The Artificial Intelligence Boom: Understanding the Hype (and Concern) Over ChatGPT
ChatGPT has become the fastest growing piece of technology in history, leading tech gurus like Marc Saltzman to wonder what the hype is all about. Photo: John Lund/Getty Images
What’s the biggest thing to happen in technology over the past few months?
Hint: it’s not the “metaverse,” nor is it a new gadget or an app everyone is going crazy over.
It’s artificial intelligence — AI for short — and the tremendous buzz is mostly tied to an interactive “chatbot” program released late last year, called ChatGPT, from a Silicon Valley-based company called OpenAI.
The hype surrounding ChatGPT is so massive that it became the fastest-growing piece of tech in history — reaching 100 million users in under 60 days!
By comparison, it took Facebook about 4.5 years to reach 100 million users, Instagram 2.5 years and TikTok about nine months.
So, yes, ChatGPT is a big deal.
What Are We Talking About Here?
Think of ChatGPT as a human-like companion with virtually infinite knowledge with which to have conversations, via text (for now), and someone — er, something — you can lean on to help create content for you.
ChatGPT was trained on a colossal collection of internet-based resources, such as websites (like Wikipedia) and documents. Imagine several million volumes of texts — covering every subject — and having it respond to your queries within a second.
You can ask it to explain complex topics, summarize articles or give you advice on something troubling you. Tell ChatGPT to generate an itinerary for you when you visit New Orleans this summer. Explain that you need to speak at your grandson’s wedding and need it to write you the speech. Or, have it create a comprehensive business plan for your side hustle. Ask it to solve math equations or even write lines of code to animate a globe for your website.
No wonder Microsoft, which invested US$10 billion into OpenAI in February, is weaving ChatGPT capabilities into its Bing search engine to make it much smarter and personalized, just as Google is releasing its answer to ChatGPT, called Bard.
Cool, no? But scary, right? No doubt.
Before we look at some shortcomings — and potentially, dangers — surrounding ChatGPT and other “generative AI” programs — let’s look at three good examples of how you could leverage this tech.
Zooming Into Fun Examples of ChatGPT
A few suggestions:
Ask what to make for dinner. I told ChatGPT what I had in the fridge — eggs, cheese, broccoli and chicken breasts — and asked what I could make with it.
It replied by saying:
With the ingredients you have, you can make a delicious Broccoli, Chicken, and Cheese Frittata. Here’s a recipe to guide you:
1 cup cooked chicken breast, diced
1 cup broccoli florets, steamed or blanched
1/2 cup shredded cheese (cheddar, mozzarella, or your preferred type)
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon olive oil or cooking spray
Preheat your oven to 350 F (175 C).
In a bowl, whisk the eggs together until well beaten. Season with salt and pepper according to your taste.
Heat olive oil in an oven-safe skillet over medium heat. If you don’t have an oven-safe skillet, you can use a regular skillet and transfer the mixture to a greased baking dish later.
Add the cooked chicken breast to the skillet and sauté for a couple of minutes until heated through.
Add the steamed or blanched broccoli florets to the skillet and stir for another minute to combine with the chicken.
Pour the whisked eggs over the chicken and broccoli mixture in the skillet. Allow the eggs to cook for a minute or two until the edges start to set.
Sprinkle the shredded cheese evenly over the top of the frittata.
Transfer the skillet to the preheated oven and bake for approximately 10-15 minutes, or until the eggs are fully set and the cheese has melted and turned golden.
Remove the skillet from the oven and let it cool for a few minutes.
Cut the frittata into wedges and serve warm.
Play a game. I was feeling bored and so I asked ChatGPT: “Can you play a ‘choose your own adventure’ game with me?”
It said: Of course! I’d be happy to play a choose your own adventure game with you. Just let me know the setting or theme you’d like for the game, and we can get started.
I told the program to make it a spy story in the ’60s, set in England.
Fantastic! Welcome to “Operation Crimson Rose,” a thrilling spy adventure set in London during the 1960s. As a talented agent working for MI6, your mission is to uncover a double agent operating within the agency while navigating a web of intrigue, danger, and espionage. Your choices will determine the outcome of the story. Let’s begin!
You find yourself inside the dimly lit MI6 headquarters in London, surrounded by fellow agents and classified documents. Director Bennett, a stern figure with a sharp gaze, approaches you.
Director Bennett: “Agent, we have reason to suspect that a double agent is leaking sensitive information to our adversaries. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to uncover the traitor and bring them to justice. The code name for this operation is ‘Crimson Rose.’ Are you up for the challenge?”
