Hey Trish, Everyone is talking about something called ChatGPT. What is it? Is it good or bad?
Hi there, and welcome back to Ask Trish! I hope you’re all having a good week and that the start of 2023 is treating you well.
To this week’s “questioner,” thank you so much for your fantastic question. And yes, I put “fantastic” in italics – because it truly is a very timely, relevant, and fascinating question. Let me start by validating your confusion: you’re definitely not the only one wondering, “What is all of this hype about ChatGPT all about? Why is everyone so excited about this?” And amidst all of the technical jargon and buzzwords, it can be hard to get to the heart of what ChatGPT is and why folks are so excited about it. I can also validate your question about whether ChatGPT is “good” or “bad” – ChatGPT presents a lot of interesting opportunities, some of which raise tricky ethical questions. And folks have lots of (often different!) feelings about those questions.
But not to fear – in this very brief primer on ChatGPT, I’ll quickly explore 1) what ChatGPT is and why folks are so excited by it, 2) the opportunities it presents, and 3) the potential concerns some folks are worried about. I’ll then leave it to you to decide how you want to feel about it! To that end, don’t forget that this is a very brief introduction to ChatGPT – in no way is it “the final word” on ChatGPT and where it’s going/what it involves. I hope you use this post to jumpstart your research or walk away with more of a window into what ChatGPT is all about. With that, let’s get into it!
To start with: what is ChatGPT, and why are so many folks so excited about it? In simple terms, ChatGPT is just an artificial intelligence chatbot, or an AI chatbot. An AI chatbot is a software application that can mimic human conversation with a human user; it does this by producing text responses to prompts a user makes. ChatGPT was launched in November 2022 by a company called OpenAI, which has the goal of building powerful AI tools. In addition to ChatGPT, OpenAI has launched AI systems like “Dall E 2,” which can take human text prompts and convert them into images. (For instance, if you type, “Cartoon man in a cab,” Dall E 2 will produce a (pretty good!) cartoon of a man in a cab! Cool, right? If you want to learn more about AI-generated art, check out this Ask Trish post on it from last year.) But back to ChatGPT – what makes ChatGPT so special – and the reason it’s raised so many eyebrows – is because of how sophisticated it is; it is definitely one of the most advanced AI chatbots out there. It interacts with human users in a very “conversational” way and can respond to prompts across a range of domains, from computer science to the arts. Even further, it can, according to OpenAI, “answer follow-up questions, admit its mistakes, challenge incorrect premises, and reject inappropriate requests.” All that’s to say: ChatGPT is super smart, and that’s got a lot of folks excited.
And what, specifically, are they excited about? What are the opportunities created by ChatGPT? Well, ChatGPT can facilitate lots of cool things – for instance, advances in education. Some folks have reported being able to write a children’s book with ChatGPT (and Dall E 2, for the images!) in under 2 hours. And indeed, ChatGPT can help us more quickly produce educational materials and even serve as an AI companion with whom students can learn and improve their skills (for instance, their writing ability). ChatGPT can also more quickly and efficiently achieve various functions in spaces like marketing, customer service, and even computer science, for instance, responding to customer complaints or rapidly debugging code. And then, of course, given the sophistication of ChatGPT, folks are excited about the way that it might lead to new scientific or other discoveries. Indeed, because ChatGPT’s AI is so advanced, it can analyze data and make connections in ways humans might not be able to do. In doing so, it can (much as we discussed in the context of generative art) lead to new ways of thinking, innovative findings, and potentially big breakthroughs.
Okay, okay – last up: what are folks concerned about when it comes to ChatGPT? Well, unfortunately, a lot of the opportunities just stated also have drawbacks and/or potential negative consequences. (It’s too bad that not everything in life can be good, huh?) In the context of education, for instance, ChatGPT can also be used by students to complete assignments without understanding the material; indeed, it can be leveraged to do everything from solving math problems to writing whole essays! So where some see educational opportunity in ChatGPT, others see a technology that will actually deter students from learning. Similarly, the fact that ChatGPT can perform so many functions so quickly and efficiently means that it can quickly supplant the work humans are doing, which has led to concern over the future of some jobs. After all, if ChatGPT can debug code on its own, what use is a computer programmer (or as many of them as we currently have)? Others argue that ChatGPT will be leveraged by programmers to do their job better (rather than ChatGPT replacing them). All that’s to say – there are many mixed feelings about ChatGPT, and it’s not yet clear how a lot of these issues will shake out. We’ll have to stay tuned and closely watch the space – and we’ll see!
Thank you all so much for reading this post! I hope you found this a helpful guide to starting to think about ChatGPT and the interesting questions it raises. As I mentioned, lots more is set to happen in this space in the months and years to come, so keep an eye out for new updates! And in the meantime…keep the #AskTrish conversation going by sharing any Internet-related questions, thoughts, or perspectives here. Your question just might be featured in an upcoming TikTok/blog post! Remember, anything that’s on your mind is totally valid: on Ask Trish, we’ve explored everything online dating to sextortion to filters. No matter what you’re experiencing or wondering about, know that this is a safe space for you to share your thoughts.
💙 I can’t wait to hear from you – thank you in advance for contributing to this community, and I hope this can be a helpful resource for you as you navigate the Internet.
Have a great week,