A new piece of artificial Intelligence (AI) software launched to the public in November 2022. ChatGPT is a chatbot, a piece of software with which you have a conversation. It has been developed by OpenAI, a research laboratory based in San Francisco which has the backing of some large names in Silicon Valley, including Microsoft and Elon Musk.
The first chatbots were created in the 1960s and one of the best-known early examples was named ELIZA. Written to mimic a psychotherapist, you can still experience how ELIZA works today. The technology has moved on a long way since then. Alexa and Siri, for example, are chatbots. Many of the pop-up help services we find on websites are also chatbots.
What actually is artificial intelligence?
AI is a phrase often used and often misunderstood. What does it actually mean? According to the Encyclopaedia Britannica, “Artificial intelligence is the ability of a computer or a robot controlled by a computer to do tasks that are usually done by humans because they require human intelligence and discernment”.
A typical example involves the computer taking an input (say an image of a face), evaluating it against a database of information (the ‘knowledge’ with which it has been ‘trained’) and creating an output (the identity of the person whose face it thinks it is).
Other practical examples of computers mapping inputs against stored databases of knowledge are speech recognition and translation between (natural) languages. Weather forecasting, medical diagnosis and self-driving vehicles are some of the fields in which businesses and researchers are applying AI.
As with all technologies, there are downsides to AI. Although the trouble Alexa can have in understanding a scouse accent is an amusing anecdote for most people, it can be a real headache for those affected. We hope to dig into the downsides in more depth in a separate article.
What is special about ChatGPT?
Created as an academic discipline back in 1956, AI has gone through various cycles of optimism about the possible benefits of the technology, followed by disappointment when it fails to deliver. In the past five to six years, advances in hardware and software have finally meant that society can begin to achieve real benefits. Many commentators are saying ChatGPT could be a breakthrough moment in the maturity of AI, and natural language processing in particular.
A striking feature of ChatGPT is the quality of the language it creates. Although few would claim that it is yet advanced enough to render authors and journalists redundant, enthusiasts and critics alike have already concluded that it could deliver a working draft for someone with the necessary skills to polish and craft into their final piece.
It has raised concerns in academic circles about the potential for students to feed an essay question into the tool and submit its answer under their own name. This could have profound effects on teaching at both secondary school and university level. Elements of both coursework and exams may require a different approach to neutralise the power of the new tool.
Having already gone through extensive internal development, the current version of ChatGPT is a ‘research preview’ free for us to use, and more than a million people worldwide have already taken the opportunity to give it a go. Allowing users a chance to explore the possibilities of this new technology for free, the developer benefits from a lot of extra testing and ‘training’ of their tool. A feature of AI is that more training and more data give improved results.
ChatGPT in action
You can go to the ChatGPT web site, set up an account and try it out for yourself. If you don’t want to do that, I’ve put it through its paces, asking a question on which all of us have an opinion. We showed the reply to an experienced teacher, who rated it as the expected standard of an 11-year-old in the final year at primary school. The following text is unchanged apart from a tiny bit of normal editing to tidy it up.
‘Tell me what is so good about the North West of England’
The North West of England is a beautiful and diverse region that has a lot to offer for those looking for a place to live or visit. Here are a number of things that make the North West such a great place.
The North West is home to some of the most vibrant and exciting cities in the country, including Manchester, Liverpool, and Chester. Each of these cities has its own unique character and culture, with a range of attractions, restaurants, and nightlife to enjoy.
Despite being home to some of the biggest cities in the country, the North West also has some of the most beautiful countryside in the UK. From the rolling hills and lakes of the Lake District to the rugged moors of the Peak District, there’s something for everyone to enjoy.
The North West has a rich and varied history that can be explored through its many historic sites and landmarks. From the ancient Roman ruins of Chester to the Industrial Revolution-era mills of Manchester, there’s a wealth of history waiting to be discovered.
The food and drink
The North West is known for its delicious food and drink, with a range of local produce available at farmers’ markets and restaurants throughout the region. From Cheshire Cheese and Lancashire Hotpot to Manchester’s famous curry mile, there’s something for everyone to enjoy.
The North West has a thriving cultural scene, with a range of museums, galleries, and theatres to visit. From the Tate Liverpool and the Manchester Art Gallery to the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic and the Manchester Opera House, there’s something for everyone to enjoy.
The North West is home to some of the biggest and best sports teams in the country, including Manchester United and Liverpool FC in football, and Sale Sharks and Wigan Warriors in rugby. Whether you’re a fan of watching live sports or participating yourself, the North West has plenty of opportunities to get involved.
The North West is home to some of the best nightlife in the country, with a range of bars, clubs, and live music venues to choose from. From the indie scene in Manchester to the vibrant clubbing scene in Liverpool, there’s something for everyone to enjoy.
Whether you’re looking for high-end fashion or independent boutiques, the North West has something to offer. Manchester, Liverpool, and Chester are all home to a range of shopping destinations, from traditional marketplaces to modern malls.
The North West is well-connected to the rest of the country, with good transport links by road, rail, and air. Manchester and Liverpool are both major airports, and the region is served by a number of motorways, making it easy to get around and explore.
The people of the North West are known for their friendly and welcoming nature. Whether you’re a newcomer to the area or a long-time resident, you’ll find that the people here are always willing to lend a helping hand and make you feel at home.
The North West is home to a number of top-ranked universities, including the University of Manchester and the University of Liverpool. These institutions are known for their world-class research and teaching, and offer a range of degree programs for students at all levels.
The North West is home to a number of top-quality healthcare facilities, including the Manchester Royal Infirmary and the Royal Liverpool University Hospital. These hospitals are known for their excellent care and treatment, and offer a range of specialized services for patients.
Overall, the North West of England is a great place to live or visit, with a range of cities and countryside to explore, a rich cultural heritage, delicious food and drink, and plenty of opportunities for work and leisure. Whether you’re looking to raise a family, start a career, or just enjoy all that this region has to offer, the North West is an excellent choice.
Where do we go from here?
Will ChatGPT have a similar impact as, say, the iPhone? Who knows. It is beyond doubt that the power of AI is increasingly available to each of us as individuals. We will marvel and we will despair at some of the things other people do with it. I wonder how I will end up using it. What do you think you will do?