What Is ChatGPT? Everything You Need to Know


The Gist

  • ChatGPT definition. ChatGPT is a language-based AI model developed by OpenAI that’s designed to generate human-like text. 
  • ChatGPT evolution. Evolved from the GPT (Generative Pre-trained Transformer) series, ChatGPT is among the most advanced models.
  • ChatGPT capabilities. While primarily used for conversation, ChatGPT can assist in tasks like content creation, programming help and more. 

Editor’s Note: This article has been updated on Sept. 8, 2023 to include new data and information.

ChatGPT hit internet browsers on Nov. 30, 2022. Within five days of release, it reached 1 million users — a feat that Twitter took two years to achieve.

ChatGPT reaches one million users.

Is ChatGPT the revolutionary artificial intelligence (AI) we’ve all been waiting for? Here’s everything you need to know (and more) about the large language model. 

What Is ChatGPT? 

ChatGPT is an AI chatbot developed by OpenAI, rooted in the GPT (Generative Pre-trained Transformer) architecture. Its primary function revolves around text generation, interpreting context to produce coherent and relevant responses. As interest grows around conversational AI models, many turn to ChatGPT for its ability to translate language, answer questions, summarize text, write creatively and more. 

What Company Owns ChatGPT?

ChatGPT is the brainchild of OpenAI, an AI research company based in San Francisco. The company was founded in 2015 and financially backed by OpenAI CEO Sam Altman, Elon Musk, PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel, LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman and others. 

When first established, OpenAI’s mission statement claimed it’s goal was to advance artificial intelligence in a way that is “most likely to benefit humanity as a whole, unconstrained by a need to generate financial return.” That mission statement has since changed, however, with the latter half of the mission statement concerning “financial return” dropping by the wayside. 

In 2019, Microsoft invested $1 billion in the AI firm’s technology to support its building of artificial general intelligence (AGI). In 2023, Microsoft made another round of investments to the tune of $10 billion — though not everyone is happy with the timing.

Microsoft invests in ChatGPT chatbot.

Related Article: The Open Source Revolution: Challenging AI Giants Google and OpenAI

How Does ChatGPT Work?

ChatGPT was trained on large amounts of text from the internet, allowing it to recognize patterns in language. The training, wrote OpenAI researcher Scott Aaronson, “simply consists of playing the following game over and over, trillions of times: predict which word comes next in this text string.”

When presented with a user’s input or query — Hey ChatGPT, what’s the best way to cook Zucchini? — the language model references the patterns from its training to generate coherent and contextually relevant responses. 

The “pre-trained” in Generative Pre-trained Transformer (GPT) refers to the initial phase where the language model learns from vast amounts of text before developers fine tune it for specific tasks. The efficiency and effectiveness of ChatGPT hinge largely on the volume and diversity of the data it’s trained on, as well as the underlying algorithms that govern its operations.

How Are People Using ChatGPT? 

ChatGPT excels at language and information tasks. It has some restrictions built in that prevent it from providing “toxic” reactions or problematic model outputs. It’s also designed to ignore inappropriate requests. 

People are already using the AI chatbot for many things, and new uses seem to pop up daily. ChatGPT users can harness the technology to: 

Answer Almost Any Question 

ChatGPT is pretty good at answering nearly any question you throw its way. You could ask: 

  • What’s a good birthday present for my dad, who likes to fish, work on antique cars and read books about wildlife?
  • What houseplants are easiest to care for if I live in central Vermont?
  • What’s the square root of 198?
  • How can you replace a sink faucet?
  • Why would someone want to travel to outer space?

The possibilities seem endless when it comes to expanding knowledge and satisfying curiosity. 

Read Through Code and Fix Bugs

Some developers have tested ChatGPT with coding, allowing it to find and fix bugs. The AI language model also explains the fixes. 

That ChatGPT interface can help debug code.

