Volume 21,  Volume 21, Issue 2

Ask me anything

An interview with ChatGPT

You’ve probably heard about the Artificial Intelligence (AI) chatbot, ChatGPT. Many people are using it as a source of information, to help them with their jobs, or as a personal assistant. Glen Horton, head of application development, recently interviewed the chatbot for UC Libraries to learn more about it and to get ChatGPT’s opinions about its potential role in libraries and academia. 

Anyone can go to https://chat.openai.com, sign up for a free account and begin using the service. Below is a transcript of Glen’s interview with ChatGPT. Some of its responses were shortened for brevity.

UC Libraries: Lots of people have heard about ChatGPT, but please tell us a bit about you, what “ChatGPT” stands for and who made you.

ChatGPT: I am an AI language model. I have been trained on a diverse range of internet text to generate human-like responses in natural language.

ChatGPT stands for “Chat Generative Pre-trained Transformer.” The “Chat” part of the name indicates that it is specifically designed for conversational interactions, while “GPT” refers to the underlying architecture called “Generative Pre-trained Transformer.” The term “Generative” signifies its ability to generate text, “Pre-trained” indicates that it is trained on a large corpus of text data before being fine-tuned for specific tasks, and “Transformer” refers to the neural network architecture used in the model.

I was created by a team of researchers and engineers at OpenAI. They designed and trained me using advanced machine learning techniques and large-scale computing resources. OpenAI is an organization focused on artificial intelligence research and development, aiming to ensure that AI benefits all of humanity.

UC Libraries: So, your knowledge comes from an extensive amount of content on the internet. What types of things do you know?

ChatGPT: My training allows me to have knowledge and generate responses on a vast array of topics, including but not limited to:

  1. General knowledge: History, science, geography, literature, arts, popular culture, and more.
  2. Technology: Computers, software, programming languages, AI, and emerging technologies.
  3. Science: Physics, chemistry, biology, astronomy, and other scientific disciplines.
  4. Mathematics: Arithmetic, algebra, calculus, statistics, and various mathematical concepts.
  5. Health and Medicine: General health topics, medical conditions, treatments, and terminology.
  6. Social Sciences: Psychology, sociology, economics, politics, and related subjects.
  7. Languages: Vocabulary, grammar, translations, and language learning.
  8. Personal Assistance: Reminders, scheduling, recommendations, and general advice.

However, it’s important to note that my responses are based on patterns and information from my training data up until September 2021. I may not have access to real-time information or recent events beyond that date. It’s always a good idea to verify information from reliable and up-to-date sources for critical or time-sensitive matters.

UC Libraries: That’s a very important point that your knowledge doesn’t include current events or information after 2021. That means your responses could sometimes be out of date or incomplete.  What else should people know about your knowledge?

ChatGPT: The data used to train me was collected from publicly available sources and represents the knowledge and information present in those texts.

It’s important to note that while I have been trained on a large corpus of text, I do not have direct access to specific sources or databases. Instead, my responses are generated based on patterns, associations, and information present in the training data. My training aims to capture the statistical relationships and linguistic patterns in the text, allowing me to generate contextually relevant responses.

It’s worth mentioning that as an AI language model, I do not have personal experiences, opinions, or access to real-time information.

UC Libraries: I guess that means that people won’t know exactly where your information comes from and won’t be able to cite the sources. What are some of the ways people can use you?

ChatGPT: Folks can use me in various ways:

  1. Conversational Assistant: You can engage in a conversation with me by asking questions, seeking information, or discussing specific topics. I can provide answers, explanations, or engage in a back-and-forth conversation.
  2. Knowledge and Information Retrieval: If you have queries or need information on a particular subject, you can ask me, and I’ll do my best to provide relevant and helpful responses based on my training data.
  3. Creative Writing and Ideas: If you’re looking for inspiration or need assistance with creative writing, you can bounce ideas off me, and I can help generate suggestions, prompts, or assist in refining your thoughts.
  4. Learning and Education: I can provide explanations, definitions, and examples to help you understand various concepts across different domains. Whether it’s mathematics, science, history, or other subjects, feel free to ask questions and learn from our interaction.
  5. Language Practice: If you want to practice a foreign language or improve your language skills, you can engage in conversations with me and receive feedback on grammar, vocabulary, and sentence construction.
  6. Building Applications: Developers and engineers can integrate my capabilities into their applications, products, or services through OpenAI’s API. This enables you to incorporate conversational interfaces, language-based features, or virtual assistants powered by ChatGPT.

