ChatGPT Unveiled: Navigating a Brave New World of AI Implications — Or Is It?

Happy old couple using digital technology

By Joyce Wayne

When you wake up one morning and realize the entire world is curious about ChatGPT, it’s time to explore this new technology that will change my profession and, most likely, yours. It feels like 1967 when Texas Instruments introduced the personal calculator. Back in high school, I struggled with math, attempting to concoct reasons to opt out of that subject, until this handheld, battery-driven device landed in my hands. While I never grew to appreciate mathematics, my little personal calculator became a reliable companion. If I recall, these devices faced a temporary ban in classrooms until everyone, including teachers, were using them, and educators gave up on trying to remove them from students’ hands. Though I’m old enough to still perform basic calculations with pencil and paper, younger generations have little incentive to do so when their smartphone do the work quickly and accurately? Over the years, even my sophomoric math skills have deteriorated. Why strain my brain when I can input a few numbers into my phone’s convenient calculator?

ChatGPT Use Cases

ChatGPT, the artificial intelligence bot that is reshaping the world, already has more than 100 million users. It’s free to use. Since OpenAI released ChatGPT-4 in March, we’ve been amazed by its early capabilities and alerted to how it could run amok, according to economist and Toronto Star columnist Armine Yalnizyan. “This technology harnesses a massive and growing amount of data — owned by a handful of corporate giants — and puts them to use in new ways, some of which are generative. That means creating brand-new things based on patterns found in existing data.” 

Essentially, I could ask ChatGPT to write an article about ChatGPT, or pretty well anything else, and the wealth of stored data in this all-knowing bot could produce a reasonable sample of writing. If I asked the bot to edit the article or provide feedback on the strengths and weaknesses about it, ChatGPT could do that as well. Open AI stores gargantuan amounts of information in its memory. When asked the appropriate questions, it probably knows more about any given subject than either you or I do.

ChatGPT Legal and Copyright Concerns

Another Toronto Star columnist, Heather Mallick writes, “Just like you, I have become less a human than a data source. My Google searches are mined for consumer preferences, my medical test results become part of the data jigsaw, I am surveilled by cameras as I walk around my city, and I am paid to write prose to which my employer owns the copyright. I shed content like hair and breath.” Mallick continues: “Alex Reisner, writing at The Atlantic magazine, has been tracking the AI revolution. He has found and named 183,000 books whose prose was used to train generative AI systems owned by Meta, Bloomberg, and others. No authors were paid.” In September, more than a dozen authors launched a lawsuit against Open AI, the company with the proprietary rights to the software. Among these accomplished, famous, bestselling authors include Stephen King, John Grisham, Jonathan Franzen, George R.R. Martin and Jodi Picoult.

Personal Experience with ChatGPT

Alas, the time had come for me to learn how to use this technology, so I asked my husband, who possesses more technological expertise than I do, to discover how to use ChatGPT and then kindly teach it to me. After spending less than two hours online, he emerged from his study equipped with the knowledge of how to use it. Now, all he has to do is to guide me through this challenging task.

His first interaction with ChatGPT involved copying one of my Retirement Matters blogs into artificial intelligence and asking it to provide comments on my writing. The critical analysis of the post was not only accurate, but helpful. I was writing about David Brooks in approximately 800 words, yet AI, armed with knowledge about David Brooks’ books and ideas, quickly highlighted what else I could have included in my post if I had endless space and a photographic memory.

I haven’t used artificial intelligence to write this post or any other, and I’m uncertain if I will ever use it to write anything. That said, the temptation to rely on ChatGPT will be there, not so much as a content creator, but as my perky helper, pointing out the flaws or outright errors in my writing. Its outstretched finger seems to wag in my face, reminding me of forgotten details or suggesting corrections. It’s not unlike my long-forgotten Texas Instrument handheld calculator or my smartphone, always at the ready to help me, perpetually available to gobble up more and more of my time. Yet it’s different. Different because ChatGPT knows more than I do, stores more information than any human brain could possibly could, and on top of that, operates faster than any human brain could. 

ChatGPT and the Future

ChatGPT and other iterations of this technology will not only change my world, but it will undoubtedly reshape fields like medicine and law. Why have a radiologist read an X-ray when the bot can do it more accurately? Why have a lawyer prepare a brief when artificial intelligence, with its extensive memory of legal precedent, could do a more efficient and all-encompassing job in minutes?

Recently, I read Sean Michael’s new novel, Do You Remember Being Born? It’s about a poet hired by a West Coast tech company to collaborate with an artificial intelligence bot on poetry. The story of that collaboration tells me more about the perils and the advantages of AI than anything else I’ve encountered. It’s a novel about the difference, however slim, between computer-generated ideas and the thoughts and feelings of a human being. It’s a novel about our lives in the 21st century and where we could end up if AI takes over. You could read this novel yourself or, of course, ask ChatGPT to summarize it for you. The choice is yours. 

joyce signiture

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