Those old enough to remember the 1968 movie, 2001: A Space Odyssey, will remember HAL 9000, as the spaceship’s artificially intelligent computer, who, with a mind of his own, turns against the crew when they believe his calculations are wrong, regarding their journey to Jupiter. The name HAL came from Heuristically programmed ALgorithmic computer. Heuristic is a technique designed for solving problems more quickly than humans typically can. As I recall, HAL spoke in a very soft, calming, conversational manner, but ends up killing one of the astronauts who was trying to disconnect it. It was pointed out at the time that the letters HAL are just one letter off the computer giant of the day, IBM.
Enter ChatGPT. For those unfamiliar with ChatGPT, here’s a quick tutorial. First, it is a ‘chatbot’ (a software application used to conduct online conversations via text or text-to-speech in lieu of providing direct contact with live humans), developed by Open AI and Introduced at the end of last year. ChatGPT (which stands for Chat, well, you know what chatting is, the GPT stands for Generative Pre-trained Transformer) is taking the Artificial Intelligence world by storm with its ability to do a multitude of things.
The core function of a chatbot is to mimic a human conversationalist; for example, ChatGPT can write and debug computer programs, compose music, teleplays or fairy tales, and write poetry and song lyrics. Conveniently, it can, for a college student, answer test questions and write essays – yes, write essays!!
Just last week, I had the opportunity to see ChatGPT in action. A friend of mine asked ChatGPT to write a Shakespearean sonnet for his wife on Valentine’s Day – it took about a minute and, Voila!! The sonnet sounded like the Bard himself had just penned a special 14-line poem to his wife. I was amazed!! I learned that it could remember things you have said to it in the past and is capable of correcting itself when wrong.
As I dug deeper into the applications of ChatGPT, I found just the type of thing someone like me might ask of ChatGPT. Here’s the example I found:
“Write a biblical verse in the style of the King James bible explaining how to remove a peanut butter sandwich from a VCR.”
“And the Lord spoke unto him, saying, “Fear not, my child, for I shall guide thy hand and show thee the way. Take thy butter knife, and carefully insert it between the sandwich and the VCR, and gently pry them apart. And with patience and perseverance, the sandwich shall be removed, and they VCR shall be saved”
And the man did as the Lord commanded, and lo and behold, the sandwich was removed from the VCR, and the man was saved.
And the Lord said, “Verily I say unto thee, seek not to put thy peanut butter sandwich in thy VCR, for it is not a suitable place for such things. Rather, keep thy sandwiches in they refrigerator or on thy plate, where they belongeth.”
So, you see how an everyday problem like this, that I’m sure you’ve encountered, can be solved with the help of ChatGPT! If you’re wondering if students now don’t have to write essays, or anything for that matter, I’ve been told that there is a way to detect whether something is written by a human or by ChatGPT. But I’m sure it won’t take long before they figure out how to ‘fix’ that.
But, it’s not all sunshine and lollypops. Like most computers, it goes wacky once in a while. ChatGPT often fails at basic math, it sometimes can’t answer a simple logic question, and it can mix fact and fiction (Sounds very human!). It can also give incorrect, and often damaging, medical advice. And, because it is programed by humans and humans can be biased, ChatGPT can put forth biased information.
You’ve probably guessed the answer to the question in the headline; neither ChapGPT nor Suzanne, could have written something so banal.
HAL, by any other name, is here, amazing . . . and dangerous!