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ChatGPT

What is ChatGPT?

ChatGPT is an artificial intelligence (AI) chatbot that uses natural language processing to create humanlike conversational dialogue. The language model can respond to questions and compose various written content, including articles, social media posts, essays, code and emails.

Uses of natural language processing.
These are some uses for natural language processing.

ChatGPT is a form of generative AI -- a tool that lets users enter prompts to receive humanlike images, text or videos that are created by AI.

ChatGPT is similar to the automated chat services found on customer service websites, as people can ask it questions or request clarification to ChatGPT's replies. The GPT stands for "Generative Pre-trained Transformer," which refers to how ChatGPT processes requests and formulates responses. ChatGPT is trained with reinforcement learning through human feedback and reward models that rank the best responses. This feedback helps augment ChatGPT with machine learning to improve future responses.

Who created ChatGPT?

OpenAI -- an artificial intelligence research company -- created ChatGPT and launched the tool in November 2022. It was founded by a group of entrepreneurs and researchers including Elon Musk and Sam Altman in 2015. OpenAI is backed by several investors, with Microsoft being the most notable. OpenAI also created Dall-E, an AI text-to-art generator.

How does ChatGPT work?

ChatGPT works through its Generative Pre-trained Transformer, which uses specialized algorithms to find patterns within data sequences. ChatGPT originally used the GPT-3 large language model, a neural network machine learning model and the third generation of Generative Pre-trained Transformer. The transformer pulls from a significant amount of data to formulate a response.

ChatGPT currently provides access to GPT-3.5 and limited access to the GPT-4o language model. ChatGPT Plus provides access to GPT-4 and GPT-4o. GPT-4 can handle more complex tasks compared to GPT-3.5, such as describing photos, generating captions for images and creating more detailed responses up to 25,000 words.

ChatGPT uses deep learning, a subset of machine learning, to produce humanlike text through transformer neural networks. The transformer predicts text -- including the next word, sentence or paragraph -- based on its training data's typical sequence.

Training begins with generic data, then moves to more tailored data for a specific task. ChatGPT was trained with online text to learn the human language, and then it used transcripts to learn the basics of conversations.

Human trainers provide conversations and rank the responses. These reward models help determine the best answers. To keep training the chatbot, users can upvote or downvote its response by clicking on thumbs-up or thumbs-down icons beside the answer. Users can also provide additional written feedback to improve and fine-tune future dialogue.

What kinds of questions can users ask ChatGPT?

Users can ask ChatGPT a variety of questions, including simple or more complex questions, such as, "What is the meaning of life?" or "What year did New York become a state?" ChatGPT is proficient with STEM disciplines and can debug or write code. There is no limitation to the types of questions to ask ChatGPT. However, the knowledge cutoff date is late 2023. 

How are people using ChatGPT?

ChatGPT is versatile and can be used for more than human conversations. People have used ChatGPT to do the following:

  • Code computer programs and check for bugs in code.
  • Compose music.
  • Draft emails.
  • Summarize articles, podcasts or presentations.
  • Script social media posts.
  • Create titles for articles.
  • Solve math problems.
  • Discover keywords for search engine optimization.
  • Create articles, blog posts and quizzes for websites.
  • Reword existing content for a different medium, such as a presentation transcript for a blog post.
  • Formulate product descriptions.
  • Play games.
  • Assist with job searches, including writing resumes and cover letters.
  • Ask trivia questions.
  • Describe complex topics more simply.
  • Write video scripts.
  • Research markets for products.
  • Generate art.

Unlike other chatbots, ChatGPT can remember various questions to continue the conversation in a more fluid manner.

Screenshot of ChatGPT responding to a question.
ChatGPT's response when asked to explain quantum computing to a 5-year-old.

What are the benefits of ChatGPT?

Businesses and users are still exploring the benefits of ChatGPT as the program continues to evolve. Some benefits include the following:

  • Efficiency. AI-powered chatbots can handle routine and repetitive tasks, which can free up employees to focus on more complex and strategic responsibilities.
  • Cost savings. Using AI chatbots can be more cost-effective than hiring and training additional employees.
  • Improved content quality. Writers can use ChatGPT to improve grammatical or contextual errors or to help brainstorm ideas for content. Employees can take ordinary text and ask to improve its language or add expressions.
  • Education and training. ChatGPT can help provide explanations on more complex topics to help serve as a virtual tutor. Users can also ask for guides and any needed clarification on responses.
  • Better response time. ChatGPT provides instant responses, which reduces wait times for users seeking assistance.
  • Increased availability. AI models are available around the clock to provide continuous support and assistance.
  • Multilingual support. ChatGPT can communicate in multiple languages or provide translations for businesses with global audiences.
  • Personalization. AI chatbots can tailor responses to the user's preferences and behaviors based on previous interactions.
  • Scalability. ChatGPT can handle many users simultaneously, which is beneficial for applications with high user engagement.
  • Natural language understanding. ChatGPT understands and generates humanlike text, so it is useful for tasks such as generating content, answering questions, engaging in conversations and providing explanations.
  • Digital accessibility. ChatGPT and other AI chatbots can assist individuals with disabilities by providing text-based interactions, which can be easier to navigate than other interfaces.

