You’ve probably heard about ChatGPT by now. It is all over the interweb and social media. I am bombarded with YouTube videos showing me how much money I can make using ChatGPT to start a variety of businesses. Beware! At least two such videos appeared to have the same script. Lots of hucksters out there. But before we abandon ChatGPT, let’s see if we can learn more from Wikipedia.

ChatGPT (Generative Pre-trained Transformer) is a chatbot launched by OpenAI in November 2022. Who is OpenAI? Wikipedia has the answer to that too.

“OpenAI is an artificial intelligence (AI) research laboratory consisting of the for-profit corporation OpenAI LP and its parent company, the non-profit OpenAI Inc. The company conducts research in the field of AI to promote and develop friendly AI in a way that benefits humanity as a whole. The organization was founded in San Francisco in late 2015 by Sam Altman, Elon Musk, and others, who collectively pledged $1 billion. Musk resigned from the board in February 2018 but remained a donor. In 2019, OpenAI LP received a$1 billion investment from Microsoft and Matthew Brown Companies.

ChatGPT is only a few months old. Its prototype was launched in November 30, 2022. It quickly gained attention for its detailed responses and articulate answers across many areas of knowledge. But its uneven factual accuracy was seen as a significant drawback. Nevertheless OpenAI was reportedly valued at $29 billion.

ChatGPT is a chatbot. You may have tried one on a website or even downloaded a program like UltraHal. I used to experiment with early versions of that program by feeding it’s database of knowledge with George Carlin jokes for instance. UltraHal could speak and hold a conversation with you, but it was limited. Before that there was Eliza which emulated a psychotherapist. To anything you would say, Eliza might answer “tell me how you feel about that?” It was clever programming. It also showed that the communication between man and machine was superficial. This is all to say that chatbots have been around for a while and mostly only mimicked human conversation.

ChatGPT is different. It is versatile and improvises. It can write and debug computer programs. It can compose music, teleplays, fairy tales, and student essays. ChatGPT can write poetry and song lyrics. It can even emulate a Linux system. It can answer test questions, sometimes, above the level of an average human test-taker. ChatGPT could be used by students to cheat, although a college student has recently written a program to detect when a student paper has been written by ChatGPT. One high school teacher wrote that ChatGPT would usher in “The End of High School English.” Some schools are already blocking this chatbot. A tool like this is dangerous. Google has been working on similar program, but has been more cautious about releasing it into the wild. In any case I think it’s time to take a closer look.

For more information see the Wikipedia article on ChatGPT as well as your favorite news feed.