ChatGPT: the promises, pitfalls and panic
WASHINGTON, USA — The excitement surrounding ChatGPT — an easy-to-use AI chatbot that can deliver an essay or computer code on demand and within seconds — has schools panicking and big tech green with envy.
ChatGPT’s potential impact on society remains complicated and unclear, even though its creator announced a paid subscription version in the United States on Wednesday.
Here’s a closer look at what ChatGPT is (and isn’t):
Is this a turning point?
It’s entirely possible that the November release of ChatGPT by California-based company OpenAI will be remembered as a turning point in introducing a new wave of artificial intelligence to the general public.
It’s less clear whether ChatGPT is actually a breakthrough, as some critics call it a brilliant PR move that has helped OpenAI garner billions of dollars in investment from Microsoft.
Yann LeCun, senior AI scientist at Meta and a professor at New York University, believes that “ChatGPT is not a particularly interesting scientific advance,” calling the app a “flashy demo” developed by talented engineers.
Speaking to the Big Technology podcast, LeCun said that ChatGPT has “no internal model in the world” and merely produces “one word at a time” based on inputs and samples from around the web.
“When you work with these AI models, you have to keep in mind that these are slot machines and not calculators,” warned Haomiao Huang of Kleiner Perkins, the Silicon Valley venture capital firm.
“Every time you ask a question and pull your arm, you get an answer that might be wonderful…or not…The errors can be extremely unpredictable,” Huang wrote in Ars Technica, the technical news website.
Just like Google
ChatGPT is based on an almost three-year-old AI language model – OpenAI’s GPT-3 – and the chatbot only uses part of its capabilities.
The real revolution is human-like chat, said Jason Davis, a research professor at Syracuse University.
“It’s familiar, it’s conversational, and you know what? It’s like typing in a Google search query,” he said.
ChatGPT’s rock-star success shocked even its developers at OpenAI, which received new billions from Microsoft in January.
“Given the magnitude of the economic impact what we expect here is incrementally better,” OpenAI CEO Sam Altman said in an interview with StrictlyVC, a newsletter.
“We released GPT-3 almost three years ago… so I felt like the incremental update from this to ChatGPT should have been predictable, and I want to do more introspection as to why I was kind of miscalibrated in that regard,” he said .
The risk, Altman added, spooked the public and policymakers, and on Tuesday his company unveiled a tool to recognize AI-generated text amid concerns that students might rely on artificial intelligence for their homework .
From lawyers to speechwriters, from programmers to journalists, everyone is breathlessly waiting to feel the disruption caused by ChatGPT. OpenAI just launched a paid version of the chatbot – $20 per month for an improved and faster service.
Officially, the first significant application of OpenAI technology will apply to Microsoft software products for now.
Although details are scarce, most expect ChatGPT-like features to show up in the Bing search engine and Office suite.
“Think of Microsoft Word. I don’t have to write an essay or article, I just have to tell Microsoft Word what I want to write with a prompt,” Davis said.
He believes that influencers on TikTok and Twitter will be the first adopters of this so-called Generative AI, as viral content requires massive amounts of content and ChatGPT can take care of it in no time.
This, of course, raises the specter of disinformation and spam on an industrial scale.
Davis said ChatGPT’s reach is very limited by computing power for now, but once that’s ramped up, the opportunities and potential threats will increase exponentially.
And much like the ever-imminent arrival of self-driving cars, which never quite happens, experts are divided on whether this is a matter of months or years.
LeCun said Meta and Google refrained from releasing AI as strong as ChatGPT for fear of ridicule and backlash.
Quieter releases of language-based bots – such as Meta’s Blenderbot or Microsoft’s Tay – quickly proved capable of generating racist or inappropriate content.
Tech giants need to think hard before releasing anything “that spits out nonsense” and will disappoint, he said.
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