ChatGPT: Everybody's dirty secret
In this post, we'll be specifically looking at my personal feelings and fears around the use of ChatGPT.
I purchased and used the Ultimate ChatGPt Bible myself, which really helped accelerate my learning of ChatGPT as a tool, and if you choose to purchase it too using one of these links, I'll get a small percentage.
So, just being honest and transparent upfront!
Table of contents
This is quite a long post, so you can use the following links to jump to relevant sections:
- What is ChatGPT?
- What is ChatGPT used for?
- The stigma of ChatGPT
- Why I use ChatGPT
- Why you should use ChatGPT
- How you can learn to use ChatGPT
- A few warnings when using ChatGPT
- Final thoughts
What is ChatGPT?
First, we probably should discuss what ChatGPT actually is.
If you've been under a rock, or if somehow you've just missed the hype, ChatGPT is what is known as a Large Language Model, or LLM. It's basically a giant cluster of algorithms and data, but, it has been specifically designed to understand and generate human-like text.
Basically, a research organisation called OpenAI, taught a computer to read and write, gave it access to a huge library full of books and articles, then somehow taught it to converse in a way that sounds human.
Although it can sound human, technically, it doesn't have the ability to feel or have opinions, but it does appear to.
You can ask it directly to give an opinion on something, and it will. Even if it caveats it with the fact it can't really have opinions.
You can also give it something written by a human, and then ask it to describe the emotional state of the writer. You can even ask it to re-write a block of text you've written to sound more emotional, and it will do a pretty convincing job.
There's something a bit weird about a human asking an AI to make their writing sound more… Err… Human, but thats the world we live in now!
What is ChatGPT used for?
Well, it can be used for pretty much anything. People are finding new ways to use ChatGPT every day.
Most uses for ChatGPT are creative, but humans being humans, there are also a lot of people trying to use it for nefarious tasks, which I'm not going to get into.
A few of the common things people use it for are:
- Generating content, blog posts, poems, scripts, emails and essays
- Generating ideas, book outlines, scripts and marketing strategies
- Answering questions, like Google, on steroids!
- Re-formatting, like making your writing sound more or less formal
- Debugging, like analysing code and figuring out why it's not working
The stigma of ChatGPT
I've debated writing this post a few times, and always put it off because of my own insecurities.
I guess that by writing it, I'm openly admitting I use ChatGPT, and I've wrestled with the conclusions that people will draw from that.
I suppose my fear is, people may think I just use AI to churn out content and that I have no thoughts of my own, which is definitely not the case.
Or, maybe I'm scared I'll lose the 'expert' badge people often give me on topics like Accessibility. Like, I'll be replaced, and people will just stop asking my 'expert opinion' on anything, because ChatGPT can answer the same questions in a fraction of the time.
I think it's why I'm seeing more and more people using ChatGPT, but also, being weirdly secretive about it. They're augmenting their own work, increasing their knowledge and productivity, but not really sharing how they suddenly appear to have stepped up a gear.
There appears to be a common fear that by admitting you use ChatGPT, your work no longer has value, that you somehow look less smart, or that you're now cheating when giving advice. But this couldn't be further from the truth, because ChatGPT is just a tool!
The information you get out of ChatGPT is only as good as what you put in. We need to think of ChatGPT, at least up to version 4, as nothing more than a slicker or more efficient way of downloading document templates, Googling answers, asking the StackOverflow community to debug our code, or asking a colleague to proof-read an important email.
These are things it is really good at, and they're shortcuts we've all been taking for years anyway!
Why I use ChatGPT
I could lie to you here. I could try to justify that I use ChatGPT as a stance against cheaters. I could say something like, 'I need to understand how ChatGPT responds to questions in my niche of expertise, so I can remain vigilant to people trying to deceive others in the industry!'
This, unfortunately, is a real quote. I heard these words actually leave somebodies face, non-ironically! Despite their serious tone, I burst out laughing. Whoops!
Come off it!
