Three Harmful Ideas About ChatGPT

There are three common, but harmful, ideas you’ll hear about the Chat GPT artificial intelligence (AI) that has taken people and the internet by storm:

1) That it can’t replace certain unique human capabilities such as empathy;
2) That it might be biased; and
3) That there are some things it is poor at, such as math.

All these ideas have some validity, however, they are harmful because they are misleading. They are misleading because they draw attention away from what is important to secondary factors. What we have in ChatGPT is the first tool that has true elements of artificial general intelligence (AGI). Its span of intelligence falls short of humans in many domains, yet exceeds it in others. Any way you look at it, it is one of the most significant technological advances in our lifetime.

Some people have suggested the impact of tools like ChatGPT on the economy and society will be similar in scale to the impact of the invention of airplanes. When we are dealing with something that will lead to amazing business opportunities, as well as terrible business risks, then we need to directly address those big impacts rather than be dismissive of the technology due to the fact that it falls short of perfection.

The common themes that dismiss ChatGPT are common for several reasons. One reason is that these themes make us feel good. That AIs can’t replace human capabilities makes us feel special as humans, that they might be biased in addressing topical political concerns, and that they are poor at some things makes us feel clever because we’ve identified a weakness in the system. The themes allow us to dismiss the importance of this invention rather than take on the difficult task of grappling with its implications. Again, it’s not that these themes are entirely wrong, just that they are kind of misdirection.

One important thing to recognize is that ChatGPT is just in beta. We can expect that AI tools next year, in five years, and in 10 years will be significantly more capable. We need to start preparing for a world that is within our planning horizon, where AI tools have capabilities unlike anything humans have faced in the past. It’s time to enthusiastically pursue an understanding of these tools and not be distracted by comforting ideas that dismiss them.

For more on the business impacts and implications of platforms such as ChatGPT, check out my article, “What the Latest Generation of AI Means for HR,” as well as my chat with a large language model known as Lex.