My Early Take on ChatGPT: What’s Amazing and What’s Alarming
By Tim Elmore
My friend, Don Yeager, recently attended the National Speakers Association convention. In one of the sessions, an author stood on stage reviewing the content and writing process of his latest book. Eyebrows went up as he revealed the book had actually been written by ChatGPT. He smiled as he shared his journey using artificial intelligence that imitated his voice and style. The author drew chuckles from the audience as he read the endorsements on the back cover, all tongue-in-cheek. Alexa, for instance, said this was “the best book I ever read.”
The front cover reveals the co-authors: him and ChatGPT.
You’ve probably heard of ChatGPT. It’s been all the rage the first few months of 2023. It is an artificial intelligence (AI) chatbot developed by Open AI that initially launched in November 2022, but had its stable launch on March 14, 2023. By January 2023, ChatGPT reached over 100 million users, making it the fastest growing consumer application to date. Wikipedia says it’s “built on top of OpenAI’s GPT-3.5 and GPT-4 families of large language models (LLMs) and was fine-tuned (an approach to transfer learning) using both supervised and reinforcement learning techniques.” What does this mean for us?
- It can write essays for students.
- It can write books for authors.
- It can write songs for musicians.
- It can write manuals for technicians.
- It can write autobiographies for celebrities.
Don Jacobson, from Zondervan Publishers, believes it’s going to change the face of publishing. In fact, the publishing industry is calling for a six-month moratorium on its interface with their world until they can figure out the ethics of it all. I watched an early video of this chatbot writing a paper for a high school student. It’s fascinating. All the student had to do was offer some basic inputs and…bingo! The ChatGPT rapidly produced an essay superior to what the teen could have crafted, but in their voice, and with relatively little effort.
The world it introduces to us is both captivating and alarming, as you can imagine.
What’s Amazing about ChatGPT
It allows us to go further, faster.
So many tasks that we, as mere mortals, used to invest time and energy on can now be done by this chatbot. For instance, you can use ChatGPT to generate coherent and well-written content in a wide variety of writing styles, subject matters, and languages. You can use it to summarize news headlines, product descriptions, or stories you want to pass along. It can break down issues and find solutions to concerns. I love the fact that it can analyze enormous data sets and draw useful information from them. It increases productivity.
It frees up time for us to use on other priorities.
Because ChatGPT interacts in a conversational way, the dialogue format makes it possible for this chatbot to answer follow-up questions, admit its mistakes, challenge incorrect premises, and reject inappropriate requests. This will shave off time we normally spend on responding to frequently asked questions, or transmitting information, freeing us up to tend to priorities that only we can do. It’s like having a brilliant assistant available 24/7.
It can reduce some human error and expenses.
As I suggest above, it can confront errors we might normally miss. Further, providing support
and customer care using ChatGPT can be accomplished at a very reasonable cost. Having it allows businesses to hire fewer customer care staff to handle client inquiries, which in turn will lower the overhead costs of the organization. As more data is gathered and the model is fine-tuned, the generated text is expected to expand both its accuracy and coherence.
What’s Alarming about ChatGPT
It has no conscience or morals.
OpenAI admits that ChatGPT can produce harmful and biased answers. While it hopes to mitigate the problem by gathering user feedback, its ability to produce convincing text, even when the facts aren’t true, can easily be used by people with harmful intentions. Like all artificial intelligence, we must be alert to the ethical problem it poses to us, especially our young, who can use it to do their work for them on assignments. Users must possess a moral compass because this artificial intelligence has no conscience. Technology writer Dan Gillmor used ChatGPT on a student assignment and found its text was on par with what a good student would deliver and said, “Academia has some very serious issues to confront.”
It can still make mistakes because it uses inputs from humans.
Its creators acknowledge this limitation, writing that: “ChatGPT sometimes writes plausible-sounding but incorrect or nonsensical answers.” This “hallucination” of fact and fiction, as it’s been referred to, is especially dangerous when it comes to things like medical advice or getting the facts right on key historical events. Consequently, while we may be enamored by ChatGPT initially, we must recognize it is still a flawed technology just like people are flawed. It was developed on the collective writing of humans, past and present, which means the same biases that exist in the real world can also appear in ChatGPT.
It has no emotional intelligence, just cognitive intelligence.
The speed at which natural-sounding text can be generated makes it a breeze for scammers pretending to be someone you know on social media. Likewise, spotting a phishing email
designed to extract sensitive details from you is streamlined, with the added benefit that ChatGPT can produce text free of grammatical errors—what used to be an obvious red flag. However, we must remember this tool can only mimic human compassion or sensitivity.
It can spread fake information and cause addictive behavior.
Unlike other AI assistants like Siri or Alexa, ChatGPT doesn’t use the internet to locate answers. Instead, it constructs a sentence word by word, selecting the most likely “token” that should come next based on its training. In other words, ChatGPT arrives at an answer by making a series of guesses, which is part of the reason it can argue wrong answers as if they’re completely true. It can cultivate dependence on itself and poor habits. Just like social media has made people slaves to scrolling, this AI can do the same.
I recall author Kevin Kelly’s words, “Our smart technology advances so quickly, it outpaces our ability to civilize it.” Let’s embrace it with cautious optimism and a moral compass.