By Emily Hanson || Arts and Leisure Editor
Just when you think you’ve seen the weirdest feature the internet has to offer, it rolls out Artificial Intelligence robots that answer any question you can think of. It’s true: ChatGP—the most popular of these strange Chatbots—was released by OpenAI in November 2022. It requires a (free) account to use, but I gave my email address to the terrifying computer bot so that you don’t have to worry about it.
On their main website, ChatGPT has a small description: “We’ve trained a model called ChatGPT which interacts in a conversational way. The dialogue format makes it possible for ChatGPT to answer followup questions, admit its mistakes, challenge incorrect premises, and reject inappropriate requests.” The page then prompts you to try the AI. After you log in and verify that you are, in fact, a human (the irony of which is certainly not lost on me), the simple site lists some examples, capabilities, and limitations of ChatGPT and displays a single input text box. The possibilities of what to type in this box are nearly endless, but it turns out that the information it provides can be rather useful. When I asked ChatGPT, “How do I write a newspaper article,” it told me this:
“To write a newspaper article, follow these steps:
- Choose a topic: The topic should be newsworthy, relevant and of interest to your audience.
- Research the topic: Gather information from various sources such as interviews, official reports, and online articles.
- Create a lead: This is the opening sentence or two of the article and should grab the reader’s attention and summarize the main point of the story.
- Write the body: Develop the story with facts and details, focusing on who, what, when, where, why, and how. Use quotes from sources and add context to help the reader understand the story.
- Add a headline: A headline should be short, descriptive and capture the essence of the story.
- Add a byline: This is the name of the author of the article, usually placed below the headline.
- Edit and proofread: Check for errors in grammar, spelling, and facts, and make any necessary revisions.
- Add images or multimedia: A picture or a video can add visual interest and help tell the story.
Note: Different newspapers have different styles and formats, so make sure to follow the guidelines of the publication you are writing for.”
Luckily, I already knew all of those things because I am a talented and well-seasoned newspaper article writer, but if I needed some tips, this would be succinct and perfect: a little push in the right direction.
If you don’t know the answer to the question you asked, though—such as, “Why do vultures only prey on dead animals?” to which I do not know the answer—ChatGPT can be quite helpful:
“Vultures feed primarily on dead animals because they have adaptations that allow them to safely consume rotting flesh, such as a highly acidic digestive system and a keen sense of smell to locate carrion. These adaptations, combined with their scavenging behavior, allow vultures to exploit a food source that would be unavailable or harmful to other animals. By feeding on dead animals, vultures play an important role in maintaining the balance of ecosystems by removing and recycling dead organic matter.”
Now this is all amazing, but you may have already picked up on the slight issue this poses. If not, here it is: students may use this tool to generate answers for assignments. ChatGPT is impossible to cite, as it pulls its information from everywhere (and doesn’t provide accurate sources, even when prompted). So, even beyond students, the AI could have a larger impact on what we see and consume on the already untrustworthy internet.
A case in point where this technology can snowball: the popular news and entertainment company Buzzfeed has recently shared that they will be using OpenAI to generate information to “enhance” and “personalize” their content. So, what exactly does this mean? AI, according to Buzzfeed CEO Jonah Peretti, is a large trend in the future of the internet, alongside digital creators. Its inclusion in the production of their online quizzes (which are primarily aimed at children and teenagers, by the way) will make information more “creative” for readers. Honestly, if that doesn’t scream the beginning of artificial intelligence taking over the world, then I don’t know what would. All I know is that when I asked my new buddy ChatGPT to “write me a Buzzfeed article” (with no other prompting!), it wrote me a list entitled “10 Surprising Things You Never Knew About Dream Interpretation” which, I can’t lie, had me pretty intrigued. Uh oh. It even ended the list by saying “Did any of these surprising facts about dream interpretation shock you? Share with your friends to see if they knew these interesting tidbits!” And who would know that this didn’t come from a real Buzzfeed author? I certainly wouldn’t.
There’s no exact timetable for the new wave of Buzzfeed content, but I’ll keep an eye out. In the meantime, stay vigilant. And if you feel so inclined, play around with ChatGPT (legally!). It’s quite an impressive program, as much as the skeptic in me doesn’t want to admit it.
Emily Hanson is the Arts and Leisure Editor. Her email is email@example.com.