The Rise of ChatGPT

The above image was generated with DALL·E 2.

The Rise of ChatGPT

Education in the age of artificial intelligence

Just before Thanksgiving, San Francisco-based company OpenAI, one of the most ambitious artificial intelligence labs on the planet, released a new product to the general public. They called it ChatGPT, short for Generative Pre-Trained Transformer, and it didn’t take long for people to notice.

Within five days of its launch, ChatGPT had more than a million users. One of those people was the actor Ryan Reynolds, who came out with a commercial for his company Mint Mobile, written entirely by the program, a kind of meta commentary on the future of advertising.

Chat-GPT and other models like it represent a new generation of conversant machine learning systems that can produce on-demand text, images, and videos based on a vast online database. They can generate tweets, pen poetry, summarize emails, answer trivia questions, translate languages, craft songs, and even write computer programs — all based on simple, intuitive prompts with incredible, staggering fluency. It is, as one writer put it, “a freakishly capable tool.”

Cheating is the most immediate concern for schools like Pomfret, but many have noted that ChatGPT also has a propensity for spitting biased, toxic language into the air. Even when ChatGPT is behaving, it often spews out wrong or misleading information.

In response, a senior at Princeton University named Edward Tiana recently developed a program called GPTZero that promises to quickly and efficiently detect A.I. Meanwhile, officials at New York City Public Schools have blocked ChatGPT altogether. 

But Edward Tiana and the New York City Public School system seem to be outliers in this conversation. Even if the prohibition of A.I. and the utilization of A.I.-detection tools succeed in the short term, they will almost certainly fail in the long term. There will always be a workaround. 

At Pomfret, we have begun experimenting with this technology, embracing the best, safeguarding against the worst. “This technology is so powerful,” says Pomfret Director of Technology Tie Watkins, “It’s not a question of if it will be used, but how.”

Aiden's photograph is on the left and DALL·E 2's generated image is on the right.

Aiden Choi ’23 first learned about DALL·E 2, an image-generating cousin of ChatGPT, at a business and engineering conference last summer. For his yearlong senior project in Advanced Photography Master Portfolio, Aiden decided to compete against DALL·E 2. He challenged himself to take a weekly photograph that was better than the one the program could create. Aiden says his photographs have been good, but A.I. may have the edge. “With DALL·E 2, I think the return is usually better because it has access to all types of images and data. That can be hard to beat.”

Josh Lake, the chair of the Science Department at Pomfret, has also begun tinkering with A.I. In his computer science class, he encourages students to use the tool as a coding assistant. In his astronomy class, he likes to use the mistakes made by the program as a conversation starter.

“A.I. is going to be a part of the world that our students inherit,” says Lake. “If we are doing our job as a school, we must embrace the technology, address the issues head-on, and create assignments that incorporate its application.” 

Aiden Choi agrees, comparing the advancement of A.I. to the printing press or the first computer. “While people were initially resistant to new technologies, the inventions have transformed societies. I believe these tools will be part of the norm in five to ten years. Then we will be on to something even more advanced."

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