TOPEKA (KSNT) — A new artificial intelligence (AI) program is taking the world by storm and prompting educators and business leaders to come to terms with how to incorporate this new technology in classrooms and corporate offices.

AI like ChatGPT, the creation of San Francisco-based startup company OpenAI, is rapidly becoming a more accessible and functional tool for people around the world. Within a few short months of the AI chatbot being revealed to the world, it began accumulating millions of new users.

But what is ChatGPT and how is it making waves? KSNT 27 News spoke with Kansas academics and industry professionals about what impact the AI is having on Kansas schools and businesses.

What is ChatGPT?

ChatGPT is part of a new generation of AI systems developed in connection with Microsoft that can accomplish tasks such as answer questions, converse, summarize articles, write code, write poetry, produce novel images and video and even write religious sermons based on what the system has learned from its database.

ChatGPT is running on GPT-4, the latest model released by OpenAI in March, which made improvements to the AI along with making it free to use.

“ChatGPT has really blown up in the past few months,” said John Symons, director of the Center for Cyber Social Dynamics at the University of Kansas (KU). “People have gotten to hear about it and it’s very exciting. It’s a really important technology. It’s in many ways groundbreaking.”

GPT-4 is marketed by its creators as “OpenAI’s most advanced system.” The system is being touted by OpenAI as being smart enough to pass a simulated bar exam with a score in the top 10% of test takers.

“It’s built on what’s called a large language model,” Symons said. “And a large language model is basically a formal means for determining the probability of a sequence of words in response to some prior sequence of words.”

In ChatGPT’s own words, it describes itself as such:

(AP Photo/Michael Dwyer, File)

“ChatGPT is a large language model developed by OpenAI, based on the GPT (Generative Pre-trained Transformer) architecture. It uses deep learning techniques to generate human-like responses to text-based prompts or questions.

The model was trained on a massive dataset of text from various sources, such as books, articles, and websites, which allows it to understand the nuances of human language and generate coherent, contextually relevant responses.

ChatGPT can be used for a variety of purposes, such as answering questions, generating text, translating languages, and even creating art. Its ability to generate human-like text has many potential applications, including in customer service, education, and entertainment.”

ChatGPT response

OpenAI also maintains other, similar programs such as DALL·E 2, Jukebox, MuseNet and Whisper. These are not the only AI programs available to the public though: Snapchat recently unveiled a chatbot for its users and Chinese search engine Baidu revealed its own chatbot called Ernie Bot. The sharp rise in chatbots available to the public is even causing concern for some parents determining how their children should interact with AI.

Tech companies and search engines that haven’t released AI chatbots have been making noise that they plan to do so soon. Tech mogul and Twitter owner Elon Musk has made claims he plans to create an alternative chatbot to ChatGPT in the form of “TruthGPT” while Google is testing the capabilities of its “Bard” chatbot.

How is it changing the job market?

ChatGPT stands to cause major changes in the workplace. Its potential for making people’s jobs easier and functioning as an additional tool could bring significant improvements for some.

A poll from The Hill states that nine in 10 companies want workers with ChatGPT experience. Some companies report that they are in urgent need of workers with ChatGPT experience and employees who can talk with chatbots. This has led to the rise of a new job title for someone who can function as a ChatGPT specialist: prompt engineer.

These chatbot whisperers feed select prompts into the chatbot in order to get accurate and relevant responses. Some of these positions are even going for up to $200,000.

“I have already heard of employers refining how they do searches for employees because they know that they’re going to get a cover letter that has potentially been generated or whatnot so they might look at other parts of the application,” said Computer Information sciences Professor Joseph Kendall-Morwick at Washburn University (WU). “So, it’s already having an impact on how we do business.”

ChatGPT is already proving to be useful for some job fields in Kansas such as the real estate market.

“Its been really useful especially, I’ve had several people mention that I’m not the only one that got past a case or writers block when you could put a few words in and they kind of keep you going,” said Melissa Herdman, broker associate at Kirkland Cobb Realtors.

