ChatGPT: The Next Great Leap Forward or Just a Fad?

By William J. Furney

Who, or what, better to ask about artificial intelligence (AI) than one of the hottest algorithms around — a piece of software that uses machine-learning to deliver answers and write unique and quality articles and even poems. 

It’s called ChatGPT (“GPT” relates to a specific language model) and it blasted into the news this week after a former Google executive predicted the newly launched service, which racked up a hefty million users in just five days, might spell the end of the omnipotent search engine.

“Google may be only a year or two away from total disruption. AI will eliminate the Search Engine Result Page, which is where they make most of their money,” said Paul Buchheit, creator of Gmail. 

“Even if they catch up on AI, they can’t fully deploy it without destroying the most valuable part of their business!” 

ChatGPT, currently available as a research preview and developed by the US firm OpenAI (whose founders include Elon Musk, although he’s no longer on the board), is described as a chatbot. But it’s nothing like those infuriating, automated boxes that pop up on websites and try to help but leave you tearing your hair out. It’s more like chatting with a real person, a smooth experience that makes you wonder if someone isn’t typing away on the other side. 

But does it pass the Turing test, in which a human wouldn’t realise that what’s being produced didn’t come from a computer? And will it herald the end of all sorts of human-written content, from university essays to newspaper articles and just about everything else, including coding, we’ve had to do ourselves?

You decide. The following 365 words were written in real time by ChatGPT when I asked it to write an article on how AI may overtake human-written pieces:

In recent years, there has been a growing interest in the potential for artificial intelligence (AI) to surpass human abilities in a variety of fields, including language generation. As AI technology continues to advance and improve, it is becoming increasingly capable of generating human-like text on a wide range of topics. This has raised questions and concerns about the potential for AI to eventually overtake human-written pieces in terms of quality, creativity, and other factors.

One of the key factors driving the development of AI language generation technology is the vast amount of data that is now available for training and refining these systems. With access to large amounts of text data, AI algorithms can learn to identify patterns and nuances in language, allowing them to generate more natural and human-like text. This has led to significant improvements in the ability of AI systems to generate coherent and convincing text on a wide range of topics.

Another factor that is driving the development of AI language generation technology is the increasing availability of computing power. With more powerful and efficient computers, AI algorithms can process and analyse large amounts of data more quickly and accurately, allowing them to generate higher-quality text. This has led to a rapid improvement in the ability of AI systems to generate text that is difficult or impossible for humans to distinguish from text written by other humans.

Despite these advances, there are still significant challenges and limitations to the ability of AI to generate text that surpasses human-written pieces. For example, AI systems may struggle to understand and incorporate context, meaning, and other factors that are crucial to creating high-quality text. Additionally, AI systems may lack the creativity and originality that is often associated with human-written pieces.

In conclusion, while AI technology has made significant progress in the ability to generate human-like text, there are still many challenges and limitations to overcome before AI systems can consistently produce text that surpasses human-written pieces in terms of quality and creativity. As AI technology continues to develop and improve, it is likely that we will see further advancements in the ability of AI to generate text that rivals or surpasses human-written pieces.

It’s me again, your all-too-human, fallible writer. 

You’d be hard-pressed to know if the above machine-generated content was written by a computer programme. Apart from the lack of contractions (“that is”), which makes it a bit formal, there’s none of the robotic language of other such services, Siri included. In this piece, the structure is sound, the cadence makes it flow and it’s written in user-friendly language that makes it easy to read. 

As for its potential to overtake Google, one big potential barrier — and an essential one too — is that ChatGPT only has access to language learning and not the internet and what people are searching for. I asked it why:

I also asked the algo to explain Einstein’s famous and groundbreaking equation e=mc2 in simple terms, and it did a stellar job:

E=mc2 is a famous equation in physics that relates energy (E) to mass (m) and the speed of light (c). The equation states that the energy (E) contained in an object with mass (m) is equal to the mass of the object multiplied by the speed of light squared (c2).

This equation is significant because it shows that energy and mass are interchangeable and that they are different forms of the same thing. The equation also suggests that a small amount of mass can be converted into a very large amount of energy, which is the basis for many important technologies, such as nuclear power.

In simple terms, the equation means that the amount of energy contained in an object is directly proportional to its mass, and that this energy can be released by converting some of the mass into other forms of energy. This relationship is a fundamental law of the universe, and it has been confirmed by numerous experiments and observations.

The fundamental difference here is that Google gives you web pages written by people while this little technological darling is writing the answers itself, right before your eyes and solely based on what it has learned in its language database, not content from the web. 

ChatGPT is being billed as the next great leap forward in technology, but whether it will have the creativity, comprehension and nuance of humans — and render writers and journalists redundant — remains to be seen, as it continues to learn our language. I’ll leave you with this poem I asked it to write, about the sea.

The sea is a vast and endless expanse,
A blue and green and grey expanse,
That stretches out to the horizon,
And beyond to the edge of the world.

The sea is a restless, churning force,
A wild and unpredictable force,
That crashes against the shore,
And crashes against the rocks.

The sea is a source of life and death,
A source of beauty and terror,
That teems with creatures great and small,
And teems with mysteries untold.

The sea is a place of magic and wonder,
A place of adventure and discovery,
That beckons with its siren song,
And beckons us to explore.

So let us sail out on the open sea,
And let us explore its depths and its heights,
And let us be awed by its beauty and power,
And let us be humbled by its vastness and might.

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