What are the limitations of ChatGPT? How accurate is it?

Some limitations of ChatGPT include the following:

  • It does not fully understand the complexity of human language. ChatGPT is trained to generate words based on input. Because of this, responses might seem shallow and lack true insight.
  • Responses can sound like a machine and unnatural. Since ChatGPT predicts the next word, it can overuse words such as the or and. Because of this, people still need to review and edit content to make it flow more naturally, like human writing.
  • It summarizes but does not cite sources. ChatGPT does not provide analysis or insight into any data or statistics, nor does it provide links to sources unless you specifically request them. ChatGPT might provide statistics but no real commentary on what these statistics mean or how they relate to the topic.
  • It cannot understand sarcasm and irony. ChatGPT is based on a data set of text.
  • It might focus on the wrong part of a question and not be able to shift. For example, if you ask ChatGPT, "Does a horse make a good pet based on its size?" and then ask it, "What about a cat?" ChatGPT might focus solely on the size of the animal versus giving information about having the animal as a pet. ChatGPT is not divergent and cannot shift its answer to cover multiple questions in a single response.
  • It shuns politics. Generally speaking, ChatGPT does not like to get involved in political debates or take sides, although it has been accused of favoritism for certain political viewpoints.

Learn more about the pros and cons of AI-generated content.

What are the ethical concerns associated with ChatGPT?

While ChatGPT can be helpful for some tasks, there are some ethical concerns that depend on how it is used, including bias, lack of privacy and security, and cheating in education and work.

Plagiarism and deceitful use

ChatGPT can be used unethically in ways such as cheating, impersonation or spreading misinformation due to its humanlike capabilities. Educators have brought up concerns about students using ChatGPT to cheat, plagiarize and write papers. CNET made the news when it used ChatGPT to create articles that were filled with errors.

To help prevent cheating and plagiarizing, OpenAI announced an AI text classifier to distinguish between human- and AI-generated text. However, after six months of availability, OpenAI pulled the tool due to a "low rate of accuracy."

There are online tools, such as Copyleaks or Writing.com, to classify how likely it is that text was written by a person versus being AI-generated. OpenAI plans to add a watermark to longer text pieces to help identify AI-generated content.

Because ChatGPT can write code, it also presents a problem for cybersecurity. Threat actors can use ChatGPT to help create malware. An update addressed the issue of creating malware by stopping the request, but threat actors might find ways around OpenAI's safety protocol.

ChatGPT can also be used to impersonate a person by training it to copy someone's writing and language style. The chatbot could then impersonate a trusted person to collect sensitive information or spread disinformation.

Bias in training data

One of the biggest ethical concerns with ChatGPT is its bias in training data. If the data the model pulls from has any bias, it is reflected in the model's output. ChatGPT also does not understand language that might be offensive or discriminatory. The data needs to be reviewed to avoid perpetuating bias, but including diverse and representative material can help control bias for accurate results.

Replacing jobs and human interaction

As technology advances, ChatGPT might automate certain tasks that are typically completed by humans, such as data entry and processing, customer service, and translation support. People are worried that it could replace their jobs, so it's important to consider ChatGPT and AI's effect on workers.

Rather than replacing workers, ChatGPT can be used as support for job functions and creating new job opportunities to avoid loss of employment. For example, lawyers can use ChatGPT to create summaries of case notes and draft contracts or agreements. And copywriters can use ChatGPT for article outlines and headline ideas.

Privacy issues

ChatGPT uses text based on input, so it could potentially reveal sensitive information. The model's output can also track and profile individuals by collecting information from a prompt and associating this information with the user's phone number and email. The information is then stored indefinitely.

In March 2023, Italy's data protection authority temporarily banned ChatGPT over concerns that the AI system violated privacy laws by collecting user data for commercial purposes without first obtaining proper consent. The ban was lifted a month later after OpenAI made changes to comply with EU data protection regulations.

How can you access ChatGPT?

To access ChatGPT, create an OpenAI account. Go to chat.openai.com and then select "Sign Up" and enter an email address, or use a Google or Microsoft account to log in.

After signing up, type a prompt or question in the message box on the ChatGPT homepage. Users can then do the following:

  • Enter a different prompt for a new query or ask for clarification.
  • Regenerate the response.
  • Share the response.
  • Like or dislike the response with the thumbs-up or thumbs-down option.
  • Copy the response.

