Editor's Note: The article has been updated on Feb. 3, 2023, to include new data and information.
ChatGPT hit internet browsers on Nov. 30, 2022. Within five days of release, it reached 1 million users — something it took Netflix 3.5 years to achieve.
Is ChatGPT the revolutionary AI we’ve all been waiting for? Or is it just another fad that’s raced to the finish line before technology could keep up?
What Is ChatGPT?
ChatGPT is an artificial intelligence (AI) model trained on a large fraction of text from the internet. It uses a deep learning technique called Transformer, which allows it to generate natural language text similar to human writing. ChatGPT can help translate language, answer questions, summarize text, write creatively and more.
What Company Owns ChatGPT?
ChatGPT creator OpenAI is a San Francisco-based AI research laboratory that consists of the for-profit OpenAI LP and its parent company, the nonprofit OpenAI Inc.
OpenAI was founded in 2015, financially backed by Sam Altman (CEO of OpenAI), Elon Musk, PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel, LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman, Ilya Sutskever (co-founder and chief scientist of OpenAI) and other entrepreneurs. Musk, however, left the board of directors in 2018.
In 2019, Microsoft invested $1 billion in OpenAI to support its building of artificial general intelligence (AGI). Recently, in January 2023, Microsoft made another round of investments to the tune of $10 billion — though not everyone is happy with the timing.
What Can ChatGPT Do?
ChatGPT excels at language and information tasks. It has some restrictions built in that prevent it from providing “toxic” reactions or problematic model outputs. It's also designed to ignore inappropriate requests.
People are already using the bot for many things, and new uses seem to pop up daily. It can:
Answer Almost Any Question
ChatGPT is pretty good at answering nearly any question you throw its way. You could ask:
- What’s a good birthday present for my dad, who likes to fish, work on antique cars and read books about wildlife?
- What houseplants are easiest to care for if I live in central Vermont?
- What’s the square root of 198?
- How can you replace a sink faucet?
- Why would someone want to travel to outer space?
The possibilities seem endless when it comes to expanding knowledge and satisfying curiosity.
Read Through Code and Fix Bugs
Some developers have tested ChatGPT with coding, allowing it to find and fix bugs. The bot also explains the fixes.
Write … Pretty Much Anything
ChatGPT’s writing capabilities are perhaps some of its most exciting. If you ask it to, it can write:
- Social media posts
- Marketing copy
- Fiction and nonfiction stories
Beyond writing alone, ChatGPT can read and analyze written text. Feed it a chunk of text and ask it to give you a one-sentence summary. Offer it your notes on an article and it can generate an outline or entire sections. Ask it to write product content. It can also translate — often with better results than Google Translate.
The more details you add to the request, the better result you’ll likely get. You might want a poem with a “Wild West” theme, for example, or a social media post just like The New York Times would create.
For example, if I ask for a poem with a Wild West theme, ChatGPT responds:
Remember Your Conversations
ChatGPT stands out in that it remembers the conversations you have with it and can build its responses off past conversations. It can also collect user feedback to refine its outputs.
For example, say you ask ChatGPT to write an outline for an article about gardening, and it comes back with a 10-section outline. You can then type, “Write two paragraphs on part two of that outline, selecting a plot of land for your garden.”
When users have a specific output in mind — like a story, resume or another endeavor — they can use this conversational memory to fine-tune ChatGPT’s responses.
Related Article: 6 Ways ChatGPT May Change Digital Customer Experience
ChatGPT Has Some Limitations
ChatGPT seems like the super tool we’ve all been waiting for. But it’s not perfect — yet.
Not Connected to the Internet
ChatGPT’s main limitation is that it’s not connected to the internet.
Currently, the bot generates answers based on the text and data it was trained on — which cuts off in 2021. Therefore, it’s not good at providing information or writing prompts that require recent data.
OpenAI does, however, provide periodic updates to the program.
Answers Not Always Correct
ChatGPT does not always answer correctly or provide exactly what you ask for. It might instead offer nonsensical answers.
The technology is programmed to give human responses to questions. And in some cases, that means ChatGPT trying to convince humans that its outputs are factual. While it often gives correct answers, users should still fact-check information.
Programmers using this tool are seeing this issue regarding “bug fixes.” While sometimes ChatGPT can save time debugging, it’s fixes aren’t always accurate (or necessary).
One Twitter user pointed out, however, that you can tell ChatGPT when it’s wrong, and it will correct itself:
Pay attention to what you ask ChatGPT and always compare answers. You might find it repeats information, or that it only writes 250 words when you ask for 400.
Related Article: OpenAI's New ChatGPT Might Be the First Good Chatbot
How Was ChatGPT Trained?
ChatGPT was trained on large amounts of text from the internet.
The training, wrote OpenAI researcher Scott Aaronson, “simply consists of playing the following game over and over, trillions of times: predict which word comes next in this text string. So in some sense that’s its only goal or intention in the world: to predict the next word.”
Eventually, you can ask the program a question or give it a task — like writing an essay — and it would plausibly come up with what comes after the prompt, he wrote.
“And it will then proceed to generate the thing you want.”
How to Use ChatGPT
If you want to use ChatGPT, you’re not alone. You can get started by going to https://chat.openai.com/chat. You can also access it through OpenAI’s website.
