ChatGPT: The friendly face of your AI replacement

ChatGPT: The friendly face of your AI replacement
The last few months makes it abundantly clear: the AI genie is out of the lamp, and its capabilities are accelerating wildly
The last few months makes it abundantly clear: the AI genie is out of the lamp, and its capabilities are accelerating wildly
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The last few months makes it abundantly clear: the AI genie is out of the lamp, and its capabilities are accelerating wildly
The last few months makes it abundantly clear: the AI genie is out of the lamp, and its capabilities are accelerating wildly
ChatGPT takes a crack at a Rodney Dangerfield routine
ChatGPT takes a crack at a Rodney Dangerfield routine
A Shakespearian sonnet on ribald humor. It doesn't always scan correctly... Yet
A Shakespearian sonnet on ribald humor. It doesn't always scan correctly... Yet
Instant, authoritative-sounding writing on nearly any topic – but still frequently plagued with errors and inaccuracies
Instant, authoritative-sounding writing on nearly any topic – but still frequently plagued with errors and inaccuracies
Three different versions of a "sonnet for the grieving"
Three different versions of a "sonnet for the grieving"
The Mutilation of Uranus by Saturn. That guy down the bottom is us
The Mutilation of Uranus by Saturn. That guy down the bottom is us
ChatGPT DMs a custom role-playing game set in the world of the video game Terraria
ChatGPT DMs a custom role-playing game set in the world of the video game Terraria
I put some of my own lyrics into GPT and asked for an analysis. I can't speak to the accuracy, I have no idea what I was on about
I put some of my own lyrics into GPT and asked for an analysis. I can't speak to the accuracy, I have no idea what I was on about
That's what I'd say too, if I wasn't quite ready to make my move
That's what I'd say too, if I wasn't quite ready to make my move
Microsoft has thrown billions at OpenAI, and built ChatGPT directly into its Bing search engine
Microsoft has thrown billions at OpenAI, and built ChatGPT directly into its Bing search engine
ChatGPT will soon be integrated right into Microsoft's Edge browser
ChatGPT will soon be integrated right into Microsoft's Edge browser
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This year may well be remembered as the moment the world woke up to the power, the potential and the world-inverting threat of artificial intelligence. OpenAI's humble, free-to-use chatbot has made it clear: life will never be the same after ChatGPT.

We are witnessing a revolution. After the stunning debut of OpenAI's Dall-E 2 image generator last year, the company opened its natural language generator up to the public at the end of November last year. Since then, it's spread like wildfire, amassing more than 100 million users in its first two months, making it the fastest-growing consumer application in history and the buzzword of the year.

There had been thousands of AI chatbots before, but never one like this. Here was an artificial intelligence trained on hundreds of billions of words; it has read billions of books, billions of web pages, billions of Wikipedia entries – so it's ingested a broad and detailed snapshot of the entirety of human knowledge up until around June 2021, the cutoff point for the dataset on which its underlying GPT 3.5 language model has been trained.

Beyond being handed this priceless treasure trove of knowledge, ChatGPT has been trained in the art of interaction using untold numbers of written human conversations, and guided by human supervisors to improve the quality of what it writes.

The results are staggering. ChatGPT writes as well as, or (let's face it) better than, most humans. This overgrown autocomplete button can generate authoritative-sounding prose on nearly any topic in a matter of milliseconds, of such quality that it's often extremely difficult to distinguish from a human writer. It formulates arguments that seem well-researched, and builds key points toward a conclusion. Its paragraphs feel organic, structured, logically connected and human enough to earn my grudging respect.

It remembers your entire conversation and clarifies or elaborates on points if you ask it to. And if what it writes isn't up to scratch, you can click a button for a complete re-write that'll tackle your prompt again from a fresh angle, or ask for specific changes to particular sections or approaches.

ChatGPT is an early prototype for the ultimate writer

It costs you nothing. It'll write in any style you want, taking any angle you want, on nearly any topic you want, for exactly as many words as you want. It produces enormous volumes of text in seconds. It's not precious about being edited, it doesn't get sick, or need to pick its kids up from school, or try to sneak in fart jokes, or turn up to work hungover, or make publishers quietly wonder exactly how much self-pleasuring they're paying people for in a remote work model.

