December 10, 2022

My NYT The Morning news feed this week featured an article on how good artificial intelligence has become.  ChatGPT debuted last week and has already wowed users.  New York magazine journalists at asked it to write an article and got what they called a “pretty decent” story.  Other users got the AI to write solid academic essays on a variety of topics, and even to write some jokes.  German Lopez is the author of the article and said what is remarkable about these writings is their quality.  They could have been written by a human.  According to OpenAI, the company behind ChatGPT, they are now working on a better model that could be released next year.  This might improve the level of college English essays (Is it plagiarism if it is an original essay by an AI you own?).

When I looked online, I found ChatGPT is a large language model trained on a massive trove of information online to create its responses.  It comes from the same company behind DALL-E, which generates a seemingly limitless range of images in response to prompts from users and is the next iteration of text-generator GPT-3.  After signing up for ChatGPT, users can ask the AI system to field a range of questions, such as “Who was the president of the United States in 1955,” or summarize difficult concepts into something a second grader could understand.  It will even tackle open-ended questions, such as “What’s the meaning of life?” or “What should I wear if it’s 40 degrees outside today?”  Some users are getting more creative, with examples including asking for fairy-tale inspired home décor tips and giving it an AP English exam question (it responded with a 5 paragraph essay about Wuthering Heights). 

While some are in awe of ChatGPT, others are closer to the edge of fear.  This chatbot is so advanced it could render search engines and the countless jobs to maintain them obsolete.  ChatGPT already has more than 1 million users worldwide with its advanced functions in the first week.  These range from instantly composing complex essays and computer code to drafting marketing pitches and interior decorating schemes.  The AI’s ability to contrive poems and jokes was previously thought to only be relegated to humans.  ChatGPT’s capabilities have even sparked fears that Google may not have an online search monopoly for much longer.  Gmail developer Paul Buchheit tweeted on December 1st that, “AI will eliminate the search engine result page, which is where they (Google) make most of their money.”  Buchheit went on to say ChatGPT and similar AI will do to web search what Google did to the Yellow Pages.

THOUGHTS:  In a blog post last week, OpenAI said the “format makes it possible for the tool to answer follow-up questions, admit its mistakes, challenge incorrect premises, and reject (unsuitable) requests.”  As of Monday morning, the page to try ChatGPT was down, citing “exceptionally high demand,” and “Please hang tight as we work on scaling our systems.”  I guess there are still limits to the AI’s capability.  It is interesting that there were few complaints when Google did away with the printing and advertising jobs for the Yellow Pages (now in digital format), yet potential job loss for Google is touted as dreadful.  Every new technology replaces the “old ways” to be successful.  While this may be more rapid than before, it does not make it worse.  Jobs are rarely lost; the work is just changed to create different opportunities.  The trick is to be in the forefront of this progression rather than to resist and be left behind.  Act for all.  Change is coming and it starts with you.

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