higher temperature means more randomness.

This post 100% human-written.