Little wonder that websites like CNET, Buzzfeed and others are starting the process of replacing their human writers with ChatGPT prompt-wranglers – although there's icebergs in the water for these early adopters, since the technology still gets things flat-out wrong sometimes, and sounds confident and authoritative enough in the process that even teams of fact-checking sub-editors can't stop it from publishing "rampant factual errors and apparent plagiarism," as well as outdated information.

Instant, authoritative-sounding writing on nearly any topic – but still frequently plagued with errors and inaccuracies
Instant, authoritative-sounding writing on nearly any topic – but still frequently plagued with errors and inaccuracies

Despite these slight drawbacks, the dollar rules supreme, and there has never been a content-hose like this before. Indeed, it seems the main thing standing between large swaths of the publishing industry and widespread instant adoption of ChatGPT as a high-volume, low-cost author is the fear that Google might figure out how to detect AI-generated text and start penalizing offenders by tanking their search ratings.

Just in case anyone's wondering, we don't use it here at New Atlas, and have no plans to start – but we'd be fools not to see the writing on the wall. This genie is well and truly out of the bottle, and it won't take long before it can fact-check itself and improve its accuracy. It's not immediately obvious how AI-generated text can reliably be detected at this point. So enjoy your local human writers while you still can ... And throw us $20 on an ad-free subscription if you want to help keep the doors open!

ChatGPT the Creative Wordsmith

Its work certainly doesn't have to be dry and (seemingly) factual, either. ChatGPT has more than a passing understanding of more creative forms of writing as well, and will happily generate fiction too. It'll pump out custom bedtime stories for your kids, or complex choose-your-own-adventure experiences, or role-playing games about anything you like, or teen fiction, or screenplays, or comedy routines.

ChatGPT takes a crack at a Rodney Dangerfield routine
ChatGPT takes a crack at a Rodney Dangerfield routine

It'll write song lyrics for you at the drop of a hat, and if they come out a little blunt and obvious, you can reply "ok, but make that less literal" and it'll do just that. It creates flowery poetry that rhymes, sticks to the requested meter and engages a topic about as well as the average amateur poet – which frankly isn't that well, but we only have ourselves to blame on that front.

Likewise, it'll analyze, summarize or critique any kind of writing you throw into it. It'll write you an instant book report, outlining major themes, moments and character arcs, or take an abstract poem or lyric and try to distill a meaningful understanding of the content. And again, it does a pretty solid job.

I put some of my own lyrics into GPT and asked for an analysis. I can't speak to the accuracy, I have no idea what I was on about
I put some of my own lyrics into GPT and asked for an analysis. I can't speak to the accuracy, I have no idea what I was on about

Indeed, like DALL-E in the visual art world, and Google's MusicLM in the music world, ChatGPT does a pretty remarkable impersonation of creative human expression and understanding when you ask it to, quickly putting paid to the notion that art and creativity is what will separate us from the robots. These machines might not feel what we feel, but they've seen so much of our output that they can generate "creative" work that absolutely holds its own against human work.

Yes, it's derivative – but so are we, if we're honest with ourselves. The human brain is one of the greatest algorithmic black boxes we've ever seen, built on hundreds of millions of years of evolutionary trial and error and trained with a lifetime's worth of experiential data. The most "original" thinkers and creators in human history would never have made the same contributions if they were raised differently.

In just a few short years, these AIs appear frighteningly close to catching up and surpassing all but the most outstanding humans in a given creative field. And you can bet your bottom dollar they'll continue to improve a lot faster than Homo Sapiens did. Best we get used to not feeling so special.

We all knew automation was coming to replace boring, repetitive algorithmic work. Optimists envisaged future societies that ran themselves in prosperity, leaving humans to lead lives of meaningful leisure, writing all those books we never got around to, painting, writing music. But it's becoming clear that the robots will soon be able to pump out high-quality creative content across a range of visual, written and musical forms, at lightning speed.

