ChatGPT’s Magic Is Not its AI

March 15, 2023

On the heels of yesterdays ChatGPT 4 announcement I finally made a free account. I asked ChatGPT a bunch of questions, largely about things I know. It gave passable answers. Some of them were not accurate. Others were suggestions or changes to code that I thought were merely ok.

Why It Matters

There is lots of hype about artificial intelligence. I wanted to know if ChatGPT is really better than what we have now.

ChatGPT Lacks Opinions

When I ask ChatGPT which of two options is better (Star Trek v. Star Wars, Functional v. Object Oriented Programming) it never takes a side. You can get some useful starting points for the advantages of one thing or the other, but rarely a clean recommendation. There is an understandable constraint, but a large chunk of the reason I use the Internet is for recommendations, so if ChatGPT won’t do these, then it isn’t replacing the Wirecutter anytime soon.

ChatGPT Can Sort of Replace Wikipedia

I am going to guess ChatGPT was trained on Wikipedia and other web content, so I can ask it about Code for Boston and get a reasonably but not entirely accurate summary of what Code for Boston is and does. Unfortunately I still have to fact check its output. So I am not really sure why I would use it for this as opposed to going to the source.

ChatGPT Can Refactor Your Code to Look Like a Newbie Wrote It

I asked ChatGPT to refactor a few Ruby methods and it will do so and explain what changes it made, but its most frequent refactor is to take simple methods from method chains and insert them into descriptive variables. Subjectively this can be helpful in some cases for readability, but in many cases I find it quicker to inline the function or value of the variable for the purpose of reading my code later.

ChatGPT’s Main Advantage Isn’t Its AI

For all the advantages touted by its developers the main appeal of using ChatGPT is it does not send you to a search result with lots of popovers, notifications, and e-mail subscribe asks. Furthermore the content and format of ChatGPT responses reminds me of Smart Brevity. Incentives that have caused content farms to write long winded pages (especially common for recipes) create lots of work to get to the heart of the content. ChatGPT takes this junk and gives you the diamonds, but usually no references or chances to go deeper.

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This work by Matt Zagaja is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.