Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios
A new artificial intelligence contraption called ChatGPT has set the internet on fire this week.
Why is this important: Essentially an artificial intelligence (AI) interface that texts you like a know-it-all human, ChatGPT could portend major disruptions for Big Tech, especially for the search industry.
How it works: Just type a prompt into its interface, much like you would Google – and instead of returning links, ChatGPT rewrites you in paragraphs.
- When asked “how do you crush inflation,” ChatGPT gave an answer that Jerome Powell would probably agree with:
- “There are many ways to try to crush inflation, but most of them involve using monetary policy to manage the supply and demand for money in the economy,” the opening said. of the bot’s response.
State of play: Experts hail ChatGPT, developed by a company called OpenAI, as a major breakthrough in the decades-long campaign to create a bot that texts humans as if they were also a person.
- ChatGPT works well enough that people are starting to realize how powerful a chatbot could be, as tech writer Alex Kantrowitz told me on the What Next:TBD podcast on Friday.
- “For years, we’ve heard from tech companies like Meta, like Google, or even Amazon, that voice and chat conversationally talking with computers is the future – and the actual products have never quite caught on. height,” he said. “Now we are starting to see that there is powerful technology here.”
- ChatGPT is much further than, say, the awkward text interaction you might have with a bank or an airline.
- In its first five days, over a million users signed up to try ChatGPT, according to OpenAI president Greg Brockman.
🍪 The plot: When asked how to make chocolate chip cookies, ChatGPT gave me a short and clear recipe that seemed pretty standard. Compare that to Google, which returns links to long, squashed blog posts that require endless scrolling before you get a recipe.
- These recipe websites are part of an entire ecosystem of businesses built around Google search optimization, including financial sites like Investopedia, media, and other services.
- This is partly why Google has spent so much money on chat AI. The tech giant made $149 billion from its research business last year; more than half of the total turnover.
Yes, but: ChatGPT has no idea if everything it says is true.
Between the lines: Writers and teachers are already worried about AI’s ability to produce essays.
- The New York Times’ Paul Krugman asks if ChatGPT is coming for skilled jobs — he’s one of many writers who used the interface to create a column last week.
- Axios’ Ina Fried calls it “well scary”, but also worries that ChatGPT doesn’t say where it gets its information from and can “confidently be wrong”.
Zoom out: Notably, this new AI was not released by a Big Tech company, but by a risk-taking startup. OpenAI caused a stir earlier this year when it released Dall – E2, an AI you can use to create art images. The artists panicked.
- That a small private player is the one making waves with AI makes sense; these companies can release something experimental with less risk of angering users, shareholders, or advertisers if they make mistakes.
- Open AI has powerful friends in the industry, however. It announced a partnership with Microsoft in 2019.
Reality check: The future is not here yet. Users have already discovered flaws, like asking the bot to tell you how to shoplift.
- And, there are big red flags to watch out for: AI is prone to reflecting human bias and manipulation (like when a Microsoft chatbot started cheering on Hitler.) ChatGPT seems to have done a little better to avoid this so far.
And after: Expect to see more bots from top players. “It’s game time for Google,” Kantrowitz said. “I don’t think he can sit on the sidelines for too long.”
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