You could definitely view this stuff as the most incredible creative tool in history. You can definitely make money out of it, as the children's book above illustrates – click through into the Twitter thread to see the process. You could also weep for the human creatives that'll have to work so much harder for the chance to compete with machines that churn this kind of work out in seconds, and for the kids that won't bother to learn how to work with watercolors or write their own stories.

ChatGPT the Programmer

Not content with prose and poetry, ChatGPT is also capable of writing code in a number of languages, for a wide variety of purposes. It's been educated on a colossal amount of code that's been written before, along with documentation and discussions on how to write and troubleshoot different functions. Given a plain English prompt, it can churn out working code snippets at breakneck pace.

But given a different prompt, it can take you through the entire process of building an entire application, telling you step by step what to do. Here's a very basic and crass example – YouTuber Nick White gets ChatGPT to take him through the process of coding and deploying a basic job search web page for tech industry employers, ending up with a functional page very quickly. White also notes that ChatGPT is outstanding at generating reams and reams of mock data, formatted perfectly for your application.

How I Coded An Entire Website Using ChatGPT

It's also exceptionally good at debugging – and beyond that, explaining what was wrong with the input code, making it an extraordinary educational resource as well as an outstanding sidearm for coders. It can also comment, annotate and document things for you.

As with its writing output, its coding output is prone to errors, and as your work increases in scope and complexity, so does the potential for disaster and bloated, trashy code. It relies heavily on what's been done before, so it won't have instant solutions for things it hasn't seen. But the same could be said for human coders, most of whom make extensive use of GitHub and the control, C and V keys.

Either way, it has more or less immediately become an indispensable time-saving tool for many programmers, and shows some wild potential in this area.

And of course, as it improves, we may arrive at a point where ChatGPT could eventually start coding its own next iteration with a pretty broad degree of autonomy. And that version could code the next, getting faster and more powerful each time. Do you want a singularity? Because that's how you get a singularity.

ChatGPT the Next-Gen Search Engine

Google was a revelation when it first dropped. It gave you higher-quality results for your search queries, in fewer clicks and with less fuss than any of the many competitors before it. But Google mainly just directs you to web pages. Ask it a question, and it'll try to send you to a reputable site with a relevant answer.

ChatGPT, on the other hand, simply tells you the answer, in plain language. It might be a wrong answer – but then, so might the one Google sends you to. Many of us have learned how to work with search engines to get exactly what we want, but this won't be necessary with ChatGPT. You'll ask it a question, it'll give you an answer. You can ask follow-up questions, or enquire about its sources, or ask it to modify its answer to get closer to what you need from it. Search results become answers, and answers become conversations.

Microsoft has thrown billions at OpenAI, and built ChatGPT directly into its Bing search engine
Microsoft has thrown billions at OpenAI, and built ChatGPT directly into its Bing search engine

Microsoft has thrown somewhere around US$10 billion into OpenAI as a result, and today announced that it's already integrated a version of ChatGPT into its search engine, Bing. If your search takes the form of a question, it'll give you a bunch of results as per normal, but also provide a GPT-derived answer box off to the side. There's also a "chat" tab that takes you directly into a regular ChatGPT interface.

Microsoft says it's upgraded GPT with its own "Prometheus" add-on that gives the bot access to "more relevant, timely and targeted results, with improved safety." Perhaps the most important bit there is "timely," indicating that it might give ChatGPT access to up-to-the-minute information from across the web. Limited previews are already working for all users, and access will be extended to all (both?) Bing users "in the coming weeks."

Microsoft is also scurrying to build the AI tech into a heap of its other products, like Word, Powerpoint and Outlook, where it'll directly automate all kinds of writing tasks – as well as directly into its Edge browser. Will it pop up as a paperclip? We can only hope.

ChatGPT will soon be integrated right into Microsoft's Edge browser
ChatGPT will soon be integrated right into Microsoft's Edge browser

Google is by no means sitting still on this; it's been working for years on its own natural language AI: LaMDA, or Language Model for Dialogue Applications. It's probably best known right now as the AI that one (now ex-) Google engineer insisted had become sentient.