In reality, if we are all brutally honest with ourselves, we are just lazy! We're all looking for 'hacks' to make our work life, chores and tasks easier.
If I can automate a process, write a some code to shortcut a mundane task, or use technology in some other way to make my day even just 1% easier, I'll do it. I'm not ashamed to admit this.
Don't get me wrong, I work hard. I guess I'm what we Northerners would call 'a grafter', often working way over my contracted hours!
Because of this, I always have this fear that somebody will ask me a question I don't know the answer to, or about my formal qualifications, and I'll somehow be exposed as a fraud! So I'm always trying to consume as much information as is humanly possible.
When I'm not doing contracted work, I'm often still working. I read, I write, I give talks, run workshops and get involved in community events. I guess, if I'm totally honest, I try to outrun my lack of formal education by being visible, being knowledgable, and helping others.
The subtle nuance is that I work hard at things that I need to do, or want to do. I need time to do all of these things, and I don't want to waste any of it doing tasks that technology can do for me in a fraction of a second, with fewer mistakes.
It's the same when I write anything down. Like this blog post, for example. When I need to write, I read, re-read, edit, fact-check. I'm a perfectionist! Which is pretty ironic, because my posts are anything but perfect! But, again, my fear of being inadequate means 'maximum effort, maximum cognitive load, but relatively slow output'.
How ChatGPT helps me
Because I have Autism and ADHD, I get fixated on topics, hobbies or interests. I guess it could be seen as super passionate or super obsessive, depending on which lens you view it through.
When I need to learn about something, I get lost for hours in research. I detach from this world, my family, my basic needs. The obsession is like a worm in my brain. A parasite. Even if the knowledge I'm gaining is useful, the way I go about obtaining it is often toxic. It's all I can think about. I get lost. It consumes me.
I Google things, read through article after article, watch hours of YouTube videos, all on platforms design to hold my attention and drag it out for as long as possible.
During this time, I'm unresponsive. I can't listen, I can't hold a conversation, I can't look up from what I'm doing, because I lose my chain of thought, and then I get frustrated and overwhelmed.
I exist in this state until I feel I understand the topic enough to be able to put it down. There's often just a sudden 'click', and in an instant, I'm back in the room. But there's no time limit on how long this may take.
When I eventually snap back to reality, I'm usually, really hungry, tired and apologetic. I feel guilty for losing my way, for not being present, and for not taking in anything my partner has said for the past [insert arbitrary amount of time here].
With ChatGPT, because it's conversational, I can ask it something, get a short response, and then put it down. I can always come back to it later and pick up where I left off if I need more clarification.
I no longer feel the need to consume and digest huge amounts of information in one sitting. I don't have to trawl article after article making mental notes, holding everything in my brain so that I can get an answer to a very specific question I have.
I can simply ask ChatGPT, provide the exact context, understand it enough for what I currently need, and come back later if I need to elaborate.
As exaggerated or dramatic as this may sound, when used correctly, ChatGPT gives me life back. It can buy time, which is the one thing on this Earth we usually can't get more of!
Why you should use ChatGPT
I've mentioned why I use ChatGPT, but even if none of that resonates with you, the truth is, ChatGPT is undoubtedly here to stay. And, at some point, whether people admit it or not, we will all try using it to make our work more efficient, whether voluntarily or involuntarily.
I'm not a gambling man, but I'd bet that in the not-to-distant future, we'll start to see ChatGPT listed as a required skill in job adverts.
Organisations will come to expect faster turnarounds for things like marketing material and social media posts, and those people who didn't learn how to use the right tools for the job will get blown out the water by those that did.
That's not to say ChatGPT will be writing everyones content for them verbatim. I truly believe there is still a place for humans in making the content relatable, empathetic, and nuanced for the context is being used for. But I do expect ChatGPT will be instrumental in speeding up document outlines, formatting and restructuring, and real people will spend more time on making it user-centred.
