ChatGPT hits 100 million users

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Two robot armies face off before battle. 
This is one fight I want to see. Created with the assistance of DALL-E

Other tech companies struggling to keep up

ChatGPT has been taking over the world. Since its release, ChatGPT has passed 100 million users and become a social media phenomenon.  

ChatGPT is a chatbot created by the company OpenAI, which has some affiliation with Microsoft. In many situations, the chatbot is able to mimic human text remarkably closely, surpassing previous attempts at chatbots. In January, the Carillon covered the potential impact of ChatGPT on undergraduate students due to concerns about the chatbot’s ability to write passable university-level essays.  

Since then, the arms race has taken off with artificial intelligence (AI) writing detectors proliferating, only to be outdone by chatbots such as YouWrite which purposefully add minor mistakes to sound more human.  

David Akinmade, a graduate student at the University of Regina who studies some of the computer science behind chatbots, says the “technology is only going to get better as time goes on.” Akinmade thinks “people need to come to accept that.” 

Indeed, the popularity of ChatGPT has spurred new competitors, and old competitors have received increased attention due to the newfound popularity of chatbots.  

Potentially the biggest competitor will be Google’s Bard, a conversational chatbot similar to ChatGPT. Though Bard has been slow to the game, only reaching pre-release in early February while showing embarrassing inaccuracies at a demo event.  

Meanwhile, Microsoft has started testing incorporating ChatGPT into its Bing search engine, Edge browser, and Skype. Other free options like YouChat have also been competing for the market share alongside paid options like JasperAI and ChatSonic. More specialized versions have been popping up as well, such as SocraticAI, which is meant to help tutor schoolchildren.  

More recently, ChatGPT has also moved to make a premium version, which will give users priority access to their servers during busy hours.  

Amid the capitalistic competition, David Akinmade is worried about how to democratize the use of AI, pointing out “inequality is rising and spreading.” Akinmade says that if AI is restricted behind the current leaders of the industry, “it’s only going to broaden that gap.” 

Akinmade believes a first step in democratizing the use of AI is making the knowledge about how they work more available. “People need to be educated about how to build large language models.” Beyond just the understanding, people also need to democratize “the ability to build these models.” 

Though people may not be learning how to build AI, some surveys show that people are becoming more familiar with them.  

Fishbowl, a small social media company aimed at professionals, surveyed their userbase and found that the number of participants using ChatGPT at work from early January to the end of January had grown from 27 per cent to 43 per cent. Of those who had used it, about 70 per cent had not told their boss. They also found that a common use was for sales and marketing.  

While these new AIs are proliferating, Akinmade is not the only one concerned about equity. The cost to build and run chatbots is expensive and requires a lot of energy. OpenAI hasn’t released enough information to get an entirely accurate number on carbon dioxide emissions from ChatGPT. Although, technology writer Chris Pointon on Medium made an estimation based on the processors used, runtime per response, reported traffic to the site, and average carbon emissions per watt of electricity in the Western US. He found that, as of February 20, ChatGPT likely released around 25 tonnes of carbon dioxide a day.  

Akinmade says that he is “optimistic about large language models,” though he acknowledges that it is people who ultimately “decide the future” of AI, and says we need to “address that quickly.” 

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