What is ChatGPT, and How Does it Work?


A layman’s guide to artificial intelligence.

Image created by Jonathan Wylie

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to chat with an artificial intelligence (AI) system? How would it respond to your questions, comments, or jokes? Would it be able to understand you and generate meaningful replies?

Well, thanks to a new technology called ChatGPT, you can now experience this for yourself.

What is ChatGPT?

ChatGPT (Chat Generative Pre-trained Transformer) is a chatbot that is powered by a state-of-the-art AI language model developed by a company called OpenAI — a research organization dedicated to creating and promoting friendly AI that benefits humanity.

ChatGPT has been trained on billions of words from books, articles, websites, and even social media, covering a wide range of topics and domains. This means that it can generate responses to almost any prompt you give it, from general knowledge questions to more complex conversational topics.

The latest version, GPT-4, has passed the bar exam, aced college entry tests, and breezed through a wide variety of AP exams, (source).

How ChatGPT Works

So, how does ChatGPT know what to say, and how to say it? The secret behind ChatGPT is a deep learning architecture called the Transformer, which enables it to learn patterns in language and generate text that is coherent and human-like.

The Transformer consists of two main components: an encoder and a decoder. The encoder takes the input text (your prompt or question) and converts it into a numerical representation called an embedding.

The decoder then takes this embedding and generates an output text (such as the chatbot’s response) by predicting the most likely words.

The Transformer also uses a mechanism called attention, which allows it to focus on the most relevant parts of the input and output texts.

For example, if you ask ChatGPT “Who is the President of the United States?” it will pay more attention to the words “President” and “United States” than to other words in your question.

Similarly, if ChatGPT generates the response “Joe Biden is the President of the United States”, it will pay more attention to the words “Joe Biden” and “President” than to other words in its response. This way, ChatGPT can produce more accurate and relevant responses for followup prompts.

Photo by Joshua Woroniecki on Unsplash

How is ChatGPT Used Today?

One of the main applications of ChatGPT is in chatbots, where it can be used to provide automated customer service, answer FAQs, or even engage in more free-flowing conversations with users.

However, ChatGPT can also be used for natural language processing (NLP) tasks such as text summarization, language translation, and content creation. And, as tests have shown, it is very adept at this.

ChatGPT represents a significant advancement in the field of NLP and has the potential to revolutionize the way we interact with computers.

Is ChatGPT Accurate?

To a point, but it does make mistakes. It relies on that data it was trained with. Unfortunately, not all information on the internet is correct, so ChatGPT may pull incorrect or outdated information.

When it created the new Bing, Microsoft said it tries to keep answers fun and factual, but admits that it can still show “unexpected or inaccurate results based on the web content summarized.”

As more data is fed to models like this, accuracy will improve over time. Until then, it’s good to check the information that you are given from AI tools like ChatGPT to ensure that it is something you can rely upon.

How to Get Started With ChatGPT

If you are curious about ChatGPT, and want to try it out for yourself, you can visit chat.openai.com and try it out today.

You can also take it for a spin in the latest version of the Edge browser. Microsoft has invested in this technology to power the latest version of the Bing search engine.

Bing has always lagged behind Google when it comes to search engine popularity, but the addition of ChatGPT has given it a whole new lease of life, and it could change how we search for information online.

Screenshot of Microsoft Edge by Jonathan Wylie

Is AI the Future or a Fad?

It’s early days, but right now, all signs point to technologies like ChatGPT playing a bigger and bigger part of our daily lives.

Technology is at its best when it makes things more efficient and more accessible. ChatGPT is a perfect example of that. As it continues to evolve and develop over time, and as the accuracy and use cases expand, AI could become an integral part of most people’s lives both now and in the future.


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