ChatGPT is a natural language processing tool driven by Artificial Intelligence that allows a human to have human-like conversations and much more with the “chatbot”. The language model can answer questions and assist you with tasks like composing emails, essays, and code. Usage is currently open to the public free of charge because ChatGPT is in its research and feedback-collection phase. Since February 1st, 2023, there is also a paid subscription version called ChatGPT Plus1. At this stage, I opted for the freebie.
Over the last few days I happened to speak to a couple of people who do a fair bit of coding (in Python) in their paid employment and they both told me that they use ChatGPT to do their coding, with the humans at their end only checking the code. One of them told me that he obtained code from chatGPT in about thirty minutes which normally would have taken him a day to write. He went on to say that this will have a huge effect on the number of coders required. He suggested that only the best, most innovative coders, will be able to find jobs. He told me some of the things he thought ChatGPT could do, and I asked him if he could send me an e-mail listing some of the things it could do. He said, with a wry smile on his face that he would get ChatGPT to write me an e-mail to tell me what it could do. We both laughed, my cackle tinged with some embarrassment at my ignorance.
Most of the news media seem to be mostly concerned with the possibility that ChatGPT could be used by students to cheat in exams or essays2 or, horror of horrors, that it could be used to provide copy for news media3.
I decided to have a crack at this myself, so I joined OpenAI and asked some questions of ChatGPT4.
This is how it went:
Blot: I am just trying to obtain an understanding of the capabilities of ChatGPT and to work out if it will be of use to me.
ChatGPT: Hello! I’m ChatGPT, a large language model trained by OpenAI. I’m designed to understand and generate human-like responses to a wide variety of questions and topics. I have been trained on a large corpus of text, including books, articles, and web pages, and I have the ability to understand and generate text in many different languages. My capabilities include answering general knowledge questions, providing advice, generating creative writing prompts, assisting with language translation, and much more. However, please note that while I am capable of providing helpful information, I am not a substitute for professional advice, and I cannot guarantee the accuracy of all the information I provide. If you have any specific questions or tasks that you would like help with, feel free to ask and I’ll do my best to assist you.
Blot: I am a blogger and often write essays on topics with which I am largely unfamiliar, I thought that using ChatGPT might be able to give me a kick-start to such topics. Would that be something you would see as possible?
ChatGPT: Yes, absolutely! As a language model, one of my core capabilities is to generate human-like text on a wide range of topics. If you’re a blogger looking for ideas or inspiration on a topic you’re unfamiliar with, I can definitely help by providing some initial insights and ideas. You can ask me questions about the topic you’re interested in, and I can provide you with relevant information, statistics, and examples. I can also provide you with writing prompts and suggest possible angles for your essay. However, it’s important to keep in mind that while I can assist with generating ideas, I cannot write the essay for you. The final product will still be your own work, and it’s important to do your own research and fact-checking to ensure the accuracy of your writing. If you have any specific topics in mind, feel free to ask and I’ll do my best to assist you!
Blot: OK. I don’t intend to have you write anything for me, just to point me in the right direction and perhaps highlight aspects I may not have considered.
ChatGPT: I’d be happy to help! If you have a specific topic in mind that you’re interested in, feel free to let me know and I can provide you with some initial insights and ideas. Alternatively, if you’re not sure what to write about, I can suggest some popular or trending topics within your niche or industry to help you get started. As a language model, I have access to a vast amount of information and can provide you with statistics, examples, and perspectives on a wide range of topics. I can also help you narrow down your topic or suggest different angles to approach your writing. Let me know what you have in mind, and I’ll do my best to assist you!
Blot: OK. I’ll have a think about it and ask something when I think of something suitable. Thanks.
ChatGPT: You’re welcome! Take your time and feel free to reach out whenever you have a topic in mind or need some assistance. I’m here to help!
I still find it difficult to come to grips with the fact that the above conversation was between me, an ageing human, longer in the tooth than I care to mention, and a ‘computer’. When I started working, some decades ago, we had one minicomputer in the building and only the geophysicists used it to crunch numbers. We all had to do lessons on it but then we all promptly forgot those lessons. This command-line driven beast seemed to be useless for the sorts of things we did. Now here I am having a conversation, in English, with a machine.