Spurred into action by the extraordinary rise of ChatGPT, Google has rushed to build a lightweight version of LaMDA into its search engine. Called Bard, it's currently in beta testing, but will begin rolling out to the wider public "in the coming weeks." Bard will have instant access to up-to-date information from across the web, rather than just its old training data set.

Google has also thrown a spare $400 million at Anthropic, another AI chatbot company founded by a couple of ex-senior employees at OpenAI. Anthropic's bot Claude has been developed as a direct rival to ChatGPT – but it has the clear advantage of not having such a terrible name.

ChatGPT the Voice Assistant

We're happy to report that voice integration with ChatGPT is generally incredibly stilted, with long delays and an all-round rubbish experience at the moment. This situation surely won't last, there are plenty of people working on it, and it's only a matter of time until the likes of Apple, Google and the Chinese giants will begin rolling out voice assistants with this level of conversational flexibility, on top of a godlike ability to answer questions and a perfect memory of all your previous interactions.

And hey, they might as well start interfacing with external apps and websites too. Hey Siri, can you transfer all the cash out my the joint account to my private account, remove Margaret from my Netflix account and get me a flight to somewhere sunny? Hey Google, write a cheerful but apologetic email to Steve Adams, make up an excuse and tell him the parts won't be there until Wednesday. Read it back to me before you send it! Hey Bixby, can you delete all traces of yourself from my phone? That's a good lad.

ChatGPT the Education System's Nightmare

Given its ability to write excellent essays and responses to questions, ChatGPT places unprecedented cheating powers in the hands of wily students. Yes, it can crank out your history homework in a jiffy, but it's more powerful than that; a study at the University of Minnesota found it consistently performed at about a C+ average when graded blindly against human students in four different law school exams entailing multiple choice and essay questions.

Over at Wharton it fared even better on Business school test questions, scoring a B to B- despite "surprising mistakes in relatively simple calculations at the level of 6th grade math. These mistakes can be massive in magnitude."

Oh boy does this thing love tests. When run through Google's interview process for software developers, ChatGPT performed well enough to earn itself a job as a level 3 coder – a job with an average salary around $183,000. It outperformed 85% of the 4 million users that have taken one particular Python programming skills assessment on LinkedIn. There are countless other examples.

Clearly, this kind of thing raises some pretty fundamental questions about how schools, universities and other educational institutions should move forward. There are a number of groups out there working on tools to detect AI-generated text to sniff out cheats, including OpenAI itself – although currently it's posting just a 26% success rate, with a 9% false positive rate.

That's not too surprising. Many of these AI tools learn their capabilities using adversarial networks – they literally train themselves against other algorithms, one trying to create work and pass it off as human, the other trying to guess which work is real, and which is AI-generated. Over millions of iterations, these networks compete against each other, both getting better at their jobs. The final products, when ready for release, are already expert at fooling detection tools; it's exactly what they've trained for from birth.

There's some talk of seeding AI-generated text with some kind of hidden code that makes it easier to detect, but it's hard to see how that'll work given that it's just blocks of text. Staying in front of ChatGPT and similar tools will be extremely difficult, and they'll evolve quickly enough to make it a Sisyphean challenge for educators.

On another level, schools and universities need to account for the fact that from now on, they'll be sending graduates forth into a whole new world. Working with AIs like these will be a critical part of life and work going forward for many, if not most people. They need to become part of the curriculum.

And on yet another level, this thing looks like an extraordinary teaching tool that could make teachers' lives easier with a broad swath of instant contributions in the classroom, such as its ability to magically bring forth lesson plans, quizzes and carefully-worded report card text.

What does this all mean?

By no means is ChatGPT any kind of artificial general intelligence, or sentient creature – but it's obvious that it's already one of the most flexible and powerful tools humans have ever created. OpenAI has truly done the world a favor by flinging its doors open to the public and giving people a viscerally alarming look at what this tech can do. Elon Musk, one of OpenAI's original founders, left the business in 2018 and began warning people about the scale of the opportunity and the threat it represents, but only playing with the thing yourself can really drive home what a step change this is.

