ChatGPT will shake, not break, our lives says expert user Alix Norman, who shares how you can use this innovative new technology.
First we had the World Wide Web. And suddenly, we were Asking Jeeves our most pressing questions, and chatting to taxi drivers In New York, mums in Melbourne, and princes in Nigeria (hmm!).
Then came Google (which, in December 2022, hosted nearly 90 per cent of online searches) and the world opened up even further: as a naturally curious person, I spent day and night learning about ‘weather tomorrow?’ and ‘can I afford property in Cyprus?’
And now we have ChatGPT which, though tipped to take my job (it won’t; you’ll see why), actually has my full backing. This AI-powered language generation model is, to my mind, the biggest game-changer since the personal computer!
As an early adopter (I was amongst the first to sign up to gmail and the cloud, and I’ve been a fan of SEO since it was barely a thing), the potential of ChatGPT has me reeling.
For the average person, ChatGPT is a pocket Richard Osman: knowledgeable, amenable and a good writer. It’s also intuitive (it can continue conversations and pick up on meaning). And it’s free to use – though, as of February 11, there’s a $20-a-month upgrade plan that allows for faster response speeds and priority access to new features. In short, ChatGPT is the tech we didn’t know we needed…
In the media, the chatbot is often portrayed as an evil villain jumping on journalists’ jobs and rendering writers obsolete. But that’s a very narrow view and, to my mind, utterly incorrect.
ChatGPT cannot do what an experienced writer can. It can’t whip up an engaging first paragraph, seamlessly segue from one idea to the next, or round off with a relevant conclusion. These are things that still require a human touch – a nuanced understanding of audience, style and tone; of linkage, literary device and ideation.
But what it can do – across every sector, not just the media – is boost efficiency. It can generate the basics of any written material; everything from articles to emails, contracts, briefs, code, and SEO. It can answer any question you ask – in any language. And it can research your subject in a fraction of the time it would take you to trawl through Google results, returning a well-written, conversational answer that includes information you hadn’t even thought to ask.
Here’s a concrete example. Search Google for ‘write a blog post on property in Cyprus’, and you’re looking at five ads for rental firms, four legal websites, and a bunch of how-I-make-money-by-blogging results. Ask ChatGPT the same question, and you get three coherent paragraphs: a brief description of the island, factors to consider when buying or renting in Cyprus, and an overview of market pros and cons.
Now, this is where it gets good – and also why ChatGPT will never be able to replace the human mind. If you tailor your prompts correctly (a steep learning curve, but it’s well worth taking the time), you can take this result oh-so-much-further…
I engineered a prompt that asked ChatGPT to ‘Write a 200-word blog post aimed at average income buyers on the advantages and pitfalls of buying property in Limassol in the style of an experienced property developer. Include relevant SEO and an amusing lead.’
The result (which included information that would have otherwise taken hours to find on the net) was nigh on perfect – certainly publishable with just a few tweaks.
There’s so much more that ChatGPT can do. Want to up the word count/expand on the third paragraph/use information from specific sites only/write in the style of Edgar Allan Poe? It can do it! The potential is incredible. (And clearly a threat to Google, who are rushing out their own version, ‘Bard’.)
Over the last few weeks, I’ve used ChatGPT to help research articles, suggest headlines, translate content, add SEO and email interviewees. In that I have a significant body of work available on the internet, it can even mimic my writing style (I said mimic, not replicate!).
Outside the office, ChatGPT has written me an excellent land rental contract (saving €200 in legal fees); composed several social media posts; and come up with countless odes to my cat (‘Here’s to Mist, my cat so furry / Always happy, always purry’)!
Tech-minded friends are using ChatGPT to help build apps, create websites and optimise content. Various financial wizards are automating routine tasks, getting it to assist with calculations, and creating fiscal reports. Someone I know in sales claims they’ve seen a 300 per cent increase in business simply by asking ChatGPT to rewrite their cold-call scripts. And a couple of high-school teachers have told me this tech is an absolute godsend – whilst they’re savvy enough to know when students are using AI-generated content, ChatGPT is great for educators who need to whip up tests, workbooks, and classroom activities.
In all honesty, everyone I’ve spoken to errs on the positive side. There’s the odd grumble about erroneous information (yes, it can happen. You’ll need to fact check). The occasional accusation of plagiarism (usually withdrawn. ChatGPT is superb at paraphrasing). And, without workarounds, there's a lack of info on more recent events (the chatbot was trained on data available by the year 2021, a deficiency that’s being remedied in its incorporation into the Bing search engine).
But ultimately, ChatGPT is a good thing: an efficiency-boosting tool; certainly not an all-knowing, all-seeing AI villain. Take the time to learn how to use it, and it could well change your world. The only people who should be concerned are those who are too hidebound to see its promise. Look, my sister-in-law is already using it to write bedtime stories for her kids. The potential is boundless!
for The Sunday Mail
Emerging AI technologies are set to change every aspect of our lives. Expert prompt engineer ALIX NORMAN takes a look at what ChatGPT can do for you.