What’s all this about ChatGPT?


I briefly touched on ChatGPT in my column from Jan. 3, 2023. It’s been in the news a lot recently so I thought I’d revisit the topic with and discuss what it can and can’t do in a bit more detail.

You should know that ChatGPT is only one of a number of chat bots driven by Artificial Intelligence (AI). Another good example is you.com/chat. Note that ChatGPT is unable to access current information from the internet but many others like you.com/chat can and they might be better alternatives. But ChatGPT is what’s in the news so that’s what we’ll cover.

Before we get to the fun part and discuss what you can do with it, I want to give you an idea of what ChatGPT is. It may be a bit boring, but I think it’ll help us all understand what ChatGPT can and can’t do.

ChatGPT is based on OpenAI’s GPT-3 (essentially it’s software that is programmed to follow patterns in human language and respond appropriately). They are continuing to work on it (the “3” indicates that it’s the third generation of the technology). Each generation intends to improve on the system’s ability to understand and respond to conversational questions. This generation of the system was fed an enormous amount of information from various sources and the AI engine analyzed it, cross-referenced it, and stored it. When it is presented with a question or statement, the AI analyzes the statement and then goes about searching its storehouse for relevant data which it processes and presents back to the query in conversational form.

With that out of the way, the obvious question is what can we do with it? First, you need to create an account. Do that by going to chat.OpenAI.com (capitalization is unimportant. I used it to make the URL more understandable and, hopefully, more memorable) and clicking on the Sign Up button. You’ll be given the option of creating an account using an existing Microsoft account, an existing Google account, or creating an account using an email address that’s not associated with either of those companies. If you choose Microsoft or Google you will be asked to sign in to the appropriate account. If you elect to use the other method (i.e. email address) you’ll be asked to provide an email address you wish to use and password. Personally, I created an account with an anonymous email generated by DuckDuckGo.

Once the account is created you’ll be presented with a screen that contains a little help to get you started and a box at the bottom in which you type your request. Requests can be in the form of a question or not, it doesn’t really matter. What matters is what you ask. You can ask questions for which there is a definite answer like “Who won the 1968 World Series” or “What temperature is a medium rare steak?” and you will get a factual answer that is generally a bit more complete than what you would get from Alexa or Google. The real fun comes when you ask it questions or ask it to do things that have less definite answers like “write a haiku about snow.” This is what I got: Snowflakes dance down, blanketing the earth below, winter’s silent peace.

Or you could ask “how do I recover my Apple password?” and it will list the steps you need to take. But, and here’s the really cool thing, you can continue the conversation with something like “what else could I do?” and it will know you’re referencing the previous question and give you other options. You can ask it to generate a bedtime story for a child of any age using any subject as a base and refine it. It can generate a song of pretty much any length, in any key, and you can modify it conversationally. You can ask for cooking recipes and modify them based on tastes or allergies. I’ve even had it generate programming code for me.

Here’s a short conversation I had with it:

(Me) — What are the best tires for a Toyota Prius?

(ChatGPT) — The best tires for a Toyota Prius depend on the individual driving needs and preferences, including driving style, climate and road conditions. However, some tire options that are often recommended for the Toyota Prius include:

1. Michelin Energy Saver A/S: A high-mileage tire that provides fuel efficiency, comfort and a quiet ride.

2. Goodyear Assurance Fuel Max: An eco-friendly tire that offers low rolling resistance and improves fuel efficiency.

3. Continental EcoContact 6: A tire that provides reliable handling and stability, with a focus on sustainability and fuel efficiency.

4. Bridgestone Potenza RE-71R: A performance tire designed for high-speed handling and grip, suitable for drivers who want a sportier ride.

Note that it is important to consult your Toyota’s owner’s manual or a tire specialist to ensure the tire size and type you select are appropriate for your vehicle.

(Me) — Which would you recommend?

(ChatGPT) — As a language model AI, I don’t have personal opinions. However, based on the information available, the Michelin Energy Saver A/S and the Goodyear Assurance Fuel Max are two popular options that are often recommended for the Toyota Prius due to their combination of fuel efficiency, comfort and reliability. The Continental EcoContact 6 is also a good choice for those who prioritize sustainability and eco-friendliness. Ultimately, the best tire for a Toyota Prius will depend on factors such as driving conditions, personal driving style and individual priorities. It is recommended to consult a tire specialist or the Toyota owner’s manual for a more personalized recommendation.

That’s it for this installment. I hope you’ll give ChatGPT or one of the alternatives a try. As always, my intent with these columns is to spark your curiosity, give you enough information to get started, and arm you with the necessary keywords (or buzzwords) so you’ll understand the basics and are equipped to search for more detailed information.

Please feel free to email me with questions, comments, suggestions, requests for future columns, whatever at [email protected] or just drop me a quick note and say hi! And don’t forget that I maintain links to the original columns with live, clickable links to all the references at https://go.ttot.link/TGColumns+Links or https://go.ttot.link/TGC+L – it should be updated shortly after this column appears online.

Tony Sumrall, a Hillsboro native whose parents ran the former Highland Lanes bowling alley, is a maker with both leadership and technical skills. He’s been in the computing arena since his graduation from Miami University with a bachelor’s degree in systems analysis, working for and with companies ranging in size from five to hundreds of thousands of employees. He holds five patents and lives and thrives in Silicon Valley which feeds his love for all things tech.

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