This post is also available in Dutch.
We have all been there: talking to annoying customer service chatbots that never really understand your question. But now there’s a chat AI that’s almost indistinguishable from a human. It generates language by predicting the most likely word given the context. This impressive program comes with its perks but also risks.
ChatGPT was launched at the end of 2022 as the (then) latest version in the GPT (“Generative Pre-trained Transformer”) series from OpenAI. These language-generating programs can produce texts that are indistinguishable from human texts. To achieve this, these programs use Machine Learning technology, which means they learn from large amounts of data. In this case, these are online texts such as books, articles, and online conversations. The program learns how often certain words occur together in these online texts. Based on these patterns, a GPT predicts the next word in a given sentence. So, to create texts it uses the most probable word combinations given a specific context.
A GPT is a so-called transformer, a model type that is able to analyze large chunks of text at once instead of word for word. This makes a GPT fast and allows it to use a broad(er) context in a text to learn patterns, allowing preceding GPT versions to be trained on a huge amount of text. This gives ChatGPT access to a lot of information to answer all kinds of questions in a human-like way. Furthermore, ChatGPT is specially designed to converse in a human way instead of creating single responses. Taken together, ChatGPT is able to come across as human and has direct access to much more information than one human can remember. This combination is what makes ChatGPT so special.
The huge database that makes ChatGPT so smart also leads to problems: it is unclear on which source(s) an answer from ChatGPT is based, making it more difficult to check the reliability of the information. In addition, it did not take long for students to realize that ChatGPT can be used to do their homework: a development that worries educational institutions. Students who try to make things easier for themselves have always existed, but never before could complete papers be written by a computer without teachers or grading software noticing.
Fortunately, there are also positive sides: ChatGPT can save us a lot of time and effort. The internet is full of examples of things you can make this program do. For example, you can use ChatGPT as a travel guide: How long should the travel program be? Should it be suitable for your children? Quiet or busy? Any other wishes? No problem. You no longer have to go through travel guides, blogs, vlogs, and reviews yourself because ChatGPT effortlessly adapts to your wishes.
Those who are curious about the application of ChatGPT need not limit themselves to examples on the internet. The OpenAI program is accessible in several languages for anyone with an internet connection in almost every country. This partly explains the unprecedented popularity. In less than a week, ChatGPT had over a million users.
Author: Maartje Koot
Buddy: Floortje Bouwkamp
Editor: Felix Klaassen
Translation: Marlijn ter Bekke
Editor Translation: Wessel Hieselaar
Image by Sanket Mishra via www.unsplash.com