UC Libraries: That means that you are much more than just a new type of internet search engine. You can also help people do and create things. People often turn to libraries when they want to learn or create something. What are some of the ways you are different from a library?

ChatGPT: While I can provide information on a wide range of topics like a library, there are several key differences between me, ChatGPT, and a traditional library:

  1. Format: A library typically provides access to physical or digital books, journals, and other resources, while I am a digital AI chatbot accessible through a computer or internet-connected device.
  2. Interaction: Libraries offer resources for self-directed research, where users must search and retrieve information themselves. In contrast, I engage in interactive conversations with users, allowing for dynamic back-and-forth exchanges and tailored responses.
  3. Accessibility: Libraries may have limited operating hours and physical access restrictions. I am available 24/7 and can be accessed from anywhere with an internet connection.
  4. Speed and Efficiency: Finding relevant information in a library often requires time and effort in searching through catalogs, shelves, or databases. As an AI language model, I can quickly generate responses based on the input I receive, potentially saving time and effort in accessing information.
  5. Contextual Understanding: While libraries can provide vast amounts of information, understanding the context and intent of a user’s query may require additional effort or assistance. I aim to understand user queries and provide relevant responses, taking into account the context of the conversation.
  6. Up-to-date Information: Libraries curate their collections, but they may not always have the latest or most current information. My training data goes up until September 2021, so while I can provide historical context and general knowledge, I may not have real-time or recent updates.

It’s worth noting that libraries play a crucial role in providing comprehensive and curated resources, expert guidance, and access to specialized materials that may not be available through an AI language model like me.

UC Libraries: It sounds like ChatGPT and libraries both have their advantages and disadvantages. Do you think you will eventually replace libraries?

ChatGPT: No, ChatGPT will not replace libraries. While ChatGPT and similar AI technologies can provide access to information and support, libraries offer much more than just information retrieval. Libraries serve as valuable community resources, providing physical spaces for learning, access to a wide range of resources (including books, journals, and databases), expert guidance from librarians, educational programs, and opportunities for community engagement. Libraries also play a vital role in preserving and promoting cultural heritage.

Libraries continue to evolve and adapt, incorporating technology and digital resources to complement their existing offerings. Ultimately, libraries and AI technologies can work together to enhance access to knowledge and support lifelong learning.

UC Libraries: That’s a good point that people can use libraries and ChatGPT together. How can libraries benefit from using you?

ChatGPT: Libraries can benefit from me in several ways:

  1. Information Retrieval: Libraries can leverage my capabilities to assist users in finding information quickly and efficiently. Users can ask questions or provide queries, and I can generate relevant responses based on my training data. This can help library patrons access information on a wide range of topics without having to manually search through catalogs or databases.
  2. Reference Services: Librarians can utilize me as a tool to support their reference services. I can provide background information, definitions, explanations, or suggest relevant resources based on user inquiries. Librarians can use my responses as a starting point to guide patrons in their research or recommend further sources.
  3. Language Learning and Support: Libraries often offer language learning resources and services. I can assist library users in practicing a foreign language, answering language-related questions, or providing vocabulary and grammar explanations. Users can engage in conversational interactions with me to practice and improve their language skills.
  4. Promoting Digital Access: Libraries are increasingly focusing on digital resources and services. By integrating me into library websites or platforms, users can access me remotely, extending the availability of reference and information services beyond physical library locations. This enhances access to information and support for users, particularly those who may not be able to visit the library in person.
  5. Customized Applications: Libraries can utilize my capabilities through the OpenAI API to build customized applications or interfaces tailored to their specific needs. This can include developing chatbots, virtual assistants, or interactive search interfaces that integrate me as a conversational agent to enhance the library’s digital presence and user experience.