Computer scientists are predicting that chatbots like ChatGPT could take over human tasks such as populating corporate correspondence and emails, drafting business plans, answering customer-service questions and writing code, according to The Hill.

“I think that it will definitely change how some jobs work,” Kendall-Morwick said. “For people who would do research, or assist with research looking through books or whatnot, Google changed that. There’s going to be changes from this for sure. I think because this tool can make people more productive, it will be important for people to understand how to use the tool.”

While using a program like ChatGPT is tempting, there will always be human elements that remain necessary to the job market in the eyes of some.

“Artificial technology, ChatGPT will never replace, in my opinion, the human aspect of relationships with others,” said Herdman.

How is it changing education?

With ChatGPT’s ability to summarize content, write essays and answer questions, its no wonder why it is causing angst among educators. If students can use a chatbot like ChatGPT to complete assignments and write essays, it poses a challenge to teachers trying to evaluate what their pupils have learned.

“If the machine can do that for them, then we have to either find new ways to assess those learning goals or we have to do it as that kind of assessment in a much more personal way,” said KU’s Symons.

(AP Photo/Richard Drew, File)

ChatGPT is already being blocked in some schools in the U.S. for its ability to create a persuasive term paper in less than a minute, according to a report from The Associated Press (AP). What really makes ChatGPT such a problem for educators now is that the latest version is free to anyone with an internet connection and is designed to be user-friendly. Each time it interacts with someone, it becomes more intelligent.

“There have been a lot of conversations here at Washburn about the potential for using it to displace what would have been an exercise for a student,” Kendall-Morwick said. “So, rather than writing a paper they could generate a paper and how will that change how we evaluate work or what we consider plagiarism or any of those kinds of things. So it’s definitely disruptive.”

Though ChatGPT can produce essays and generalize articles in a matter of seconds, it’s limitations prevent it from creating completely convincing work. In the words of ChatGPT:

School papers are typically expected to be original work produced by the student, and using AI-generated content without proper attribution or citation would be a violation of academic integrity. Additionally, while ChatGPT is capable of generating high-quality text, it may not be able to fully understand the nuances of the assignment or subject matter, and may produce responses that are irrelevant or inaccurate.

ChatGPT response

OpenAI has even gone so far as to release a tool to educators to help them detect the creations of ChatGPT to counter potential cheaters.

Kendall-Morwick likened the development of ChatGPT to the release of Google in that the chatbot AI is a tool that can streamline work for some individuals. Similar to how Google allows people to shorten the length of time they spend researching a topic through its search capabilities, so too does ChatGPT offer users the chance to make their work more efficient.

“I don’t think we’re quite at the point yet where we’re making policy, at least big policy changes around it, but we’re observing and looking at what kind of impact it’ll make,” Kendall-Morwick said. “Again, both in the positive and the negative, we’re not just thinking about what this means for plagiarism, we’re also thinking about what it means for pedagogy and education. If, for instance, you would need to be using a tool like this in the future, how do we prepare students to work with tools like this.”

Kendall-Morwick, of Washburn, said he believes every college campus in the country is having discussions on what the dawn of technology like ChatGPT could mean for education.

“Everyone is definitely interested and talking about this issue right now and ready for the changes that are coming… ready to assess how to adapt,” Kendall-Morwick said.

What are ChatGPT’s limitations?

While ChatGPT is sophisticated, it does have some impediments. In an article written prior to the release of GPT-4, OpenAI admits that the program is far from perfect.

GPT-3.5, the precursor to GPT-4, had several limitations such as giving users back incorrect or nonsensical answers, restating phrases multiple times, exhibiting biased behavior and responding to harmful instructions. It also would give different answers to questions asked multiple times or tweaked slightly.

OpenAI also lists limitations for GPT-4. They admit that despite the program’s capabilities, it is still not completely reliable for users. The chief issue with GPT-4 is that it can “hallucinate” facts and make reasoning errors. GPT-4 also has various biases in its outputs and lacks knowledge of events that have happened after September 2021 due to this being the date that its data is cut off.

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The Associated Press contributed to this article.