If you have yet to succumb to the deafening noise surrounding ChatGPT, then it’s safe to say you might be living under a rock.
ChatGPT burst into the public eye in November 2022 and we think it’s fairly safe to say that this multi-billion dollar endeavor has made quite an impression on society in the last few months. It should come as no surprise that the press storm still continues to rage on, fueled in many cases by cries surrounding moral dilemmas regarding the impacts of the language program and the ethics of the boundaries shattering AI industry in general.
If you’re interested in getting caught up on all of the tea surrounding ChatGPT, then this article is just for you. In the coming sections, we’ll give you a breakdown on the basics, it’s not-so-humble beginnings in Silicon Valley, the intelligence behind the machine, as well as a brief recap on public reception both within and outside of the industry. Hey, did we mention we’re excited you stopped by? Let’s get started.
ChatGPT – which stands for Chat Generative Pre-Trained Transformer – is an AI-fueled language model which was first launched in November 2022 by a company named OpenAI. The program essentially provides intelligent, coherent answers to queries, similar in theory to the way a search engine works except without the filler (links, further searching) and just the good stuff (pure, focused content). ChatGPT is built off of previous work OpenAI has done but is distinct in that it seems to have greater immediate utility to the average person than its predecessors. But before we go any further, we think it’s important to give you a bit of context surrounding its parent company and history first.
The glamourous beginnings of OpenAI
OpenAI is an AI research and deployment company that’s headquartered in San Francisco. Now, while that descriptor might make it sound like one of your everyday run-of-the-mill Silicon Valley startups, there are a few details which distinguish OpenAI from the rest. That’s because the company was founded by some pretty notable, heavy-hitting billionaire investors including the likes of Elon Musk (Tesla etc.), Sam Altman (Loopt), Peter Thiel (PayPal), and Reid Hoffman (LinkedIn).
Four years after its creation in 2015, Musk resigned from OpenAI’s board due in part to a differing vision of OpenAI’s future and conflicts with Tesla. And that same year, the company welcomed Microsoft and their billion-dollar checkbook with open arms as a strategic investor.
As of today the company is allegedly “on the verge of becoming one of the most valuable startups in the country” with a potential valuation of around $29 billion should talks with Thrive Capital and Founders Fund prove fruitful.
ChatGPT for the win
Believe it or not, ChatGPT isn’t OpenAI’s first rodeo. The AI powerhouse previously released a speech recognition system called Whisper, a language-to-image processing system by the name of DALL•E (and its subsequent version), and its API serves as a foundation for the GPT-3 query app.
ChatGPT however is the venture which seems to have garnered the most attention. After all, many people hadn’t even heard of its predecessors until they were roped into news about their successor.
ChatGPT is unique in the sense that its use seems more directly applicable to the lives of every day individuals. The language model is one of the first of its kind released to the public that is able to generate information in a relatively clear, coherent, readable manner that impressively mimics that of a human content developer. It also significantly lifts the manual workload of research by allowing the user to submit queries directly within the app and generating results within a matter of moments.
The key with ChatGPT here is readability. The AI-fueled process excels at distilling complex information in a way that is easy to understand. But ChatGPT’s prowess is far more impressive than just this use case. It can also assist with other tasks such as brainstorming from scratch, drafting business strategies, and generating ideas on everything from the topic of your next blog to what you should get your parents for their 10th anniversary.
The intelligence behind the scenes: Machine Learning
There’s a reason why ChatGPT has been so successful. The program leverages machine learning (ML) – an approach which enables machines to “learn” to develop problem-solving models by identifying patterns within data versus being told explicitly what to do via coding. It does this with the help of Transfer Learning (TL).
Transfer Learning is a Machine Learning method formulated as a research problem which “focuses on storing knowledge gained while solving one problem and applying it to a different but related problem”.
Think of this as similar to the process of progressing through math curriculum. You are confronted with basic problems as early as elementary school. You learn things like addition and subtraction. This knowledge serves as a foundation to your studies on multiplication and division, and then you use this collective knowledge to continue to improve and solve more complex problems in focuses such as algebra, geometry, and calculus.
The great thing about ML is that it can improve at an exponential rate. When the algorithms identify a pattern, that knowledge is applied back to the model which enables it to provide more accurate outputs. So, the more patterns you feed it, the more fuel it has to tackle and more complex patterns and so on and so forth.
Public reception for ChatGPT and its parent company has been mixed, to say the least. Generally speaking, one of the biggest concerns since its rollout has been over students getting their hands on the program and using it to compose essays and complete class work.
Is it simply an effective research tool, or do the ramifications it will have with regards to plagiarism outweigh its benefits?
This is the big debate around academic circles. However, many are also quick to point out that the end product is hard to mistake for a thoughtful human generated alternative without some significant fact checking and finessing. Nevertheless, OpenAI is currently exploring safeguards to assuage plagiarism concerns by leveraging tactics such as digital watermarks on content outputs.
While many reputable outlets such as The Atlantic and Harvard Business Review have hailed ChatGPT as a “breakthrough” technology and a “tipping point for AI”, others echo the sentiments of concerned thought leaders surrounding the ethics of artificial intelligence in general.
Yes, AI may be an amazing tool to leverage for research, content generation, and those cute little AI images of yourself you like sharing on Facebook, but how do we ensure an ethical code and truly maintain control when the public inevitably finds use cases in areas such as “social welfare intake systems, biometric sorting, and predictive policing and border control”?
OpenAI itself also came under fire recently for outsourcing its data labeling efforts to classify harmful content to Kenyan workers who made less than $2.00 per hour. To add fuel to the fire over cries of exploitation, those more closely and directly involved have described the work as having been traumatic and mentally scarring in nature, with one previous employing saying the experience “was torture”.
And it’s not just ethicists and concerned scientists who are worried about the rise of OpenAI and ChatGPT.
Google was quick to declare a code red after the program’s release officially put their two decade long search business lead in jeopardy. It doesn’t help that the technology that underpins the program was in fact developed by the search giant’s own researchers.
In addition, the program is in direct competition with Google’s LaMDA powered Bard, which quickly progressed from a snail-paced rollout to a full on cheetah-like sprint post ChatGPT release. We can’t say that we don’t understand why. OpenAI’s partnership with Microsoft is also quite a substantial threat to both Google’s AI firm DeepMind and their search business when you consider a potential partnership with Bing.
Where will this rivalry take us? We’re not exactly sure. But we’ll be standing in the sidelines with our popcorn.
ChatGPT burst on the scene in November of 2022 and quickly made headlines when it accumulated a whopping 1 million users in under a week. Since then, the program has made quite a splash; receiving both positive and negative reception and a $10 billion multi-year investment offer from Microsoft. While we can’t tell you just where ChatGPT is headed, we’re certain that its parent company’s recent announcement that it plans on selling shares valuing it at $29 billion means this won’t be the last time you’re hearing their name.
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