ChatGPT For Dummies
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ChatGPT is a global phenomenon that sparks fear and excitement worldwide. Because it sounds human but is made of advanced AI software connected to an internet-sized database, people assume that it's better — or worse — than humans.

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Reactions run the gamut. Maybe this AI is the first machine overlord of sci-fi lore. Maybe it will save mankind. Perhaps it will take all our jobs and eliminate our purpose for living. Maybe it will make everything cheap and banish inflation.

But ChatGPT is only a mindless tool. It's as good or as bad as its users’ prompts — notwithstanding a scary or offensive machine rant or hallucination or two.

What ChatGPT is, and isn't

To give ChatGPT’s seemingly sudden appearance in the world some much needed perspective, think back to past cycles when a new technology was assumed to be the end of a previous one. The advent of radio was going to eradicate newspapers. TV was thought to be a radio slayer. And the internet was supposed to be the TV killer. But that’s not what happened. Although these forms of communication have changed over the years, they all co-exist.

ChatGPT is yet another communication medium. It generates narratives in a conversational format. But just like the communication media that came earlier — newspaper, radio, TV and the internet — ChatGPT isn’t going to replace much that came before. It certainly isn’t going to replace search engines. Each serves a distinct purpose the other can't recreate — although at some point, the two technologies might converge.

ChatGPT isn’t going to replace people in their jobs, either. Rather, it will eliminate some jobs and create others. This is a cycle you’ve seen more than once. For example, both the invention of the assembly line and modern-day automation replaced some workers but also created jobs. ChatGPT will eventually spark a similar job cycle.

ChatGPT is a powerful tool that can assist humans in doing many different kinds of work. And when its use is coupled with something capable of a physical manifestation, such as 3D printers or automated physical infrastructure , the effect in the real world can be astonishing. Workers who become adept at using it to increase their own productivity and creativity will be best positioned to advance in their existing careers or move to new ones.

The good & bad in ChatGPT

If what I’ve written so far seems reassuring, you're mistaken. ChatGPT is an existential technology, a hard pivot in human experience, a doorway to a far different kind of future. It's the harbinger of the AI Age and a pronounced mark of the arrival of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. If that terrifies you, you're still mistaken.

Mankind, not software, is equal parts scary and saintly. AI in its current forms mostly mirrors that duality. ChatGPT certainly does.

The most threatening aspect of ChatGPT is its capability to rapidly create and spread harmful disinformation in every aspect of human life, from politics to health care and everything in-between. It can lie, hallucinate, misinform, and make stuff up. How human of it.

The most endearing aspect is its capability to help people create things that do not yet exist. ChatGPT can help authors and scriptwriters create stories, filmmakers make incredible special effects and new films on the tiniest of budgets, performance artists to consider new routines, musicians to create new scores, architects to design new kinds of buildings, and photographers to capture realistic images of decidedly unreal subjects.

No aspect of human creativity is beyond the scope of ChatGPT’s enhancement and collaborative capabilities.

Will ChatGPT replace jobs?

Can ChatGPT be used to outright replace the work of creative people? Yes, it can. Note that publishers’ inboxes and self-publishing platforms are already filled to the brim with ChatGPT-generated books. But also note that most of them are truly awful reads.

The people who jumped to create works using only ChatGPT were driven by greed, not by any desire to create true art. It takes a true artist to shape a prompt for ChatGPT that will render a magnificently original creative work.

The lack of quality coupled with recent events in the U.S. that deny copyright protection of such works — while enforcing copyright protections for any plagiarism ChatGPT and its ilk use in the creation of such works — will soon rob the greedy of their dreams of easy wealth.

And like the content farms of yesteryear that tried to game search engines by producing godawful reads full of keywords, those using ChatGPT to create fast content for cash will soon fall into obscurity.

But do remember that the fatal fall for content farms came from human hands, in spite of the intense efforts at search engine optimization (SEO). Specifically, owners of search engines didn’t want to render lists of trash results to users, so they drove the work of content farms to the far outer corners of the search universe. Mainstream media, seemingly on its last leg and hemorrhaging badly, began to rebound almost immediately.

We’ll likely see that pattern again with ChatGPT content. Human artists and experts will continue to thrive, with ChatGPT taking a permanent place as an important tool in their toolbox.

The same will likely hold true for most knowledge workers. Using ChatGPT in place of or without the direct supervision of workers who possess the necessary knowledge will prove to be a horrendous and expensive mistake. Such careless reliance on ChatGPT alone will also open companies to a slew of liabilities while producing little in the way of efficiencies or revenue.

