Opinion: Yes, I really wrote this column about ChatGPT


Thing is, what becomes obvious when you think about it is that the capacity to create artificial intelligence that operates with such creative power means that somebody could create a similar thing without the ethical constraints. — Image by DCStudio on Freepik

I want to encourage you to learn as much as you can about something called ChatGPT.

It is an artificial-intelligence service that's been launched in the last few weeks. It is not going too far to call it revolutionary.

I'm a newbie, too, so I can't sit here and pretend to be an expert. The best way I can describe it is sort of like Google that can actually create its own original content. For instance, I could ask ChatGPT to give me a business plan to successfully operate a newspaper in northeast Kansas. Or I could ask it to write a newspaper column about ChatGPT, in the style of Ernest Hemingway. The damndest thing is that it would do it – it would create an original piece of work. I could ask it to create a song about getting food from the Varsity Food Truck at 2am, made to sound like Van Halen. It could do it.

It's been set loose on the world by an outfit called OpenAI, which has created it with certain ethical restrictions. It won't tell you how to build a bomb, and it won't draw up a plan for world domination.

Thing is, what becomes obvious when you think about it is that the capacity to create artificial intelligence that operates with such creative power means that somebody could create a similar thing without the ethical constraints. Plus, you know good and well that the system is just going to get better, and improve upon itself. You don't have to watch 2001: A Space Odyssey to imagine that the machines could eventually develop enough intelligence to become self-aware.

Whatever I write about this subject, I feel I will sound ridiculously outdated in a matter of weeks, or maybe even days. It's like reading what somebody wrote about the Internet in, say, 1991.

Concerns seem small and short-sighted – such as the notion that high school and college students could quite easily use the system to create original-sounding essays, never having to learn to think critically on their own. Or trivial – like, does it matter whether a composer pieced together the notes from his own mind? Does it matter if an artist used a paintbrush, or does it count as art if it just sprang from a computer?

Or else they sound potentially overblown – like, will the machines simply take over for humanity?

Regardless, I'm pretty sure we're not prepared for this. The moment is at hand: Artificial intelligence is real, and it's available for you to use right now. It's available for Vladimir Putin to use, right now. It's available for your competitor in business to use, right now. As I write this, Nick Saban could be getting a game plan against the Wildcats from a computer's brain.

What does this mean? Where are we going? What limits should we – indeed, can we – establish?

I don't know. I don't think you know. What is entirely evident is that we need to start learning and thinking about it right now. – The Manhattan Mercury, Kan./Tribune News Service

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