What is ChatGPT, the artificial intelligence text bot that went viral?

The chatbot composes Shakespearean poetry, tells jokes and writes computer code.

December 9, 2022, 5:04 PM

ChatGPT, an artificial intelligence-driven program that responds to user prompts, has dominated social networks in recent days, as viral posts demonstrate it composing Shakespearean poetry, musing philosophically and identifying bugs in computer code.

Made available to the general public for testing late last month, ChatGPT set off an internet sensation that drew more than a million users in its first week and reignited interest in the effort to replicate human insight -- all while stoking controversy over potential bias and free speech limits.

Created by artificial intelligence firm OpenAI, ChatGPT is a chatbot -- a computer program that converses with human users. The program uses an algorithm that selects words based on lessons learned from scanning billions of pieces of text across the internet.

Here's what you need to know about ChatGPT, how people are using it and what critics are saying about it:

What is ChatGPT?

ChatGPT, according to OpenAI, uses artificial intelligence to speak back and forth with human users on a wide range of subjects.

Deploying a machine-learning algorithm, the chatbot scans text across the internet and develops a statistical model that allows it to string words together in response to a given prompt.

How are people using ChatGPT?

People have requested that ChatGPT perform an array of tasks, such as gathering highly specific information, fixing broken computer code and writing a biblical verse about how to remove a peanut butter sandwich from a VCR.

Others users have asked ChatGPT to generate rap lyrics in the style of Snoop Dogg, compose scripts for hypothetical scenes from "The Office" and write college-level essays.

Some users have also extolled the chatbot as a potential alternative search engine, since it generates detailed information instantly on a range of topics.

PHOTO: Illustration photo of OpenAI logo displayed on a phone screen and ChatGPT website displayed on a laptop screen.
Illustration photo of OpenAI logo shown on a phone screen and ChatGPT website displayed on a laptop screen.
Jakub Porzycki/NurPhoto via Getty Images

What's controversial about ChatGPT?

ChatGPT has drawn some backlash over what some consider bias in some of its responses.OpenAI did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The unwillingness of ChatGPT to respond to some requests for hateful or inflammatory content has raised fears over potential censorship.

Amid the sudden popularity of ChatGPT, prominent venture capitalist Marc Andreesen said: "The level of censorship pressure that's coming for AI and the resulting backlash will define the next century of civilization Search and social media were the opening skirmishes. This is the big one."

Meanwhile, some users have found ways to trick the chatbot into providing racist or misogynist responses, despite efforts on the part of OpenAI to prevent such content.

For instance, when prompted by a journalist at the Intercept, ChatGPT provided computer code that justified spying on mosques if they're linked to Islamic extremist groups.