Will the ChatGPT AI chatbot make journalists obsolete?

Will AI teach my students far better than I could? Will my place be taken by AI algorithms? Will The Jerusalem Report be written by ChatGPT? 

 The ChatGPT homescreen (photo credit: WIKIPEDIA)
The ChatGPT homescreen
(photo credit: WIKIPEDIA)

Jerusalem Report logo small (credit: JPOST STAFF)Jerusalem Report logo small (credit: JPOST STAFF)

What is artificial intelligence (AI)?

Artificial intelligence (AI) is intelligence demonstrated by machines, in contrast with intelligence displayed by animals and humans. 

The Oxford English Dictionary defines artificial intelligence as “The theory and development of computer systems able to perform tasks that normally require human intelligence, such as visual perception, speech recognition, decision-making, and translation between languages.” 

“The theory and development of computer systems able to perform tasks that normally require human intelligence, such as visual perception, speech recognition, decision-making, and translation between languages.”

Oxford English Dictionary definition of artificial intelligence

Give me an example.

Our son Noam was CEO of a start-up that used AI to analyze traffic data and guide police and emergency medical teams to danger spots on roads, cutting response times significantly and saving lives. It is used in several leading US cities and is being tried on the Ayalon Highway.

What does the future hold for AI?

According to the weekly business magazine The Economist, “AI is permeating business at last.” For instance: Farm equipment maker John Deere has shipped its first fleet of self-driving tractors whose cameras use AI. Nike uses AI algorithms to design sneakers. Alexa, Amazon’s digital assistant, uses AI to invent stories for children (“Alexa, tell me a story!”). Nestle uses AI to design images that help sell its products. 

 Visitors at a booth at the World Artificial Intelligence Conference in Shanghai, China, on September 1, 2022.  (credit: ALY SONG/REUTERS) Visitors at a booth at the World Artificial Intelligence Conference in Shanghai, China, on September 1, 2022. (credit: ALY SONG/REUTERS)

In 2022, S&P 500 companies in the US advertised some 8,000 AI job openings, up one-tenth from 2020. Microsoft’s revenues from its machine learning (a form of AI) cloud service doubled every quarter for the past year. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella says, “We envision a world where everyone, no matter their profession, can have a CoPilot for everything they do.” (CoPilot turns ordinary speech requests into software coding suggestions across many languages).

“We envision a world where everyone, no matter their profession, can have a CoPilot for everything they do.”

Satya Nadella

Will CoPilot turn into AI pilot without a human co-pilot? Is AI going to make me, an educator and journalist, obsolete? Will AI teach my students far better than I could? Will my place be taken by supersmart AI algorithms? For instance, will The Jerusalem Report one day be written by, say, ChatGPT

ChatGPT stands for “generative pre-trained transformer.” Phew, that’s a mouthful. 

Ask it a question. Any question. It will answer. True, sometimes it makes mistakes. Especially with tough math. We all do. But believe me, it will amaze you. And for teachers like me, it poses a dilemma. How in the world will we ever know whether our students wrote the essays they submit? And what if ChatGPT can write better columns than I can?

How did experts build ChatGPT? It was provided with conversations in which the trainers played both sides: the user and the AI assistant. In the reinforcement step, human trainers first ranked responses that the model had created in a previous conversation. These rankings were used to create “reward models” on which the model was further fine-tuned, using several iterations. The models were trained in collaboration with Microsoft. And remember – machines learn really fast; far faster than humans.

Basically, ChatGPT was fed masses of information, which it processed super-fast, much faster than a human could learn.

ChatGPT remembers previous prompts given to it in the same conversation. Some journalists claim this will allow for ChatGPT to be used as a personalized therapist. For example, ChatGPT might be asked “Why am I so depressed? How can I reduce my stress levels?”

However, ChatGPT suffers from multiple limitations. ChatGPT has limited knowledge of events that occurred after 2021 and is unable to provide information on some celebrities. (Hey, who cares? I’m really not interested in Kanye West’s latest idiocies.) 

In training, reviewers preferred longer answers, irrespective of actual comprehension or factual content. Training data may also suffer from algorithmic bias; prompts including vague descriptors of people, such as a CEO, could generate a response that assumes such a person, for instance, is a white male. (Gender bias once again! Even with computers?)