What to do if ChatGPT is at capacity

Even though ChatGPT can handle numerous users at a time, it reaches maximum capacity occasionally when there is an overload. This usually happens during peak hours, such as early in the morning or in the evening, depending on the time zone.

If it is at capacity, try using it at different times or hit refresh on the browser. Another option is to upgrade to ChatGPT Plus, which is a subscription, but is typically always available, even during high-demand periods.

Is ChatGPT free?

ChatGPT is available for free through OpenAI's website. Users need to register for a free OpenAI account. There is also an option to upgrade to ChatGPT Plus for access to GPT-4, faster responses, no blackout windows and unlimited availability. ChatGPT Plus also gives priority access to new features for a subscription rate of $20 per month.

Without a subscription, there are limitations. The most notable limitation of the free version is access to ChatGPT when the program is at capacity. The Plus membership gives unlimited access to avoid capacity blackouts.

What are the alternatives to ChatGPT?

Because of ChatGPT's popularity, it is often unavailable due to capacity issues. Google announced Bard in response to ChatGPT in February 2023. One year later, Google renamed it Gemini. Google Gemini draws information directly from the internet through a Google search to provide the latest information. Google came under fire after Gemini provided inaccurate results on several occasions, such as rendering America’s founding fathers as Black men.

Microsoft has invested $10 billion in OpenAI, making it a primary benefactor of OpenAI. In return, GPT-4 functionality has been integrated into Bing, giving the internet search engine a chat mode for users. Microsoft does this through the use of its Copilot chatbot. Bing searches can also be rendered through Copilot, giving the user a more complete set of search results.

There are other text generator alternatives to ChatGPT, including the following:

  • AI-Writer.
  • Article Forge.
  • ChatSonic.
  • Copysmith.
  • DeepL Write.
  • Jasper.
  • Magic Write.
  • Open Assistant.
  • Peppertype.
  • Perplexity AI.
  • Spellbook.
  • Rytr.
  • YouChat.

Coding alternatives for ChatGPT include the following:

  • AlphaCode.
  • Amazon CodeWhisperer.
  • CodeStarter.
  • CodeWP.
  • Cody.
  • Enzyme.
  • Ghostwriter.
  • GitHub Copilot.
  • Mutable.ai.
  • OpenAI Codex.
  • Seek.
  • Tabnine.

Learn more about various AI content generators.

ChatGPT updates

In August 2023, OpenAI announced an enterprise version of ChatGPT. The enterprise version offers the higher-speed GPT-4 model with a longer context window, customization options and data analysis. This model of ChatGPT does not share data outside the organization.

In September 2023, OpenAI announced a new update that allows ChatGPT to speak and recognize images. Users can upload pictures of what they have in their refrigerator and ChatGPT will provide ideas for dinner. Users can engage to get step-by-step recipes with ingredients they already have. People can also use ChatGPT to ask questions about photos -- such as landmarks -- and engage in conversation to learn facts and history.

Users can also use voice to engage with ChatGPT and speak to it like other voice assistants. People can have conversations to request stories, ask trivia questions or request jokes among other options.

The voice update will be available on apps for both iOS and Android. Users will just need to opt-in to use it in their settings. Images will be available on all platforms -- including apps and ChatGPT’s website.

In November 2023, OpenAI announced the rollout of GPTs, which let users customize their own version of ChatGPT for a specific use case. For example, a user could create a GPT that only scripts social media posts, checks for bugs in code, or formulates product descriptions. The user can input instructions and knowledge files in the GPT builder to give the custom GPT context. OpenAI also announced the GPT store, which will let users share and monetize their custom bots.

In December 2023, OpenAI partnered with Axel Springer to train its AI models on news reporting. ChatGPT users will see summaries of news stories from Bild and Welt, Business Insider and Politico as part of this deal. This agreement gives ChatGPT more current information in its chatbot answers and gives users another way to access news stories. OpenAI also announced an agreement with the Associated Press to use the news reporting archive for chatbot responses.

In May 2024, OpenAI released the latest version of its large language model -- GPT-4o -- which it has integrated into ChatGPT. In addition to bringing search results up to date, this LLM is designed to foster more natural interactions. These include voice interactions, allowing users to speak to ChatGPT and receive spoken responses; multimodel input, so ChatGPT can process and generate images as well as words; and an overall improvement in the program’s ability to maintain context over lengthy conversations.

OpenAI claims GPT-4o is twice as fast and 50% less expensive than GPT-4 when accessed via their API.

GPT-4o is being rolled out gradually to free and paid ChatGPT users, with free users having lower usage limits. It is available in the ChatGPT website/app by selecting the "GPT-4o" model option if you have access to it.

This was last updated in June 2024

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