Our relationship with AI is complicated. We humans have a long history of creating science-fiction narratives in which AI comes to life, turns evil, and threatens to destroy life as we know it. We’ve seen this story in so many forms we can’t help but be cynical about AI.
Plot twist: Now we have AI that can write its own science-fiction by itself— a scary thought for many.
ChatGPT, the world’s trendiest chatbot, is one of several new AI-powered tools that can answer seemingly any question, create personalized emails and blog posts, generate photos and videos, and much, much more.
These bots and tools can even write code. And we believe every developer — if they aren’t already — will eventually be using tools like ChatGPT to help solve some of the world’s most challenging technical problems. More on that in a moment.
However, for some, the emergence of “generative AI” tools raises concerns and a plethora of ethical questions. Many fear AI will lead to job losses. It certainly promises to change how many people work. And any change, of course, can be scary.
Rather than create our own definition of generative AI, we figured we’d start by asking ChatGPT to define it for us. Here’s what it said when prompted to explain generative AI in 50 words or less:
“Generative AI refers to AI models that generate new outputs, such as images, music, or texts, based on learned patterns in existing data. The goal is to create diverse, yet coherent, outputs that resemble the original data.”
It’s worth noting that Sam Altman, the CEO of OpenAI (the company that created ChatGPT) doesn’t like the term generative AI — despite the mainstream media’s adoption of it.
While ChatGPT offers information and text-based content (including code) — and internet giants including Microsoft and Google are working on their own similar offerings — there are many emerging generative AI tools that are helping content producers create lifelike still images, stunning (and fake) videos, audio, and even 3D simulations.
As Harvard Business Review recently published, “We’re hitting a tipping point for artificial intelligence.”
While some AI skeptics may be trying to put a pause on the use of generative AI, there’s little doubt that even today it offers a lot of benefits for different jobs. And it’s going to continue to improve. These capabilities, applied in the right ways, can make us better at our work. It’s already helping our team work smarter.
Our CTO Oliver Weng has started incorporating ChatGPT into his workflow, using it to get ideas for how to build new features and quickly generate code as a starting point for a solution. It’s also pretty good at finding bugs in other people’s code (“debugging”). ChatGPT has quickly become a go-to among his favorite technical research hubs, including Stack Overflow, Github, DuckDuckGo, and others.
Oliver suggests ChatGPT, and other generative AI tools like it, can save him several hours over the course of a prolonged project.
However, there are several misconceptions about ChatGPT that developers and their management teams need to understand.
Though it’s very useful, ChatGPT is far from a perfect tool. And as long as generative AI is trained on data that ultimately comes from people, it will be limited.
So, for developers to successfully use a tool like ChatGPT on the job, they (and their teams) should consider:
These factors don’t mean developers should avoid using ChatPGT. They just need to be prepared to truly own the consequences of the code or information they use from it. That should ring familiar. Developers commonly leverage frameworks and libraries from other sources — and then modify them to fit the requirements of their project. However, developers always own responsibility for the final solutions — including any pieces from external sources.
OpenAI already has a purpose-built model that promises to be even more powerful for software developers. As the team at OpenAI writes, Code-davinci-002 “is particularly good at translating natural language to code.” Meanwhile, Github (owned by Microsoft), Amazon, Meta, and others are working on their own developer tools.
While ChatGPT is the latest shiny thing that has captured everybody's attention, what's coming promises to further change how our technology builders build. This is just the beginning. And it’s a good thing for the future for technology builders and innovators. Even if it’s a little scary.