How you can learn to use ChatGPT
By learning how ChatGPT works, how it responds and what it’s limitations are, you can use it to your advantage. So don't bury your head and get left behind.
Below are some prompts I've used to help me understand ChatGPT. If you input these directly into ChatGPT itself, you can have a conversation with it and get it to explain a bit about how it works. This will make it easier to do your bidding in future!
Questions about how ChatGPT works:
- What is ChatGPT, and how does it work?
- How does ChatGPT generate responses to my prompts?
- What is the training data used by Chat GPT?
- How does ChatGPT learn and improve its responses over time?
- Can ChatGPT understand natural language, and how does it interpret it?
Questions about how the limitations of ChatGPT:
- How accurate are the responses generated by ChatGPT, and what can impact that accuracy?
- Can give me specific citations or point directly to the sources of your responses?
- What are the limitations of ChatGPT, and what types of prompts will not work as well?
Questions to understand how to better use ChatGPT:
- What are some best practices for using ChatGPT?
- Are there any tips or tricks that improve the results when using ChatGPT?
- How can I assess the quality of responses generated by ChatGPT?
Again, as a shortcut to figuring all this stuff out, there's the Ultimate ChatGPT Bible.
A few warnings when using ChatGPT
ChatGPT is great when used as a tool to educate yourself or increase your productivity.
Don't be a fraud
If you are just asking ChatGPT to generate content for you that you could not possibly have written yourself, and you're then trying to pass it off as your own work, it's likely you will get found out.
It's like getting somebody else in the class to write your essay. To somebody who is used to reading your work, it just feels… off.
It is also not likely to rank on Google. It is widely speculated that search engines are already trying to filter out AI generated content, and there are tools available like AI Content Detector by Content at Scale, which anybody can use to see how likely it is that an AI wrote your content!
ChatGPT is not always correct
ChatGPT will often use statistics to add weight to any arguments. But, it only has access to data up until 2021, so they are often out of date.
It fully expects you to research and replace these statistics with ones which are factually correct, and if you do not do this your articles are stale off the bat!
ChatGPT is also not 100% correct even when giving statistics prior to 2021. Sometimes the context is off, sometimes there just wasn't enough nuanced data to have trained it with, or sometimes it just get's confused.
For example, I'm really into wildlife photography and Sony mirrorless cameras. I've had a few instances where it gives me the wrong specifications, or confuses the model names, like the Sony A7 iii and the A7R iii. Totally different cameras, specs, and prices, but almost identical names.
ChatGPT 4 definitely gets confused less than 3.5, but it can still happen!
The ChatGPT fingerprint
The writing style of ChatGPT is impressive, but it is still relatively robotic.
If you usually write rather informally and suddenly start writing in a completely different tone of voice, it's going to be obvious what you're doing.
Anything which is written by ChatGPT contains what is known as 'the ChatGPT fingerprint'. It's like breaking into somebodies home and leaving your unique prints on the window.
As convincing as ChatGPT is at writing like a human, it is not a human, and other AI's can detect this. I guess it takes one to know one, huh?
To detect ChatGPT content, you can use something like AI Content Detector by Content at Scale. You can even copy and paste text into ChatGPT itself and ask it, 'did you write this?' Because there is a push to make ChatGPT as ethical as possible, it will tell you with reasonable certainty whether it wrote it or not.
It's important to note here that ChatGPT isn't looking for that text in a database of conversations it's having with other users. It's assessing the writing style and tone of voice and looking for it's own fingerprint within that.
The fingerprint is baked into the writing itself, things like the words and phrases it uses, the grammar choices, etc. You can't just delete your conversations with ChatGPT and think other users can't figure out what you've done.
So, whatever it is you use ChatGPT for, make sure you're using it to augment and shape your own ideas, and not trying to simply avoid doing the work!
I hope this post was useful, and I hope it can encourage other people to be honest about their uses of ChatGPT. I'd be keen to know how other people are using it to be more productive!
- Read time:
- 8 minutes