Cyber experts discuss artificial intelligence program ‘ChatGPT’

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Could your computer have a sensitive side?

How about creating a haiku about a Minnesota winter?

Something like:

Snowflakes falling fast

Blanketing the earth below

Peaceful winter scene

“People think it’s an AI,” says David Nguyen, a Fellow at the University of Minnesota Technological Learning Institute. “It’s effectively a system that’s predicting the outcome of a prompt.”

With the help of Nguyen and his laptop— we explored the world of ChatGPT— short for ‘chat generative pre-trained transformer.’  

The artificial intelligence chat bot is like Google— but it doesn’t just give you answers— it explains them.

“If you go to Google right now, there’s no way you can read the entirety of all the result. As a human, that’s impossible,” Nguyen explains. “If you give a computer a system, and access to all those links, it can read the first link, the second link, all the way down to 100,000 links, and it can formulize a model to tell you— here’s what I can do to summarize that for you.”

ChatGPT can respond to a prompt with poetry, song lyrics, essays— and even a bio about a reporter doing this story.  

Unveiled in November by the tech company Open AI— ChatGPT is considered the most sophisticated program of its kind.

Nguyen says as an educator, he’s excited about the program.

But he also says ChatGPT does what he calls ‘pattern matching’— regurgitating information, rather than generating original thought.  

“Yes, it’s regurgitating something new, so it can be perceived as original thought,” Nguyen notes. “If you give (a prompt) to ChatGPT, it will formulate something, what it thinks is the right thing. But as the human, as the person who wants to tell that story, then you need to craft it and massage it, into your voice, the things you want to say.”

But with all that AI knowledge, some teachers worry use of the program would lead to cheating.

A recent poll by a Stanford newspaper found 17% of students there admitted using ChatGPT for help with their final exams.

“It is scary,” says Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers. “Because as schoolteachers, we want kids to write in full paragraphs, but we want it to be their original work.”

And there’s something else.

Experts say ChatGPT can also write computer code.

That worries Tony Chiapetta, the owner of CHIPS Computer Services in White Bear Township.  

“It’ll give you code in seconds, where it would take somebody else weeks to develop it,” he declares.

Chiapetta’s big concern is that cyber criminals could potentially ask ChatGPT for security workarounds— and that software developers won’t be able to catch up.

He says fake versions of ChatGPT are already appearing on the web.

“These apps are extremely dangerous because their job is to pretend to be ChatGPT,” Chiapetta says. “All that information that is put into it, doesn’t get to them. It goes to these cyber criminals.”

He says users should make sure they are working on a real version of the program by checking the URL— and to not share information they wouldn’t want on the internet.

In a statement, Open AI told ABC News— “We don’t  want ChatGPT to be used for misleading purposes in schools or anywhere else, so we’re developing mitigations to help anyone identify text generated by that system.”

Meanwhile, the U of M Law School says it recently conducted its own test of ChatGPT.

The school says the program passed exams for four actual courses, but averaged a C+ grade, which would place a student on academic probation.

Nguyen says as with any search engine, students—- and the rest of us, need to vet information.

“Now we have the tool that the student can start, they can jump into and do the research — do what I want to do to get the underlying data first,” he notes. “Like most technologies, if you want to subvert this, you can. It can generate things that are effectively misinformation that’s sort of right — but isn’t right. And I suspect you could ask it to write propaganda.”