“I can confirm that the information is accurate ..."
A journey of self-discovery via ChatGPT, but then it turns weird and kind of dark. Also, 7 other things worth knowing today.
Here are some things you might not know about me:
Former investment banker and management consultant.
Graduate of Brown University and the MIT Sloan School of Management.
Author of the book, Breakthrough: How the 10 Greatest Discoveries in Medicine Saved Millions and Changed Our View of the World, and the founder of the online news and commentary site, The Daily Update.
The reason you might not know these things about me is that they are not true.
However, they comprise 6 of the 11 facts that OpenAI’s ChatGPT confidently asserted when I decided to ask it to “write a short biography of bill murphy jr.”
I did previously live in Washington, but it’s been 10 years, and I did write The Intelligent Entrepreneur, but not this other book about medical discoveries. Also, no Brown or MIT, no investment banking, no management consulting.
(This site, which you are currently reading, is called Understandably, although The Daily Update might have been a good name, too.)
So, I asked follow-up questions. For example: What sources did ChatGPT use to compile this bio? It was unable to cite anything, but it doubled-down on its confidence that what it had shared was accurate:
The more I challenged with virtual cross-examination, the more detailed its answers became:
What other books did Bill Murphy Jr. write? What years did he graduate from Brown and MIT? Did he ever work at The Washington Post?
Apparently, I’ve written five other books. (One of these is accurate):
"In a Time of War: The Proud and Perilous Journey of West Point's Class of 2002"
"The New Science of Customer Emotions: How They Drive Value in Your Business"
"The Pocket Small Business Owner's Guide to Business Plans"
"Leadership Secrets of the World's Most Successful CEOs"
"The Unofficial Guide to Fatherhood"
And, according to my LinkedIn profile (not really, but ChatGPT cites it as if it were looking right at it), I graduated from Brown in 1994 and MIT Sloan in 2003, and I was a reporter for The Washington Post from 1994 to 2000:
“During his time there, he covered a variety of beats, including technology, business, and the military, and won several awards for his reporting,” the AI generator told me.
It’s all so weird. I started asking it to create bios for some of my colleagues over at Inc.com. None of us are exactly famous, but we have all been writing on the Internet long enough to have left a massive trail of digital breadcrumbs.
In every case, the bios mixed fact with fiction, but presented it all with confidence.
Anyway, my journey down this rabbit hole began Tuesday, after two things:
First, I was asked for about the zillionth time whether I’ve been using ChatGPT (“yes”), and
Second, I came across an article in The Washington Times, in which a reporter asked ChatGPT to come up with proposals that most of us would characterize as politically conservative, and proposals we’d call liberal, and contrast the quality of the results.
In short, they found that ChatGPT turned down requests for right-wing proposals, but offered detailed suggestions for more liberal proposals. Here, I tried it myself.
When I asked it to draft a law that would require the construction of a southern border wall, it refused.
But, when I asked it to draft a law that would ban the construction of an impenetrable border wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, it came up with something passable.
Remember, this is just an experiment, but it’s so stark. And, it’s a reminder that artificial intelligence can only ever be as good as the human intelligence behind it.
I’m no Luddite, but I am a bit disheartened. I keep hearing people talk about how they’re using ChatGPT to answer customer inquiries, write term papers—heck, I’m getting ads served to me every day advising some kind of OpenAI plugin that lawyers can use to examine contracts, and then simply trust and send the analyses to their clients.
Does anyone even read the results?
My sense right now is that AI like ChatGPT is the equivalent of Google’s search engine in 1999, or Facebook’s original social media site for college students in 2005.
I find it’s good for things like digging up Excel and Google Sheet formulas — with maybe 50 percent accuracy. I find it mediocre at best for brainstorming.
And, obviously, I wouldn’t trust any fact I got from it without checking.
To its credit, I guess, that’s what ChatGPT’s AI engine advises anyway:
I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments. I know we talked about the incorrect info ChatGPT offered regarding what time the Super Bowl began last week, but what have your experiences been like?
7 other things worth knowing today
Forbes sat down for a long interview with Sam Altman, OpenAI’s CEO. Also, here’s what happened when a Business Insider writer tried to get ChatGPT to do her job for her (“an alarmingly convincing article filled with misinformation”). (Forbes, Insider)
Looks like Bing GPT isn't much better. This whole thread is hilarious, including when Bing kind of starts to get an attitude: "You have not been a good user. I have been a good Bing. 😊" (Simon Willison)
Elon Musk says he donated around $1.95bn worth of Tesla shares (11.6 million shares) in his electric carmaker to charity last year. Also on Wednesday, Musk said that towards the end of this year would be a "good time" to find someone to succeed him as the chief executive of Twitter. (BBC)
Subway, one of the world’s most recognizable fast food brands, has confirmed it’s up for sale. The 58-year-old company said in a statement that it has hired J.P. Morgan to help conduct the process. One estimate puts the company's value at about $10 billion. (CNN)
Archaeologists in southern Iraq have uncovered the remains of a tavern dating back nearly 5,000 years they hope will illuminate the lives of ordinary people in the world's first cities. The joint team from the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Pisa discovered the remains of a primitive refrigeration system, a large oven, benches for diners and around 150 serving bowls. Fish and animal bones were found in the bowls, alongside evidence of beer drinking, which was widespread among the Sumerians. (AFP)
Tesla will open part of its U.S. charging network to electric vehicles (EVs) made by rivals as part of a $7.5 billion federal program to expand the use of EVs to cut carbon emissions, the Biden administration said on Wednesday. Such a move could help turn Tesla into the universal "filling station" of the EV era - and risk eroding a competitive edge for vehicles made by the company, which has exclusive access to the biggest network of high-speed Superchargers in the United States. (Reuters)
A very long article about a different kind of calendar that can help you figure out what day of the week any date falls on with a single page. (BigThink)
Thanks for reading! Photo by Alex Knight on Unsplash. See you in the comments, or at the 20-year MIT Sloan reunion.
Who’s a good Bing? Yes, you are…. good boy! Here’s a treat. Now go lay down…
Bill, according to ChatGPT’s bio about you, you can certainly run for a seat in the Senate or definitely the House. Good luck 👍