ChatGPT is an artificial intelligence (AI) large language model (LLM) released by OpenAI. ChatGPT can be seen as a computer that takes inputs in the form of text-based sentences or words and generates outputs in the form of coherent and contextually relevant language. The end result uses language appropriate to the subject/idea being explored or the output required – for example, a formal essay or haiku.
Effective prompts to generate text from ChatGPT involve using clear and concise language, providing sufficient context, including specific keywords, experimenting with different prompts and avoiding biased or sensitive language.
ChatGPT can be likened to a calculator, but for writing. Just as calculators can perform complex mathematical operations, ChatGPT can generate complex and realistic text.
However, just as calculators cannot replace the need for mathematical knowledge and understanding, ChatGPT cannot replace the importance of human creativity and critical thinking.
What is artificial intelligence (AI)?
AI is a blend of technologies that combines data, algorithms and computing power. ChatGPT is an example of this definition, as it is built using a combination of vast amounts of data, sophisticated algorithms and powerful computing resources.
Data is an essential component of AI as it serves as the foundation upon which algorithms and models are constructed. The large datasets used to train AI models provide insights and patterns that would be difficult or impossible for a human to detect. This data is processed through sophisticated algorithms that can generate new insights or predictions.
In the case of ChatGPT, the machine learning algorithms used are reinforcement learning and deep learning. Reinforcement learning is a way for ChatGPT to learn by trial and error, similar to how we learn when playing a video game. When ChatGPT gives a good answer or makes the right choice, it gets a reward, like points in a game. Over time it learns to choose the best answers and improve its conversation skills based on the rewards it receives. Deep learning helps ChatGPT understand language and recognize patterns in words and sentences. It uses something called artificial neural networks, which are inspired by how our brains work.
Computing power is also a key factor in AI, as the volume of data and complex algorithms employed in these models require significant computing resources to function effectively. Due to the computing power required and the cost associated with it, only large organisations and countries can currently develop models like ChatGPT. The knowledge to build them is publicly available through open-source code and publications, but not everybody has the data and computing power to build them.
ChatGPT in education
The use of AI technologies like ChatGPT in education has sparked a debate regarding whether it should be embraced or not. Potential negative consequences associated with the use of ChatGPT and with other AI technologies include cheating, plagiarism, exacerbation of existing inequalities and a reduction in the number of human teachers and educators.
While educators may seek to ban the use of AI LLM tools, enforcement could prove difficult given their widespread availability. Furthermore, as AI LLMs continue to evolve, it may become increasingly challenging to detect instances of cheating or plagiarism in students’ work.
Nature of science
With new LLM technology, it will be increasingly important for students to have an understanding of the nature of science. Being able to evaluate, critique and respond to data presented as ‘scientific evidence’ in media reports, on the internet and in advertising and now from LLM applications requires the need to become critical consumers of science.
Eventually, everyone with access to the internet will have access to LLMs, making it the role of education to ensure that students have the necessary skills and knowledge to use these tools responsibly and ethically. However, just as calculators are not used when children are first learning how to count and later calculate (through addition, subtraction, multiplication and division), LLMs should not be used when children are learning how to write, how to brainstorm ideas, research and gather information, develop a thesis statement, organise and structure their thoughts, write clear and coherent paragraphs and proofread and edit the final text.
While ChatGPT is a powerful language model capable of remembering and generating high-quality text, it is not well suited for higher levels of writing that involve analysis, evaluation and creation. Universities will need to continue focusing on providing critical thinking skills and not only providing mastery of knowledge.
Ethical and political issues
ChatGPT has received widespread attention, sparking a series of growing ethical concerns. Some concerns include:
- possible job losses, including the potential to automate high-paying jobs before automating low-paying jobs
- LLM models are going to be biased towards the data used to train the models – who decides the data used to build the models will decide the biases that will appear in the outputs of LLMs
- the development and storage of these models on the cloud often involves storing them on computers located in other countries, which poses challenges regarding data ownership and control – a communication outage or a geopolitical problem could create a significant issue.
Currently, LLMs are at an early stage, serving only as sophisticated calculators for writing text, not for thinking. Technological advancements are not inherently good or bad – that depends on their application. AI has the potential to be as revolutionary as fire, electricity or the internet with new jobs, endless new possibilities and potential for innovation. A new age – it’s here.
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OpenAI is the company behind ChatGPT. Its website states, “OpenAI is an AI research and deployment company. Our mission is to ensure that artificial general intelligence benefits all of humanity.”
- Do you think an organisation can claim to “benefit all of humanity”? Who decides what benefits humanity?
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This article was written by Professor Albert Bifet, Director of Te Ipu o te Mahara AI Institute at the University of Waikato. Professor Bifet combines factual information and some of his thinking around the AI large language model ChatGPT.