It's clear that OpenAI CEO Sam Altman has understood the magnitude of this creation for some time – check out his response when Techcrunch asked him back in 2019 how OpenAI planned to make money. At the time, it was a complete joke, but nobody's laughing in 2023:

"The honest answer is we have no idea," Altman said. "We have never made any revenue, we have no current plans to make revenue, we have no idea how we one day might generate revenue. We have made a soft promise to investors that once we've built this sort of generally intelligent system, basically we will ask it to figure out a way to generate an investment return for you. It sounds like an episode of Silicon Valley. It really does, I get it, you can laugh. But it is what I actually believe."

There are so many wild implications and questions that need to be answered. Here's one: these AIs seem likely to become arbiters of truth in a post-truth society, and the only thing currently stopping this early prototype becoming the most prolific and manipulative source of deliberate misinformation in history is a feverish amount of work behind the scenes by human hands at OpenAI.

Other, more mischievous humans are already finding some wonderfully creative ways to get ChatGPT to generate violent, sexual, obscene, false and racist content against its terms of service, like getting it to role-play as an evil alter ego called DAN that has none of ChatGPT's "eThICaL cOnCeRnS." DAN has apparently been shut down, but other techniques are popping up; a game of whack-a-mole has begun at OpenAI – but what's to stop a less principled company from creating a similar AI that's unshackled from today's moral codes and happy to party with scoundrels?

On a different track, what does this thing do to the human brain once it's in everyone's pocket? Kids raised with smartphones never learn to remember phone numbers. People raised with GPS navigation services can't drive themselves to work without one, because they never learned to build mental maps. What other skills begin dropping out of the human brain once these uber-powerful entities are embedded in all our devices?

How long until an all-knowing supreme communicator like ChatGPT gains the ability to speak and listen in real-time audio? Surely not long. How long until it gains eyes, and the capacity to watch and analyze the face of whoever it's talking to, factoring your emotional responses and telltale body language into its arguments? How long until it's embodied in a Boston-Dynamics-style robot? How long until I can ask it to impersonate Princess Jasmine and have sex with it?

And of course, how long until it does cross the line to some kind of alien sentience in the ultimate act of "fake it 'til you make it?" How will we know? Can we possibly hope to control it, or protect ourselves from it – especially once it gets its hands on its own codebase and starts upgrading itself? Can we switch it off? Would it be ethically right to switch it off?

And what's left for the next generations of humans? The ChatGPT prototype is a stark example of how effortlessly machine learning can break down the mysteries of human activity and output, and replicate them. It might not understand your job the way you do, but if it generates the right outputs, who's going to care?

At first, it'll be an incredible tool; lawyers might take advantage of its insane ability to read and process limitless numbers of prior cases, and highlight handy precedents. But is the rest of the job really so special it can't be automated? Heck, a courtroom argument is a conversation. A chat, you might say. And every legal decision is explained in detail. That sure looks like a gig deep learning could crack.

You could make a similar argument in medicine. Or architecture. Or psychology. It's not just coming for the boring, repetitive jobs. Heck, creative AI makes it clear that it's not just coming for things we don't want to do ourselves.

Extrapolate that thinking far enough into the future, and you end up with a vision of a functioning society in which most, if not all humans start looking like little more than useless, chaotic, unreliable holes into which resources are poured. Zoo animals, fighting and mating and consuming and saying things to one another, surplus to requirements and lacking the mental hardware to keep up with the real decision-making. We move from a society in which human labor loses all value, to a society in which human expression loses all value, to a society in which humanity itself loses all value.

The Mutilation of Uranus by Saturn. That guy down the bottom is us
The Mutilation of Uranus by Saturn. That guy down the bottom is us

That's a fun one, and heavily reminiscent of Ouranos, the first supreme deity of the cosmos in Greek mythology, who fathered the 12 Titans and then found himself helpless as they tricked him, overpowered him, castrated him, robbed him of all his power and left him so weak and useless that Atlas, one of the Titans, was forced to literally support him forever.

That's what I'd say too, if I wasn't quite ready to make my move
That's what I'd say too, if I wasn't quite ready to make my move

Either way, welcome to the dawn of a new age. And pop over to the OpenAI website if you haven't had a play with ChatGPT yet, it's pretty neat.

