Friday, January 27, 2023

'No, Not More ChatGPT' (Yes, Sorry!)

By Herb Greenberg (View Archive)

The good news about all the buzz, banter, and hype surrounding chatbot ChatGPT is that it'll soon die out...

That's how these things always go. First something nobody has ever heard of comes from nowhere, then it's suddenly everywhere.

It happens in predictable waves – usually starting in social media, then industry media, and finally mainstream media.

Yet the reality is, it's just another version of artificial intelligence ("AI"), which has been hiding in plain sight for years... getting its share of publicity here and there, but often in ways that can be hard to comprehend for the likes of you or me.

And while the current wave of buzz, banter, and hype may die out, AI won't... nor will ChatGPT or whatever comes after or has been quietly simmering out of public view.

Let's make something very clear...

AI has been around and evolving for years. There have been plenty of stories, as well as bits and pieces of hype, hope, and fear. It's already part of your daily life, even if you don't know it.

But cobbled together, none of it has made the splash – or caught the public's fascination – the way ChatGPT has.

There's a reason for that: The concept is easy for anybody to grasp.

You type in a question and the bot spits out an answer... or an entire report. Nothing science fiction about it.

But it's not the end-all, or the only chatbot of its type – and, in the end, may not be the winner. ChatGPT was created by privately held OpenAI, which has a massive investment from Microsoft (MSFT). But Alphabet's (GOOGL) Google, Meta Platforms (META), Amazon (AMZN) – you name it, they're in the race for this space.

Keep in mind, within AI, there are subsets of subsets of subsets...

ChatGPT – the "GPT" stands for Generative Pre-Trained Transformer ­– is part of what is better known as "conversational AI."

That, in turn, is a subset of so-called "generative AI," which as a recent Forbes article points out, is a catch-all for:

AI engines that create art, make music, generate synthetic humans, birth artificial influencers and celebrities, literally generate video from text, and threaten to upend our notions of creativity, art, public domain, copyright, and the nature of reality itself.

In other words, goodbye Van Gogh...

That's why ChatGPT has been such a catalyst, because suddenly it's hitting home.

Will it replace Van Gogh? Of course not. But can various forms of generative and creative AI replace journalists? Copywriters? Law clerks? Everybody?

As they continue to develop, chatbots like ChatGPT, will have interesting applications, such as customer service – which has been searching for ways to move away from live agents, who aren't only expensive, but increasingly hard to find.

Don't believe me? ChatGPT says so itself...

Source: ChatGPT

What's clear is that as chatbots get more sophisticated, they'll inevitably become ubiquitous – some of it good, some not so good.

As Fortune editor Alan Murray wrote earlier this week...

One can imagine a future where everyone has a "generative A.I." assistant that offers quick solutions to business challenges, writes instant computer code based on verbal commands, and conjures up art and video on demand. The upside is boundless.

But the downsides are clear as well. ChatGPT is often wrong, and provides no attribution or sourcing for its information. It has made it instantly easier to saturate the Internet with invasive ads and dubious information, and has opened up a whole new superhighway for cheating in schools.

Which leads me to ask this one question for anybody reading this – and I'd love to know the answer...

Have you tried ChatGPT? If so, for what? And what do you think about conversational AI – is it something you think you will find useful? If so, how? I'd love to hear from you – let me know your thoughts via e-mail by clicking here.

Plenty of people already are starting to fantasize about what else it can do. I shared my latest essay on ChatGPT on LinkedIn and have discussed it on Twitter.

One Twitter follower had his own wish list...

An app that gives you the price of the S&P 500 Index in two hours, accurately predicts the weather, or gives medical diagnoses would be much more helpful.

But there are plenty of other opinions, some already shared by readers – including one reader who takes issue with a comment in my essay from last week, where I quote Meta's head of AI as saying that ChatGPT "is not particularly innovative"...

"'ChatGPT is not particularly innovative. It's nothing revolutionary,'

"I don't think that's a fair assessment (especially considering the source). Yes, the technology has been evolving, but what is revolutionary is at the U/I. Normal (i.e. non-CompSci grads) people can now ask to get term papers written for them that are passable." – Steve M.

And there's more...

"I have used ChatGPT to write simple Excel macros that I knew enough to describe, but not enough to write on my own.

"It gets the syntax right, which is often a problem for computer literate, but not computer savvy people like me.

"Then I can string together a number of subroutines to cut down on some repetitive work." – Michael W.

"Herb, great call on ChatGPT... it will be a major, major issue & already is a windfall for Microsoft & a proverbial thorn in the side for Google... I wonder who's going to be successful in creating & marketing the anti ChatGPT AI that will be used to counteract it in schools & certain workplaces." – Carl B.

"In another conversation, we described ChatGPT as a literal bullsh*t generator – it writes almost exactly what I would, if called on to write/speak a page or two on a subject I know absolutely nothing about.

"I do have many friends who all pride themselves on being able to bamboozle with bullshit for as long as possible – sometimes years.

"ChatGPT "knows" nothing – it just pattern-matches on the prompt.

"ALL the LLM's completely lack anything resembling 'knowledge' – they are literally cobbling words together based on probabilities, using both your prompt and the large text base they have. They do not 'answer' your question or prompt – they don't even know what a question is!!

"Take everything written in English with some category labeling – shove it into a blender, then lay the slurry out in neat rows called 'sentences'... voila!! ChatGPT." – Tracy H.

If you would like to join the conversation, I'd love to hear from you – send an e-mail by clicking here.


Herb Greenberg
January 27, 2023

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