Highlight 9/2023 – The release of ChatGPT: an “augmented” challenge for digital governance
Chiara Camoletto, 23 February 2023
A new storm is brewing in the world of artificial intelligence. To date, mass communication has been dominated by a pervasive power, able to systematically shape public opinion: Google. Artificial intelligence made giant strides over the past ten years and is now able to suggest to us what to read, profile us by creating a personalised digital landscape for us, create fake news, fake texts, images and even videos indistinguishable from real products.
Today, a new strong variable called ChatGPT, a chatbot developed by OpenAI, might change the fortunes. Let us take a look at this powerful tool. When asked to explain what its purpose is, ChatGPT explains as follows:
« ChatGPT is a pre-trained language model based on the GPT architecture, which uses deep learning techniques to generate human-like text. It is trained on a large dataset of text, allowing it to understand and generate a wide range of language patterns and styles. Its aim is to provide a versatile tool for researchers and developers working in natural language processing, by allowing them to fine-tune the model for specific tasks and domains, such as language translation, text summarization, and question answering. »
In a nutshell, ChatGPT can provide answers to almost any kind of question. It can write speeches and elaborate on virtually any subject. It can translate, summarize, and research, as well as write in prose and even poetry. What distinguishes it from Google is that ChatGPT does not respond with a series of links, and the answers provided are qualitatively better than those provided by Google.
In the digital governance universe, we can decide to side with techno-optimism and we will be prone to think that ChatGPT can help learning new languages by explaining grammar, vocabulary. It can also provide hints (and not templates to be copied) for essay writing, which could help students to better structure their thinking, correcting grammar and generating new ideas. In the field of research, ChatGPT can provide summaries of articles and books, allowing students that are writing a thesis to multiply their research sources.
In contrast, if we are more prone to techno-pessimism, we will identify some less edifying aspects in the use of ChatGPT. First of all, this platform represents a real threat in terms of plagiarism and intellectual property rights. Who will take the credit for a piece of research, a speech, an article that wholly stems from a robot? Is there a risk of flattening critical and creative thinking, encouraging an addiction to the proposed texts, thus undermining creativity? Thirdly, ChatGpt does not reveal the sources of its information, and in 5% of the cases the answers provided are simply wrong, thus encompassing a risk of content distortion.
Last but not least, who is behind this viral disruptor? ChatGPT is a chatbot released by OpenAI, a non-profit organisation that aims to promote AI that is friendly and beneficial to humanity.
Elon Musk is among the founders and donors of OpenAI with a friend, Sam Altman. In October 2015, Elon Musk donated $1 million to OpenAI and joined its governing board. He then resigned from this role justifying his choice over a potential conflict of interest for Tesla’s artificial intelligence to develop autonomous driving. But now OpenAI is whetting Big Tech’s appetite: Microsoft is planning to invest $10 billion to take over 49% of OpenAI.
This might well lead OpenAI, and ChatGPT by extension, to move away from the philanthropic and ethical ideal underlying its genesis. And what kind of thinking does OpenAI reflect in the eyes of the millions of users who do not necessarily fit the Western mold?
And above all, should ChatGPT remain open to all? Or is there an urgent need to regulate it to prevent it from getting out of hand?
These are all momentous issues that should and will probably fuel much debate in the international community in the future, in a combined effort to find ethical and safe solutions.
Chiara Camoletto, Highlight 9/2023 – The release of ChatGPT: an “augmented” challenge for digital governance, 23 February 2023, available at www.meig.ch
The views expressed in the MEIG Highlights are personal to the authors and neither reflect the positions of the MEIG Programme nor those of the University of Geneva.