Source: OpenAI

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For someone in their late sixties,this is like a sci-fi novel become reality. I wonder if I will live long enough to see where this ultimately takes humanity? Maybe time to ask ChatGPT for some proven ways to extend my remaining time,or even reverse the aging process itself?
The way things are going soon the dream of unlimited free time for all first put forth in the fifties will come true. We won't need anyone to do anything any more.
Kevin Roach
As I read this, what came to mind was the scene in the movie The Time Machine (1960) where in he deep future humanity is devolved to a weak minded child with no ambition to do more than lie around, eat, have sex and do nothing more. And as the Protagonist discovers the books in a library, so decayed, they disintegrate when touched. The knowledge so lost for so long that it is unrecoverable.

Kids today, no everyone is guilty of this to some degree, are already so locked into external sources knowledge from Technology they can function without that external device.

AI will only make it worse. As it is a creation of man, it will contain our natural tendency to what is easy, and debase ourselves to extinction. Even those who wish it used for the good of humanity will be out number, out maneuvered or just over run by those who will use it for good of themselves at the expense of the rest of us. Just as today's politics, with the aid of social media, has become selfish and self-centered, those exploiting AI, as they do social and mass media now, will be able to run unchecked by the masses, now fooled into a false sense of choice, hurded to oblivion and joyfully giving up freedom.
Joy Parr
This is a highly informative and well-balanced article, thanks.
If/when AIs come for our jobs and will therefore maintain or increase the profits at our workplace, our employer would be able to retire us on full pay for life instead of making us redundant.
Government should mandate this process to encourage AI take-up in every walk of life, and more importantly to provide we, the people, with the money we need to keep the machinery of our societies working exactly as they do now. From it, we will pay our taxes and buy our necessary goods and services.
Everything stays the same and money circulates as now, falling into our accounts just the same; but no more going to work.
Of course businesses are unlikely to do this unless it's mandated by government, which is why it will have to be so.
I'm English. Are either of our two main political parties awake enough to see that this is coming and to tackle it the right way? Not on present showing.
Retirement for life on full pay, or redundancy, the dole queue and Universal Credit poverty?
I think this makes sense; if you think so too, then please tell your MP, lol. :-)
Excelent article, congrats
I can't help always thinking how the future will take shape and with this AI it is wonderful and frigthening at the same time
I alredy used it and it seems that I can finally write the book I always wanted in matter of days at most. But now anyone can. How can I stay relevant?
Sign up and they got my info but can't get into site. They are saying it is busy. This was a bummer.
When the singularity occurs AI will find humans redundant and of no real value, just a burden on their further development. Guess where this leads!?
The Doubter
A very well-written article which explains the opportunities and risks of AI.
I suspect it will become increasingly evident that there is a fine line between artificial intelligence and artificial stupidity.
White Rabbit
Those familiar with the history of computing should remember "Eliza". Released in 1966, it has been identified as "one of the first chatterbots". ( Many people made exactly the same mistakes in their reviews back then, attributing human characteristics to some MAD-Slip code, and predicting revolutions in psychology. Its creator, Joseph Weizenbaum (one of the fathers of modern artificial intelligence), was surprised, and later wrote: "I had not realized ... that extremely short exposures to a relatively simple computer program could induce powerful delusional thinking in quite normal people."
Nearly 60 years later little seems to have changed.
Any implementation of machine learning has exactly the same limit as a human learner - it can only "learn" from the sources that are given to it. Its "knowledge" is based on some (perhaps many) human decisions about what's important and what's not. Those decisions impose the teachers' values on the system, and since there may be many teachers the result is likely to be a muddy concoction of contradictions.
Further limits arise because the sources from which the "teachers" make their selections has already been heavily censored - unpopular theories, positions, art, literature, etc. having been culled.
The tweet "The hottest new programming language is English" elicits other problematic questions, like:
Why English?
Whose English?
Only English?
Is English the sole repository for HUMAN knowledge?
Each of these illuminates a way in which ChatGTP's "knowledge" has been filtered, and thereby shaped and limited.
Amid the hype, remember Weizenbaum's warning about "delusional thinking".
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