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27th March 2023

Does ChatGPT live up to the hype?

ChatGPT has made its way into the technological conversation quite forcefully over the past 5 months, with millions of people using it daily. Is the AI smart or silly?
Does ChatGPT live up to the hype?
Photo: Ilgmyzin @ The Mancunion

At a time when technology is rapidly developing, and new computing techniques are created daily (if not hourly), it seems about time our search engine got an upgrade. The stream of ‘ChatGPT’ headlines emerging in recent weeks suggests that ChatGPT may be the artificial intelligence technology to do so.

But is ChatGPT really all it’s set out to be? 

What is ChatGPT?

New AI technology ChatGPT is a kind of hybrid of a web browser and an AI chatbot you can have a ‘conversation’ with.

When you first open the page a series of messages pop up –  a little forewarning before you delve into the mastery of this latest text-generating AI.

Photo: Frances Briggs @ The Mancunion
Photo: Frances Briggs @ The Mancunion

The technology is still in its research phase, so may generate some unexpected responses. Sometimes ChatGPT might glitch, or generate an answer completely unrelated to your question. This is a relatively rare occurrence and can depend on the specificity of your question.

As an example, when I asked ‘What should I have for dinner?’ Chat GPT replied:

“It depends on your personal tastes, dietary restrictions, and the ingredients you have on hand. Some options could be:

  • Grilled chicken with roasted vegetables
  • Stir-fried tofu and rice
  • A large salad with your favourite toppings

“If you’re stuck for ideas, you could consider searching online for recipes that include ingredients you have on hand, or trying out a new cuisine you’ve never cooked before!”

This answer took less than 30 seconds to arrive, and the tech is particularly helpful as it also generates answers to follow-up questions – it really is like having a chat.

‘Do you have any more vegan dinner ideas?’ generated:

“Certainly, here are a few more vegan dinner ideas:

  • Chickpea and vegetable curry
  • Grilled portobello mushrooms with quinoa and steamed greens
  • Lentil and vegetable shepherd’s pie

“Remember, there are countless delicious vegan recipes out there, so don’t be afraid to get creative and experiment with new ingredients and flavours!”

How does it work?

OpenAI, the American artificial intelligence (AI) research laboratory which created the technology, describes ChatGPT as a model which interacts in a conversational way. It has been trained to follow instructions in a prompt and provide a detailed response.  

ChatGPT uses GPT-3.5 technology that has been trained by Reinforcement Learning from Human Feedback (RLHF). This is a method where AI generates a response, and the appropriateness of this response is fed back into the AI language model, which then refines the response further. This is how AI can constantly ‘learn’ and improve.

OpenAI has created ChatGPT’s database by entering a vast amount of data and information from the internet, using RLHF in immense detail up to around 2021. World events and later publications than 2021 are less detailed, so the chatbot may not have an answer to an exacting question about events in more recent years. 

The exact technological mechanisms behind ChatGPT are somewhat veiled in secrecy, as OpenAI are yet to publish any papers on exactly what’s happening behind the scenes.

Does it live up to the hype?

ChatGPT isn’t the first text generator to be invented by a long shot, but it has picked up a lot of momentum. It had a reported 1 million active users within four days of its release and a reported 57 million after a month. This is in part due to its conversational-like responses and approachable interface.

However, the text generator does have some shortfalls. There is no way to verify that the answers ChatGPT returns are correct or truthful –  there are no sources provided. It can be asked to provide sources, but these are often not real, and could be completely fabricated or irrelevant to the expressed statement. Additionally, the data bank of ChatGPT is relatively outdated, given that we know it contains limited information from after 2021.

This doesn’t seem to be a concern for the general public, however, as ChatGPT has become so popular it is not always possible to log in. At times of high website traffic, opening the AI produces: 

“ChatGPT is at capacity right now”
Photo: Frances Briggs @ The Mancunion

If you are looking for an alternative chatbot which circumvents these shortcomings, there are plenty of other fish in the sea. One example is Perplexity.

Perplexity is another text-generating chatbot that has been released recently which may be a better fact-based text-generating alternative. Each question or prompt entered into Perplexity produces a response which has linked sources which can be evaluated by the user for reliability – this is useful as in some cases sources are less credible (e.g. Reddit).

This could make it a more useful academic tool than ChatGPT. However, Perplexity and other chatbots available simply aren’t as good as ChatGPT at being creative, and it’s here that ChatGPT really shines. 

Can AI generate art?

ChatGPT can be incredibly useful for writing and editing computational scripts for programming or app design. In addition, when combined with other AI technology, ChatGPT can be used to compose music, create art, write articles or essays and more. Text-generating AI is excellent at formulating ideas.

Using Midjourney, an AI programme accessible using Discord, alongside ChatGPT, you can create incredibly detailed and specific art. To demonstrate this, I entered the prompt “computers and technology/ create an image that captures the essence of technology, using cool toned colours” into ChatGPT

ChatGPT generated the following output: “The image shows a person sitting in front of a computer, surrounded by various technological gadgets and devices. The computer screen displays complex coding and programming language, while the person types furiously on the keyboard. In the background, there are circuit boards and wires, creating a network of technology. The colour scheme is cool-toned, featuring shades of blue and green, giving off a sense of futuristic innovation and advancement.”

Creative genius, or inaccurate writer?

If you are looking to think about a question in a different way, come up with an alternate approach to an essay, fix your Python script or create art without having to think, ChatGPT is brilliant – there’s no denying it. It’s a powerful little bit of AI, but this power can sometimes catch you out, particularly if you’re tempted to use it in the academic world.

Its limited referencing abilities, and the fact that excessive use of the software can be considered plagiarism, means it may not be the best idea to use it too extensively. It is banned for use in writing essays by most universities, including the University of Manchester.

However, in my opinion, ChatGPT deserves the hype it’s getting – despite its limitations. It may be far from perfect, but it is one of the first AI text generators to enter the mainstream consciousness and spark further general interest in AI research. As Google and Meta race to create something similar for their platforms, who knows what the next popular AI will be able to do? 

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