Next, you’ll need to create an account with your email address. You can also create an account through Google or Microsoft.
Once you have an account and log in, you can start using ChatGPT. It looks like a basic chatbot, with a text box at the bottom that allows you to type a question or prompt. Type in anything you want and hit send.
Keep in mind, ChatGPT remembers conversations. You don’t always have to repeat your questions or ideas to get different answers or outputs.
Is ChatGPT Free?
ChatGPT is currently free to use, as it’s in its research phase. However, OpenAI plans to monetize the platform. On Feb. 1, 2023, the company announced ChatGPT Plus, a pilot subscription program.
At $20 per month, ChatGPT Plus will include general access to the platform (even during peak times), faster responses and priority access to improvements and new features.
People in the US who want to sign up for the premium version can add their names to the waitlist. OpenAI claims it plans to expand access to other countries soon.
Does a premium version of ChatGPT mean it will stop being free? Fortunately, that's not the case. In fact, the company said that by offering subscription pricing, they'll be able to continue to support free access to "as many people as possible."
Why Is ChatGPT Not Working?
If you’ve tried to access ChatGPT but keep getting an error message, you’re not alone.
ChatGPT’s servers are working at high capacity, blocking some users from accessing the platform. Don’t give up, though. Keep refreshing your browser, and you’ll likely be able to gain access within a few minutes.
Related Article: Is Generative AI the Future of Product Content Generation?
Why Are People Worried About ChatGPT?
ChatGPT has a lot of potential to change the way we live and work. But many are justifiably concerned.
Concerns About Plagiarism
ChatGPT can, if given the instruction, write a 1,500-word essay on the topic of your choosing — though it might not be 1,500 words or entirely accurate. But that won’t stop students (or adults) from trying. In fact, some school districts have already banned the use of ChatGPT on its networks and devices.
Sam Altman, CEO of OpenAI, recently told StrictlyVC’s Connie Loizos, “Look, I get it. I get why educators feel the way they feel about this.”
There may be ways the company can help teachers detect content written by ChatGPT, said Altman, potentially referencing Aaronson’s attempts to “watermark” GPT’s text outputs.
“But honestly,” said Altman, “a determined person is going to get around them. And I don’t think it’ll be something society can or should rely on long-term. We’re just in a new world now; generated text is something we all need to adapt to.”
We’ve adapted to calculators, he said. “This is a more extreme version of that, no doubt. But also, the benefits of it are more extreme as well.”
Some teachers are concerned. But some teachers see the potential — such as using the tech as a personal tutor for kids, said Altman.
We’ll adapt, he said, and be better for it. “And we won’t want to go back.”
Implications for Cybersecurity
Check Point Research (CPR) found ChatGPT can create spam emails and malware. They wanted to see if it writes plausible sounding phishing emails, so they asked it to impersonate a hosting company.
While OpenAI has made efforts to make the model refuse inappropriate requests, it will still sometimes respond to harmful instructions.
In this case, a notice pops up during this process that warns the user of content that might violate the content policy. But it provides the output anyway, and CPR actually requests and receives clarifications — like getting the target to download an Excel document.
A recent analysis from CPR found that multiple underground hacking communities are already using OpenAI to develop malicious tools.
Ethical Concerns in Training
According to Time, OpenAI used outsourced Kenyan workers earning $2 an hour or less to identify toxic material — stuff like hate speech, talk of self-harm and more. All training data the company didn’t want seeping into their platform.
OpenAI worked with outsourcing partner Sama, a San Francisco-based company that employs workers in Kenya, India and Uganda. Sama markets itself as an “ethical” AI firm that’s lifted more than 50,000 people out of poverty and works with other clients like Google, Microsoft and Meta.
One Sama worker, when describing a task he had to do identifying toxic material, said, “That was torture.”
Talk Around Job Security
ChatGPT sources information. It simplifies tasks and creates content. It’s invariably going to save people work, and it hasn’t yet reached its full potential. As such, many are worried that ChatGPT could win out in certain job markets.
Will we no longer need content marketers? What about journalists or resume writers or poets? Do you no longer need a coder or an expert social marketer if you can ask ChatGPT for all the answers?
ChatGPT will certainly change how we work, and it might take time to adapt to those changes. But it won’t replace humans entirely — especially since humans oversee and optimize AI technology.
Changing Society as We Know It
ChatGPT and the technology that backs it is here to stay. And it’s likely going to grow and evolve as the years progress. As such, society — schools, businesses, even homes — will have to adapt.
Google is a perfect example of this, the search engine has been dominating the market since its inception in 1998. Will language models like ChatGPT replace Google search and upset the digital world? Some seem to think it’s possible.
“There are societal changes that ChatGPT is going to cause or is causing,” said Altman. And we’ll have to make changes ourselves to keep up.
“What I think is going to have to happen,” he said, “is society will have to agree and set some laws on what an AGI can never do or what one of these systems should never do.”
Is ChatGPT Here to Stay?
ChatGPT doesn’t seem like a fad, despite its rapid blowup in popularity. However, its true capabilities may not come to light until OpenAI addresses the platform’s flaws and limitations.
Still, ChatGPT’s potential looks apparent to everyone — it’s going to change the status quo, whether we like it or not.