Write … Pretty Much Anything

ChatGPT’s writing capabilities are perhaps some of its most exciting, because it’s excellent at mimicking human writing. If you ask it to, it can write:

  • Essays
  • Resumes
  • Poems
  • Social media posts
  • Marketing copy
  • Emails
  • Fiction and nonfiction stories

Beyond writing alone, ChatGPT can read and analyze text and videos. Amazon, for instance, started using artificial intelligence to summarize reviews. New ChatGPT-based tools also exist to summarize YouTube videos. Offer ChatGPT your notes on an article and it can generate an outline or entire sections. Or ask it to write product content to save you time at work. It can also translate from one language to another — often with better results than Google Translate.

The more details you add to a request, the better results you’ll get. You might want a poem with a “Wild West” theme, for example, or a social media post in the style of The New York Times. 

For example, if I ask for a poem with a Wild West theme, ChatGPT responds: 

ChatGPT uses human feedback to create written content.

Connect to Third-Party Plugins

What does ChatGPT have to do with plugins? Early in 2023, some ChatGPT users got access to experimental features, including third-party plugins. 

ChatGPT plugin to play Tic Tac Toe.

These plugins expand ChatGPT’s capabilities, allowing users to:

  • Build charts, graphs and other visuals
  • Browse webpages and fetch information
  • Create AI-powered forms, surveys and quizzes
  • Generate videos using stock images and music
  • Summarize YouTube videos
  • Play games, like Tic Tac Toe

Remember Past Conversations

ChatGPT stands out in that it remembers the conversations you have with it and can build its responses off past conversations. It can also collect user feedback to refine its outputs.

For example, say you ask ChatGPT to write an outline for an article about gardening, and it comes back with a 10-section outline. You can then type, “Write two paragraphs on part two of that outline, selecting a plot of land for your garden.”

When users have a specific output in mind — like a story, resume or another endeavor — they can use this conversational memory to fine-tune ChatGPT’s responses.

Related Article: Can Tools Like ChatGPT Help Personalize Marketing Strategies?

What’s the Difference Between ChatGPT and a Search Engine?

While both ChatGPT and search engines deal with information retrieval and response, they operate on fundamentally different principles. Search engines, like Google, index the web and return relevant links based on user queries. Their aim is to direct users to existing content.

In contrast, ChatGPT, powered by artificial intelligence, generates responses based on patterns from its training data rather than searching the web. While search engines provide direct information from diverse sources, ChatGPT synthesizes its own content based on its understanding of its training dataset.

The two serve different roles: search engines for direct information retrieval, and ChatGPT for generating insights in a conversational manner.

What Are ChatGPT’s Limitations?

ChatGPT seems like the super tool we’ve all been waiting for. But it’s not perfect — yet.

Not Connected to the Internet

ChatGPT’s main limitation is that it’s not connected to the internet and can’t access current information and data. For a brief period of time, OpenAI offered a beta web browsing plugin that could access and retrieve current information on the web. Unfortunately, that feature was temporarily disabled in July 2023 because it could display content in unwanted ways, according to OpenAI

Currently, the bot generates answers based on the text and data it was trained on — which cuts off in 2021. Therefore, it’s not good at providing information or writing prompts that require recent data. OpenAI does, however, provide periodic updates to the program.

Answers Not Always Correct

Does ChatGPT give wrong answers? Yes, sometimes. One risk that comes with large language models like ChatGPT is that they can “hallucinate.” These AI hallucinations occur when the bot provides incorrect or false information with confidence. Sometimes, ChatGPT’s responses may even appear nonsensical. While the AI chatbot is often factual, this degree of error means users still need to fact-check any information or data they obtain from it. 

Programmers using this tool are also seeing this issue regarding “bug fixes.” While sometimes ChatGPT can save time debugging, it’s fixes aren’t always accurate (or necessary).

One Twitter user pointed out, however, that you can tell ChatGPT when it’s wrong, and it will correct itself:


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