What is ChatGPT: Here’s what you need to know

ChatGPT is swiftly changing academia and the future of work. (Dreamstime/TNS)

Credit: TNS

Credit: TNS

ChatGPT is swiftly changing academia and the future of work. (Dreamstime/TNS)

When ChatGPT launched publicly in late November, users were astounded by its capabilities.

Here’s what you need to know about ChatGPT.

So what is it, exactly?

ChatGPT is a computer program powered by artificial intelligence that can quickly answer questions. It’s a chatbot that can go back-and-forth with the user in text.

It uses massive amounts of text data from books, websites and other sources to generate responses.

Or, as ChatGPT explains it: “ChatGPT is an AI language model developed by OpenAI that uses deep learning to generate human-like text responses to questions and prompts.”

What can it do?

ChatGPT can write emails, poems, business plans and computer code. Feed it a report or paper, and it will offer feedback and revisions.

It can write an essay about symbolism in a classic novel. It can suggest counter-arguments. It can mimic someone else’s writing style (such as William Shakespeare).

Or, as ChatGPT explains it: “Verily, thou art wise to ask, kind sir! I can perform a multitude of tasks with grace and ease.”

Can it write a joke in the voice of The Bard? “I shall tickle thy funny bone with mirthful quips that’ll have thee laughing with glee.”

What’s troubling about ChatGPT?

Because the computer program can produce cogent prose quickly, many educators worry students will use it to write papers or cheat. While online plagiarism checkers are trying to catch the use of AI writing, some professors predict it will always be an arms race between detection tools and clever students to see who can outwit who.

ChatGPT can also make errors, especially because its knowledge is largely limited to events that happened in 2021 or before. And it can show bias, including sexism and racism.

Students also fear how it will impact the future of work, including their own careers. One recent survey by Tidio of more than 1,200 college graduates found that nearly 70% believed AI “could take their job or make it irrelevant in a few years.”

ChatGPT is sometimes difficult to access because so many people are trying to use it.

What’s next for AI writing?

More companies will be releasing their own chatbots. Google announced it will publicly release a chatbot competitor, Bard, in the coming weeks.

And while users can access the free version of ChatGPT, its maker has unveiled a paid product that promises priority access and faster responses. The subscription plan is called ChatGPT Plus and costs $20 a month.