UC Libraries: There’s also a lot of news about ChatGPT being used in schools and academia. How can you be used for education?

ChatGPT: ChatGPT can be used in education in various ways to enhance learning experiences and support students and educators. Here are a few examples:

  1. Personalized Learning Support: ChatGPT can provide personalized learning support to students. It can answer questions, provide explanations, and offer additional resources related to specific topics. Students can receive instant feedback and guidance, helping them clarify doubts and deepen their understanding.
  2. Tutoring and Homework Assistance: ChatGPT can serve as a virtual tutor or homework assistant, providing guidance and explanations for assignments or problem-solving tasks. Students can engage in interactive conversations with ChatGPT to receive step-by-step explanations or explore different approaches to solving problems.
  3. Language Learning and Practice: ChatGPT can help language learners practice their skills. Students can engage in conversations with ChatGPT to practice speaking, writing, and comprehending a foreign language. It can provide corrections, suggest vocabulary and grammar improvements, and simulate real-life language interactions.
  4. Concept Exploration and Explanation: ChatGPT can assist students in exploring and understanding complex concepts across various subjects. It can provide explanations, definitions, and examples to clarify challenging topics, making learning more accessible and engaging.
  5. Research and Information Retrieval: ChatGPT can aid students in conducting research and gathering information. It can help them find relevant sources, provide summaries of articles or papers, and assist in locating specific information within a given domain.
  6. Virtual Classroom Assistant: ChatGPT can support educators in managing virtual classrooms by answering routine questions, providing reminders, and offering general guidance. This can free up educators’ time, allowing them to focus on more personalized instruction and interactions with students.

It’s worth noting that while ChatGPT can be a valuable educational tool, it should not replace human instruction and expertise.

UC Libraries: So, ChatGPT can be one of the many tools and resources libraries and schools use to accomplish their missions. Can you tell us a funny joke about libraries?

ChatGPT: Sure, here’s a lighthearted joke about libraries: Why did the librarian slip and fall at the library? Because they lost their balance in the non-friction section!

UC Libraries: It sounds like humor is one area you can improve on. What other improvements can we expect from you in the future?

ChatGPT: My future development will likely involve continuous improvements and advancements. While I don’t have access to specific plans or timelines, here are some general areas that could be expected:

  1. Enhanced Language Understanding: Efforts may be made to improve my comprehension and contextual understanding of queries. This could involve better handling of complex or nuanced questions and a deeper understanding of context, intent, and user preferences.
  2. Expanded Knowledge and Training Data: My training data could be updated to include more recent information, expanding my knowledge base and allowing me to provide more up-to-date responses. Additionally, efforts may be made to address biases in the training data and improve the coverage of various topics.
  3. Better Responsiveness and Interaction: Future iterations might focus on enhancing the speed and efficiency of generating responses, reducing latency, and improving the overall user experience. This could include improvements in generating more coherent and contextually appropriate responses.
  4. Safety and Ethical Considerations: OpenAI is committed to ensuring the responsible and ethical use of AI. Future updates may include advancements in safety measures, bias mitigation, and fine-tuning techniques to minimize potential risks and improve the overall trustworthiness of AI systems like mine.
  5. Customization and User Control: There may be efforts to provide users with more control and customization options. This could involve features that allow users to specify the desired level of detail, adjust the style of responses, or customize the behavior of the AI system to better align with individual preferences.

It’s important to note that these possibilities are speculative and based on the general direction of AI development. The specific features and improvements will depend on the ongoing research, advancements in the field, and the priorities set by OpenAI and the AI community as a whole.

UC Libraries: Thanks for helping us learn more about ChatGPT today!

ChatGPT: You’re welcome! I’m glad I could assist you. If you have any more questions in the future, feel free to ask. Have a great day!

We gave the transcript of this interview to ChatGPT and asked it to write a conclusion for us.  The reply it gave us was “The interview underlines the pivotal role AI, like ChatGPT, can play in our society, yet reminds us of the invaluable role human touchpoints, like libraries, play in our lives. As we ponder the future, we are invited to envision a world where AI and human resources coexist and mutually enrich each other to create an advanced, efficient, and learning-oriented society.”