Sampling the disruptions ahead

That said, it’s time to look at the ways ChatGPT and its generative AI ilk are likely to further disrupt our world:
  • Public trust will be further eroded. Generative AI can produce fake voice tracts that are identical to the original voice, provide tons of disinformation on nearly every subject, and manipulate human behavior through carefully formed narratives. It will be much harder for citizens in any country to discern reality from deception and truth from untruth.

    Even the results of fact-checking will be suspicious given that generative AI can mimic trustworthy sources. Security teams will be pushed to the limit to keep pace. Fortunately, AI models can be trained to help spot and stop these threats. Unfortunately, it’ll take much longer to rebuild public trust.

  • The rise of superapps will begin. Until this point, apps were embedded with AI to make them faster and better at performing tasks requiring immense amounts of information. But ChatGPT can be considered a superapp in that it can do tasks that formerly required several separate apps, and it can do so by automatically selecting plug-ins to augment its own performance as needed.
  • ChatGPT integrations will eventually be replaced with connected AI. ChatGPT is being integrated with search engines, apps, and other technologies that may or may not have other AI embedded or integrated. Soon, various forms of AI will be connected directly rather than indirectly through app integrations. Some think this is the path to the infamous singularity, while others see it as little different than integrating multiple apps.
  • Smart automation will become more intelligent and versatile. Smart homes, smart phones, smart TVs, smart things of all kinds will become more helpful as virtual assistants like Siri and Alexa become supercharged with generative AI capable of understanding and even anticipating user needs.
  • Knowledge work will be augmented. Workers will spend less time handling mundane functions in knowledge work and more time focused on creating more knowledge. For example, data analysts can use ChatGPT to do the needed analysis as well as write final reports. This will free data analysts to look deeper into the data for more refined insights and to unearth knowledge that may have been missed earlier.

    Likewise, lawyers can use ChatGPT to write legal briefs, contracts, and other legal documents. The signers can use ChatGPT to condense all the legal forms into an easy-to-understand summary. Opposing attorneys can do likewise, and thus free their time to develop a strategy to counter any challenges or sticking points that ChatGPT uncovers in evidence or legal agreements.

  • Marketers and advertisers will produce more content in a continuous delivery cycle. Because companies seek to stay ahead of emerging trends and be the first-to-market on new ideas, marketers and advertisers will use ChatGPT and its siblings to produce content and ads extremely fast to sell in the moment. As the product changes with the moment, so too will the ads.
  • Education will be disrupted. Long teetering on obsolescence, education as we know it will be disrupted by ChatGPT and generative AI of all forms. The nine-month education model designed to let farmer’s children out of school for planting and harvesting is no longer needed or useful. Neither is the mass conveyor-belt-like grade system or formalized testing.

    ChatGPT will enable educators to move to more customized learning models wherein students progress according to their competency with the subject rather than their age, school grade, or time spent on the subject matter. How can it do that? By enabling educators to analyze each student’s data and create a customized learning plan for each student. Homework, tests, and other measures of subject competence can also be assessed and reported by generative AI.

  • Media will use ChatGPT to break news faster. ChatGPT can't do investigative reporting. That task requires human reporters to find hidden information and conduct interviews. However, ChatGPT can help fill in the background info for color and context and get the final piece to audiences faster. Journalists will be valued more for their ability to dig up or create additional insights rather than for simply reporting existing and often easily found facts.
  • Customer service will become far more personalized and instantaneous. ChatGPT can discuss issues with customers, offer solutions, give instructions in product support, facilitate returns that fit the customer’s circumstances, and resolve issues faster and with less friction than typical customer service processes. For example, rather than a shopper searching a company's website for a given product, ChatGPT can become a personal shopper and deliver product selections that fit the taste, size, and style preferences of each individual shopper.
  • Health care will improve. ChatGPT can provide doctors with information from the latest research and recommendations based on the probability of success for a specific patient. ChatGPT can act as a physician’s assistant in other ways too. In addition, ChatGPT can save lives by providing information for laypeople to help them prevent health issues, deliver emergency treatment, and accurately assess whether a doctor’s attention is warranted.
ChatGPT and generative AI will change our daily lives and the future human experience in many more ways than this already long list, though not all of them can be foreseen.

About This Article

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Pam Baker is a freelance journalist who is focused on emerging tech topics like artificial intelligence, data analytics, and edge computing. She is the author of Decision Intelligence For Dummies.

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