ChatGPT reached 100 million monthly users in January, according to a UBS report, making it the fastest-growing consumer app in history. The business world is interested in ChatGPT too, trying to find uses for the writing AI throughout many different industries. This cheat sheet includes answers to the most common questions about ChatGPT and its competitors.
What is ChatGPT?
ChatGPT is a free-to-use AI chatbot product developed by OpenAI. ChatGPT is built on the structure of GPT-4. GPT stands for generative pre-trained transformer; this indicates it is a large language model that checks for the probability of what words might come next in sequence. A large language model is a deep learning algorithm — a type of transformer model in which a neural network learns context about any language pattern. That might be a spoken language or a computer programming language.
The model doesn’t “know” what it’s saying, but it does know what symbols (words) are likely to come after one another based on the data set it was trained on. The current generation of artificial intelligence chatbots, such as ChatGPT, its Google rival Bard and others, don’t really make intelligently informed decisions; instead, they’re the internet’s parrots, repeating words that are likely to be found next to one another in the course of natural speech. The underlying math is all about probability. The companies that make and use them pitch them as productivity genies, creating text in a matter of seconds that would take a person hours or days to produce.
In ChatGPT’s case, that data set was a large portion of the internet. From there, humans gave feedback on the AI’s output to confirm whether the words it used sounded natural.
SEE: Open AI’s probability assessments were trained on Microsoft’s Azure AI supercomputer.
Several organizations have built this ability to answer questions into some of their software features too. Microsoft, which provides funding for OpenAI, rolled out ChatGPT in Bing search as a preview. Salesforce has added ChatGPT to some of its CRM platforms in the form of the Einstein digital assistant.
Who made ChatGPT?
ChatGPT was built by OpenAI, a research laboratory with both nonprofit and for-profit branches. At the time of its founding in 2015, OpenAI received funding from Amazon Web Services, InfoSys and YC Research and investors including Elon Musk and Peter Thiel. Musk has since cut ties with the company, while Microsoft currently provides $10 billion in funding for OpenAI.
How much does ChatGPT cost?
The base version of ChatGPT can strike up a conversation with you for free. OpenAI also runs ChatGPT Plus, a $20 per month tier that gives subscribers priority access in individual instances, faster response times and the chance to use new features and improvements first. For example, right now ChatGPT Plus subscribers will be running GPT-4, while anyone on the free tier will talk to GPT-3.5.
For developers and organizations who don’t already have a specific contract with OpenAI, there is a wait list for access to the ChatGPT API.
How to use ChatGPT
It’s easy to use the free version of ChatGPT. You need to sign up for an account with OpenAI, which involves fetching a confirmation code from your email; from there, click through and provide your name and phone number. OpenAI will warn you that the free version of ChatGPT is “a free research preview.” For the Plus version, you’ll see an “upgrade to Plus” button on the left side of the home page.
ChatGPT can answer questions (“What are similar books to [xyz]?”). It can tell stories and jokes (although we’ll leave the discussion of whether they are good stories or good jokes to others).
For businesses, ChatGPT can write and debug code, as well as create reports, presentations, emails and websites. In general, ChatGPT can draft the kind of prose you’d likely use for work (“Write an email accepting an invitation to speak at a cybersecurity conference.”). Microsoft showed off these features in its announcement that OpenAI is coming to Word and some other parts of the 365 business suite.
Criticisms of natural language AI
So, with more and more organizations adopting AI, many questions arise. Will AI be able to fill jobs currently held by humans? What can and can’t natural language chat AI do?
Perhaps inspired by science fiction about AI taking over the earth, some high-profile players in tech urge caution about giving AI too much free reign. Last week, a petition signed by Elon Musk and many others urged companies to pause large AI development until more safeguards can be built in.
OpenAI cautions that its products are not to be used for decisions in law enforcement or global politics. Privacy, which is perhaps a more pressing concern than global domination, led Italy to ban ChatGPT. OpenAI has since stated it wants to find a way to let ChatGPT work within the European Union’s strict privacy rules.
Other major concerns about ChatGPT come from those whose jobs it might replace instead of enhance. ChatGPT also opens up questions about the ethics of using written content created by the algorithm. Posts created by AI should be clearly marked as such, but what about more casual content such as emails? Business leaders should establish guidelines for when to be transparent about the use of ChatGPT or other AI at work.
What are ChatGPT’s competitors?
ChatGPT’s primary competitors are or could be Google’s Bard, Baidu’s Ernie, DeepMind’s Sparrow and Meta’s BlenderBot.
ChatGPT’s main competitor is Bard, Google’s AI natural language chatbot. People who would like to try Bard’s chat function need to join a waitlist.
Now Google plans to add Bard into search. In comparison to ChatGPT, Bard focuses more on creating prose that sounds like a human could have spoken it naturally and less on being able to answer any question. Bard is built on Google’s LaMDA, or Language Model for Dialogue Applications.
While Microsoft is ahead of the pack right now in terms of providing chat functions to productivity software, the company lags behind in terms of its search engine, Bing. Google takes the opposite position: Its search engine is a household name, but the company didn’t have an AI rival ready to go. (Meanwhile, ChatGPT helped Bing reach 100 million daily users.)
The Chinese search engine Baidu plans to add a chatbot called Ernie. Baidu announced the upcoming change on March 16, at which point the initial showing disappointed investors.
OpenAI also competes with DeepMind, an artificial intelligence research laboratory owned by Alphabet. However, the two organizations are significantly different in terms of their aims. DeepMind focuses more on research and has not yet come out with a public-facing chatbot. DeepMind does have Sparrow, a chatbot designed specifically to help AI communicate in a way that is “helpful, correct and harmless.” DeepMind founder Demis Hassabis told The Independent in January 2023 that DeepMind may release a private beta version of Sparrow later in 2023.
Meta released BlenderBot in August 2022. The prototype BlenderBot from the company behind Facebook focuses on being able to chat, providing short, conversational replies rather than full paragraphs.
What about Apple?
According to The New York Times, Apple is working on leveraging the tech it has, especially Siri, to create a ChatGPT rival. However, more information about what the final product might look like is thin on the ground for now.
The future of AI in business
Will ChatGPT be common in online products in the future or is it a technological innovation forever in search of a greater use case? Today its ‘intelligence’ is clearly still in the beginning stages, with OpenAI including disclaimers about inappropriate content or incorrect “hallucinations.” ChatGPT may put the words in a coherent order, but it won’t necessarily keep the facts straight.
Meanwhile, AI announcements that go viral can be good or bad news for investors. Microsoft’s stock price rose after the announcement of GPT-4, while Google’s stock dropped when Bard performed badly in a demonstration.