FEATURE3 June 2024

Is this the real life? The rise of synthetic data

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AI Features Impact Technology Trends

With the artificial intelligence revolution gathering pace, synthetic data is the next new kid on the block for the research sector. Liam Kay-McClean reports

graphic of a swirling multicoloured abyss

How time flies. It has barely been a year and a half since generative artificial intelligence (AI) chatbots, powered by large language models (LLMs), became mainstream, but their impact on the world and the research industry is starting to look profound. And there is more to come, with synthetic data predicted by some to be the next stage of the generative AI revolution.

Synthetic data is, broadly, information that is artificially generated, typically by algorithms, rather than produced by real-world events. Synthetic data can be used, in part, to validate mathematical models or to train machine-learning models and LLMs. In a research context, part of its use could eventually stretch to creating synthetic personas to replace or augment human research respondents.

The Industrial Revolution of the late 18th and early 19th centuries showed the appeal of replacing low-yield and time-consuming hand-production techniques with factory and machine-made goods, and some argue that synthetic data could help to stimulate a similar revolution ...