What can ChatGPT do?

Writing e-mails, applications and essays about Goethe - the chatbot ChatGPT does all this.

The company behind it could soon become one of the most valuable start-ups in the world. But there is also a lot of criticism.

In science fiction movies, artificial intelligence that can have normal conversations with humans is no longer a breakthrough invention. It’s part of everyday life. But experts assume that this scenario is still some time away.

Since the end of November 2022, however, users of the chatbot ChatGPT have been able to have an experience that at least goes in this direction: the computer program can answer questions on a variety of topics, such as how far the sun is from Jupiter or why Johann Wolfgang von Goethe is one of the most important German-language poets. On request, the dialogue system even formulates its texts in a more humorous way:

“Goethe was a great German poet and a real Renaissance genius. He wrote Faust, a drama about a man who sells his soul to the devil for knowledge and power. (…) He also had a career as a civil servant, but who would like that?”

The chatbot ChatGPT can translate texts, write screenplays, applications, emails, entire essays or computer codes. The abbreviation “GPT” stands for “Generative Pre-training Transformer”, because the chatbot learned human-like communication through countless forays through the Internet and reading numerous texts.

Elon Musk and Peter Thiel as financiers

The AI research laboratory OpenAI from California is behind the development of the chatbot. Its foundation was financed in 2015 by prominent investors from Silicon Valley, such as Tesla boss Elon Musk, tech investor Peter Thiel and LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman. Sam Altman, who now runs the company, was also one of the investors who gave the company a billion dollars to start the project.

OpenAI was founded with the aim of advancing digital intelligence. Another idea was to have a leading research facility once human-scale artificial intelligence came within reach.

Originally intended as a non-profit organization, OpenAI gave up this status four years later – in order to get better access to capital. Some accuse the company of throwing its ideals overboard.

OpenAI has moved away from the original goal of creating value for everyone and not for shareholders. Only a short time after the end of the non-profit, Microsoft paid one billion dollars to the company in 2020 for the exclusive licensing of the OpenAI technology. In the partnership for technical possibilities, “most of which we can’t even imagine,” Microsoft wrote at the time.

Potential billion-dollar deal with Microsoft

Now Microsoft could expand this partnership even further with a billion-dollar deal. This was recently reported by the US news portal “Semafor”. A possible involvement of Microsoft worth ten billion dollars is therefore under discussion. This would increase the AI company’s valuation to a whopping $29 billion, making OpenAI one of the most valuable startups in the world. According to Semafor, the group should receive 75 percent of all profits from OpenAI until the initial investment is recovered from Microsoft. According to this, Microsoft could own almost half of the company with 49 percent.

Currently, OpenAI’s business costs a lot of money. Co-founder and OpenAI boss Sam Altman wrote on Twitter that the company pays a few cents for the computing power every time the chatbot is used. The company is said to have spoken to investors about expected income of $200 million for 2023, and according to the Reuters news agency it is even expecting income of $1 billion in the coming year. However, it is unclear to what extent this covers the costs.

Soon part of the search engine?

According to the technology portal “The Information”, Microsoft is said to be working on a new version of the “Bing” search engine. Apparently, the idea is that it should use ChatGPT’s technology to compete with the Google search engine. In any case, Microsoft could use the cooperation to penetrate the field of artificial intelligence, which is also being pursued by Google’s parent company Alphabet. The tech giant is also said to be thinking about integrating OpenAI functions into programs such as Outlook or Word.

Elon Musk withdrew from the company in 2018 to avoid possible conflicts of interest with the electric car manufacturer Tesla he manages, which also deals with artificial intelligence. Since then, Musk has repeatedly criticized OpenAI, for example about the lack of transparency or the end of non-profit status.

New York schools block website

There is also criticism of the chatbot, which is currently only a test version, from other quarters. Just a week after the release of ChatGPT, a million users had already tried the platform, including numerous schoolchildren and students, who had gotten the word that the chatbot writes essays and term papers in seconds. There has already been a reaction to this in New York. There, access to the website at public schools is now blocked. And other schools and universities around the world are also discussing how to use the chatbot.

Allegations that ChatGPT simply invents things that write untruths or contribute to the massive spread of false information weigh particularly heavily. If you ask the chatbot himself if he can answer every question, he says no.

“As a language model, I have been trained to respond to a large amount of text on the Internet and to generate possible answers, however I do not have the ability to answer every question as I do not have all the information. I will do my best to to answer your questions, but there are certain instances where I don’t have an answer or can’t be sure of the answer.”

Ultimately, the chatbot is only as reliable as the data it is fed with. So the program is up to date with the dates of 2021. In an earlier version, GPT-2, the chatbot was so good at composing fake messages that OpenAI decided not to publish them.

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