Option 1: Accept the mission.
Option 2: Decline the mission.
Please reply with either “1” or “2” to choose your next move.
After accepting the mission, it continued:
You accept the mission without hesitation, determined to prove your worth as a skilled agent.
Director Bennett: “Excellent. Your first lead is a contact named Evelyn Blackwood. She’s a known informant who has been feeding us valuable intel in the past. However, she hasn’t been in touch recently. We suspect she might have information about the double agent. Find her and see what she knows. Be cautious; trust no one.”
You gather your essentials, including a dossier on Evelyn Blackwood, and head out into the bustling streets of London. As you make your way to Evelyn’s last known location, you notice a suspicious-looking individual trailing you.
Option 1: Confront the individual.
Option 2: Maintain your cover and continue to Evelyn’s location.
Get advice. I hypothetically told ChatGPT I was a senior who lives alone and sometimes feels lonely. What can I do?
Feeling lonely as a senior is a common experience, but there are several activities and strategies you can explore to alleviate loneliness and enhance your well-being. Here are some suggestions:
- Engage in social activities: Join local senior centers, community clubs, or hobby groups that align with your interests. Participating in group activities will provide opportunities to meet new people and develop meaningful connections
- Volunteer: Consider volunteering for organizations or causes that resonate with you. It’s a great way to contribute to your community while interacting with others who share similar passions
- Attend classes or workshops: Enroll in classes or workshops offered in your area. It could be art, cooking, music, or any subject that intrigues you. Not only will you learn something new, but you’ll also have the chance to meet like-minded individuals
- Embrace technology: Stay connected with family and friends through social media platforms, video calls, or messaging apps. Technology can bridge the distance and allow for regular communication, even if loved ones are far away
- Explore senior-specific programs: Many communities offer programs tailored to seniors, such as exercise classes, book clubs, or day trips. Check local community centers or senior organizations for these opportunities
- Get involved in your neighborhood: Attend local events, join neighborhood committees, or organize gatherings for your neighbors. Building connections within your immediate community can foster a sense of belonging and support
- Consider adopting a pet: Pets can bring companionship, joy, and a sense of purpose. If you’re capable of caring for a pet, consider adopting one from a local shelter. They can provide company and help combat loneliness
- Seek support: If you’re feeling persistently lonely or struggling with your emotions, consider seeking professional support from a counselor, therapist, or support group. They can provide guidance and assist you in navigating these challenging feelings
Remember, it may take time to find the right activities or connections that resonate with you. Be patient with yourself and open to new experiences. Building relationships and overcoming loneliness is a gradual process, but with persistence, you can enhance your social interactions and find fulfillment in your senior years.
Naturally, there are concerns over ChatGPT and other generative AI tools.
For one, there are some inaccuracies. While it’s improving — ChatGPT 4 (launched in March) is more accurate than its predecessor, ChatGPT 3.5 — but I asked ChatGPT about myself and it incorrectly stated I was a television actor. I clarified that I am on TV, yes, but as a tech analyst and not an actor. It will get better over time, no doubt, but I wouldn’t ask ChatGPT for medical advice in case it’s wrong. As impressive as it is, this technology is in its infancy.
There are also legitimate concerns over “automation” replacing human jobs, whether it’s AI, robots or autonomous vehicles. It won’t happen overnight, and some jobs may be more at risk than others, but AI will become very attractive to businesses looking to cut costs. That said, IBM’s head of its Watson (AI) division believes that for every job automation replaces, it will create two to three net new jobs.
A few notable tech personalities, including Elon Musk, have suggested AI advancements are happening too quickly, and should be halted until it could be better understood — and regulated. In April, ChatGPT was banned in Italy, due to concerns regarding its possible negative impact on society. In May, Geoffrey Hinton, one of the leading voices in the field of AI, said he was quitting Google over his worries about what this technology could eventually lead to if unchecked. Recently, industry leaders even warned of a potential “risk of extinction” in the future posed by increasingly powerful AI technology.
Educators are also understandably concerned about plagiarism among students, as ChatGPT can generate seemingly fresh content — like asking it to write a 500-word essay on the birth of Sweden — which may get past any plagiarism software used by the school or board.
For the time being, consider ChatGPT a fascinating tool. Like any innovation, it could be used or abused by the humans who rely on it.
If you want to try ChatGPT for yourself, register and use it for free at OpenAI.com or use the free iOS app (iPhone, iPad). Note: there is a paid “Pro” version for about $20/month, too, with some extra benefits.