What Makes ChatGPT Unique?
We're hearing a lot in the news about artificial intelligence (AI) applications, particularly the new kid on the block, ChatGPT. Let's take a look at what it is, how ChatGPT is unique, why it’s different this time, and the potential benefits in healthcare.
What is ChatGPT?
GPT stands for "Generative Pre-trained Transformer" and is a language model for predicting which words come after certain other words in specific contexts. More than simple prediction, the word "Transformer" in ChatGPT’s name gives it the ability to respond in new and creative ways. The "context" is also key here because it accumulates situational information during an extended conversation, allowing it to show a deeper understanding, and refers to that context in its responses.
Recent additions to GPT internet access lets ChatGPT access more real-time information, source references, and read and study all by itself. Now, it has "plugins" that let it act upon systems external to itself and leverage other AI systems in assembling a response to a query.
All this makes a non-technical literate query system that tracks the immediate conversation and can be told to respond or behave in a certain manner available to us for the first time in history. ChatGPT also has access to the accumulated pattern of online human knowledge to draw upon in its responses.
Why does ChatGPT’s artificial intelligence seem so different than past applications?
Exploration of artificial intelligence has been going on since the 1950s, weathering seasons of heady successes and disappointing setbacks. So why does it seem so different this time with ChatGPT?
The Power of Human-Natural Interaction
A user interface is the space where interactions between humans and machines occur. We have passed through several generations, each of which gave society new metaphors and words for thinking, interacting, and managing information.
- switches/lights – toggles, bit patterns, blinking
- textual – characters, lines, screens, keys
- graphical – icons, folders, mouse, drag/drop, copy/paste
- audio – Google Home, Amazon Alexa
- linguistic interface – What new metaphors will arise?
Systems like GPT bring us closer to a more human-natural interface than ever before. It requires less technical skill to use, now accepts image input to "show" it something to discuss, and it can be layered with high-quality speech-to-text/text-to-speech additions for use away from a keyboard and by members of society with vision/motor impairments or inability to use a keyboard/screen. It does this in many human languages, not just English.
The Power of Context
"Context" is a scratch pad of a focused conversation, so every question doesn't have to be an essay covering assumptions and resolving ambiguous wording.
Context eases our burden of interacting with systems, letting us simplify our operations by referring to prior interactions and pushing the burden of deciding ambiguous queries back onto those systems. To date, our systems have lacked much context support beyond a history of prior commands (in a command shell), tracking the "current directory," or providing "browser tabs."
Systems like GPT rely upon prior questions to build up a more correct picture of what you want and to understand what you're saying when you use short queries or references to earlier material.
Instead of using a "one question, one response, and now start over fresh" flow like a SQL database query or HTTP request/response, it gives us the ability to "explore" as humans do, narrowing or broadening the conversation, asking for clarification of concepts, and formatting answers into prose, lists, tables, or graphics.
Context is like a dial on a microscope or telescope that lets us adjust our cognitive focus.
The Power of Restatement
Have you ever wanted to ask your word processor to explain why it did something in a certain way? Or have you ever become frustrated when you couldn’t find a way to get the information you needed from a spreadsheet? Better yet, maybe a certain report’s conclusions surprised you and created even more questions that you needed answered immediately.
The ability to essentially go beyond just getting an answer from a system and instead converse with the system about the answer it just gave you is the power of restatement. It is essential for building trust of those systems.
Systems like ChatGPT are giving us meta-questioning abilities to ask things like, “Why this particular answer, how did you reach your conclusions, and what were your assumptions?”
Beyond explanation, restatement lets us ask for the answer in different presentation styles, tone, reading levels, or languages. It also allows us to ask for more detail in one unclear area or collapse detail by summarizing a complex answer.
The Power of Inclusion
People of All Knowledge Levels Have Access to ChatGPT
I believe the biggest reason AI is all the talk today is that society in general is getting open access to it, not just academics in special labs, and it looks like it's not going to be locked up in corporate-walled gardens but instead be available from multiple sources on various devices.
This sometimes-chaotic scene leads to rapid innovation with some risks to, and unknown impacts on, society but also a rapid rise in general understanding about AI and its strengths and weaknesses. Less “techy” folks are discussing ChatGPT around the water cooler, talking about the experiments they ran last night with it and other AI products—what worked and what disappointed them. These conversations are healthy for society in the rise of AI.
ChatGPT Offers Information + Action (Services)
Beyond just users, the rollout of open application programming interfaces (open APIs) or ways to connect systems to other systems, is enabling use of AI with other AI systems and non-AI information services in mind-dizzying combinations.
This mixing of AI with systems that actually do things takes it beyond just talking about things, therefore impacting society more.
ChatGPT Dissolves Language Barriers
From the beginning, ChatGPT, by virtue of being a linguistic system, has been inclusive of other human languages. This is accelerating its use by lowering the barrier to adoption in non-English cultures, letting everyone join in the AI revolution at the same time.
Now that you have a good understanding of how ChatGPT is unique, see our next post on potential benefits for ChatGPT in Healthcare.