ChatGPT was launched on November 30, 2022, by San Francisco-based OpenAI. The service was launched as initially free to the public, with plans to monetize the service later. By December 4, OpenAI estimated that ChatGPT already had over one million users. 

Please give me an example of how ChatGPT thinks and works.

Sure. I asked ChatGPT this tough question: Explain in about 500 words how to make peace between Israelis and Palestinians

Here is the answer I got back, in seconds: 

ChatGPT: “The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a complex and longstanding dispute that has been at the center of much violence and turmoil in the Middle East for decades. There is no simple solution to the conflict, and it will likely take a concerted effort by all parties involved to find a way to make peace. Here are some steps that could be taken to try to bring about a peaceful resolution to the conflict:

“Engage in dialogue: One of the first steps towards finding a peaceful resolution to any conflict is to establish channels of communication between the parties involved. This can be done through formal negotiations, informal discussions, or even through third-party mediators. By opening up lines of communication, both sides can better understand each other’s perspectives and start working towards a mutually acceptable solution.

“Address the root causes of the conflict: It is important to understand the underlying issues that have contributed to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in order to find a lasting solution. Some of the key issues that have fueled the conflict include disputes over land, access to resources, and political and religious differences. In order to achieve peace, it will be necessary to address these issues and find ways to compromise and accommodate the interests and concerns of both sides. 

“Encourage economic development: Economic development can help to create jobs and improve living standards, which can in turn help to reduce tensions and promote stability. Encouraging investment and trade between Israelis and Palestinians can help to build bridges between the two sides and create a sense of interdependence that can foster cooperation and mutual understanding.

“Promote education and cultural exchange: Education and cultural exchange can help to promote mutual understanding and respect between Israelis and Palestinians. By encouraging people from both sides to learn about each other’s cultures, histories, and perspectives, it may be possible to foster a sense of empathy and commonality that can help to build trust and facilitate cooperation.

“Provide support for reconciliation: Reconciliation between Israelis and Palestinians will likely require a long-term effort that involves both individual and collective actions. Providing support for initiatives that aim to promote reconciliation and encourage dialogue can be an important step towards building a more peaceful and harmonious relationship between the two sides.

“Address security concerns: Security is a major concern for both Israelis and Palestinians, and addressing this concern will be an important part of any peace process. This could involve measures such as demilitarization, arms control, and confidence-building measures to reduce the risk of violence and promote stability.

“Seek support from the international community: The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has significant regional and global implications, and it will likely require the support of the international community to achieve a lasting resolution. International actors can play a role in helping to facilitate negotiations, provide resources and support for reconciliation efforts, and hold all parties accountable for their actions.

“Ultimately, achieving peace between Israelis and Palestinians will require a combination of efforts from all sides, including both governments and civil society groups. It will take time, patience, and a willingness to compromise and make difficult decisions. However, by working together and taking steps to address the underlying issues that have fueled the conflict, it is possible to build a more peaceful and prosperous future for both Israelis and Palestinians.”

Is this a bunch of empty platitudes or an insightful road map toward peace? What if we had Israel’s ChatGPT negotiate with the Palestinian Authority’s ChatGPT? Instead of Bibi/Ben-Gvir vs. Abbas? Readers, you decide. 

Better yet – try it yourself. If you Google ChatGPT, you will get to the website that, for free, enables you to ask it your own questions and get a rapid response. 

I was astonished by the result. I bet you will be, too.

We humans are not doing so well at sustaining our planet – air, water, land – nor are we much good at living together in peace and harmony. It may be that artificial intelligence can do better, when human intelligence turns out to be pretty unintelligent. 

And maybe, just maybe, ChatBOT will one day soon write more interesting columns than I can. 

Let’s give the last wise word to Zeynap Tufekci, a sociologist and New York Times columnist. She says, “The way forward [with AI] is not to just lament supplanted skills... but also to recognize that as more complex skills become essential, our society must equitably educate people to develop them. It always goes back to basics: Value people as people, not just as bundles of skills. 

“And that isn’t something ChatGPT can tell us how to do.” 

Hey, Zeynap, maybe it can. I plan to ask it. ChatGPT, how should we value people as people, not just as bundles of skills? Stay tuned!  ■

The writer heads the Zvi Griliches Research Data Center at S. Neaman Institute, Technion and blogs at www.timnovate.wordpress.com.