For me, ChatGPT is the first real revolution since the iPhone

This inevitably raises questions. Marketing in technology uses and abuses this “Wow” effect taught in beginner courses. Personally, I have frugal experience: three “Wows” in 30 years. I didn’t deal with virtual reality, connected objects, or the perpetually immature metaverse. But ChatGPT is one of the three. Because, as with the previous two, I very humbly believe this is a turning point.

My three wows

My first “Wow” was in July 1994 at CERN in Geneva with the inventors of the World Wide Web. I didn’t understand their HTML and HTTP explanations, but I discovered the web on their screens. And through them, the broadcast of images taken by the Hubble telescope of the impact of a comet on Jupiter. Surprise! Wow!

The second time was at Harvard in 2008. I was looking for the building where Micheline Calmy-Rey, a member of the Swiss Federal Council, would speak, and I got lost. Finally, I asked for directions. To show me the way, my interlocutor then pulled out a strange phone from his pocket and zoomed in on the map with his fingers. The first iPhone went on sale in the US in the summer of 2007. I bought an iPhone the following week.

So, the third time with ChatGPT and several other similar programs. The tipping point started this summer with Dall-E and MidJourney creating images from simple text. The former also works with OpenAI algorithms. The second one is powered by rival AI, Stable Diffusion, and has recently seen great success with Lensa, an app that turns your selfies into avatars.

The importance of simplicity

These apps highlight already noticeable advances in artificial intelligence, with DeepMind’s ability to predict the shape of proteins, edit computer code or write scripts (beating road champions in 2015). Impressive for experts, but not enough to pique the interest of the general public. On the contrary, ChatGPT quickly rose to the top of the most shared hashtags and screenshots on social networks.

There, the debate rages between the fervor of worshipers who predict the gradual replacement of all creative professions by algorithms, and the critics, often academics, who (rightly) point out the tool’s flaws and risks. For my part, I am reminded of Arthur C. Clarke’s famous quote: “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” That’s what I felt last week when I discovered the Internet, the smartphone, and therefore ChatGPT. Why this very personal impression?

It is user experience that advances technology and in the end, the quality of the interface between man and machine. The Internet, and even Internet browsers, existed for years before they allowed anyone to surf. It was the touch screen that made the Internet mobile, and the Logitech mouse and Mac icons that ushered in the era of personal computers before that. We find this ease of use at Steve Job with ChatGPT. There’s no manual, it’s intuitive. This probably makes it the first major AI.

“And you know how to lie?”

Note that this feeling does not say anything about the future of a specific product that brings the technology to maturity. Windows took over Macs and was able to dominate the market. The first Netscape browser was replaced by competitors. The idea of ​​accessing the Internet with a phone was in the air years before the iPhone. Chatbots have also been around for a long time, and some, such as Jasper, seemed to have matured a few months ago.

After the “wow” effect wears off, one is left to wonder about the problems this technology also poses. There are three advantages:

  • The ability of ChatGPT (and its graphics, music and video alter egos) to compete with human content production,

  • the ability to lie or deceive with confidence (by mistake or due to the malice of its users);

  • the origins of the data it uses and now collects to improve its models.

Do you think I am saying this because I am a journalist? On the first point, I share the opinion recently exposed in our columns by designer Etienne Mineur: the content generated by ChatGPT makes it above all an inspiration machine (or, at worst, a plagiarism machine).

More problematic is the program’s ability to miss errors in its responses, as well as eloquent lies. If you “like” debates about filter bubbles and fake news, get ready to see them multiply: we asked him to write an article about Donald Trump’s victory in the 2020 US presidential election, and he did so without hesitation, even “a landslide victory.”

a real revolution

The issue of data is a difficult one. Experts emphasize the opacity with which ChatGPT algorithms are trained. Lack of transparency is more damaging bias (racist, sexist, etc.) that AI continues to breed anyway OpenAI attempts censoring it manually. In use, ChatGPT looks very politically correct. But its filters can be bypassed. In addition, its business model relies on data filtering, which is justified by its designers to improve it and keep it free.

Will these issues stop the adoption of author assistants like ChatGPT? Will there be a “buzz” effect followed by a “breeze” effect to reduce interest? I don’t believe it. I feel this is a real revolution, for better or for worse. Of course, this is just my opinion. Because it’s not ChatGPT that wrote what you just read!

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