What Is ChatGPT? | Everything You Need to Know

ChatGPT is a chatbot powered by artificial intelligence (AI). It works like any chatbot: users type in text-based prompts, and it responds to them with its own text. What makes it unique is how fluent, extensive, and human-sounding its answers are, as well as the wide variety of topics it can discuss.

ChatGPT was developed by a company called OpenAI. It was released in November 2022. It’s currently free to use, although it was released as a “research preview,” so it may not be free forever.

It can be used for a wide variety of tasks, including writing, brainstorming, researching, coding, and feedbacking existing text. ChatGPT’s ability to quickly generate large amounts of convincing text has significant implications in a variety of areas, such as academia, business, politics, and the internet.

Note
Universities and other institutions are still developing their stances on how ChatGPT and similar tools may be used. Always follow your institution’s guidelines over any suggestions you read online. Check out our guide to current university policies on AI writing for more information.

You can also learn more about how to use AI tools responsibly on our AI writing resources page.

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How does ChatGPT work?

ChatGPT was trained on a very large dataset consisting of hundreds of billions of words from a wide variety of sources (such as books and webpages). Based on its training, it produces text by predicting what words should come next in any given context—something like a hyper-advanced version of predictive text.

There are a few key terms that come up when discussing ChatGPT, which can help you to understand how it works:

  • Natural language processing (NLP) is the field dedicated to studying the interaction of computers with human language.
  • Neural networks are computing systems designed to imitate brain structures in an attempt to generate human-like intelligence.
  • Large language models (LLMs) are a type of neural network trained on very large quantities of text so that they can produce human language.
  • Generative pre-trained transformers (GPTs) are a specific type of LLM, currently the most popular and advanced approach. GPT-3.5 and GPT-4 are the specific models used in ChatGPT.
  • Reinforcement learning from human feedback (RLHF) is the training method used to fine-tune the GPT models for use in ChatGPT. It involves “rewarding” the model for producing appropriate responses (i.e., responses that are fluent, relevant, factually correct, and don’t contain offensive language).

Essentially, ChatGPT’s answers are based on predicting the most natural responses to your prompts, based on the large amount of text the model was trained on, with a reward system on top of this to encourage helpful answers and discourage inappropriate ones.

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Using ChatGPT

You can try ChatGPT yourself by following this link. You’ll first have to sign up for an account, but it’s free to do so (though it’s possible it won’t be free forever). The prompts you enter can be used to train and refine future GPT models, so be cautious about entering sensitive information in your chats.

A premium version of ChatGPT is also available for a monthly fee. This version runs on GPT-4 instead of GPT-3.5, so it’s likely to perform better and make fewer mistakes.

Due to its advanced language capabilities, ChatGPT has a wide range of potential use cases, from exploring and researching new topics to having it help you with coding. Some examples are shown in the tabs below. Try it yourself to see what it can do!

  • Please write a program in Python that calculates the sum of all numbers from 1 to N, where N is entered by the user.
  • Here is one way to write a program in Python to calculate the sum of all numbers from 1 to N:n = int(input(“Enter a positive integer: “))
    sum = 0
    for i in range(1, n+1):
    sum += i
    print(“The sum of all numbers from 1 to”, n, “is”, sum)In this program, the user is prompted to enter a positive integer n. The variable sum is initialized to 0 and then we use a for loop to iterate from 1 to n (inclusive), adding each number to the sum. Finally, the result is printed to the screen.ChatGPT Python code
  • Develop three possible research questions on the following topic: “The influence of social media on political opinion formation.”
    1. To what extent does exposure to diverse political perspectives on social media affect individuals’ political opinions and behaviors?
    2. How does the personalized algorithm of social media platforms shape the formation of political opinions among its users?
    3. What are the underlying factors that determine the effect of social media on political opinion formation, and how can they be measured and analyzed?
  • Based on the second research question, develop three further research questions on the topic of polarization in US politics.
    • Build my scientific method, qualitative discourse analysis, into each question
    • Include the term “filter bubble” in each question
    1. How does the filter bubble effect on social media platforms contribute to the polarization of political attitudes in the US? A qualitative discourse analysis.
    2. What is the role of filter bubbles in perpetuating and reinforcing political echo chambers in the US? A qualitative discourse analysis.
    3. How does the influence of filter bubbles on social media affect the ability of individuals to engage in productive political discourse across ideological divides in the US? A qualitative discourse analysis.
  • Try to incorporate “qualitative discourse analysis” into the questions themselves, instead of using it as a separate sentence.
    1. How does a qualitative discourse analysis of filter bubble effect on social media platforms contribute to understanding the polarization of political attitudes in the US?
    2. What is the contribution of a qualitative discourse analysis to understanding the role of filter bubbles in perpetuating and reinforcing political echo chambers in the US?
    3. How does a qualitative discourse analysis of the influence of filter bubbles on social media inform our understanding of the ability of individuals to engage in productive political discourse across ideological divides in the US?
  • Can you tell me about the Napoleonic Wars?
  • Sure, I’d be happy to tell you about the Napoleonic Wars.
    The Napoleonic Wars were a series of conflicts that took place between 1803 and 1815, primarily in Europe, but also in other parts of the world. The wars were named after Napoleon Bonaparte, the French military and political leader who played a prominent role in the conflicts.
    The wars began in 1803, when Britain and France resumed hostilities after a brief peace. Over the next several years, France, under Napoleon’s leadership, conquered much of Europe, including the Netherlands, Switzerland, Italy, and much of Germany. However, Britain, with its powerful navy, was able to maintain control of the seas and prevent Napoleon from invading Britain itself.
    In 1812, Napoleon invaded Russia, but his army was defeated in a disastrous campaign that saw the majority of his soldiers perish. This marked the beginning of the end for Napoleon, as other European powers saw an opportunity to weaken France and launched a series of offensives against the French.
    The wars finally came to an end in 1815, with Napoleon’s defeat at the Battle of Waterloo. He was exiled to the island of Saint Helena, where he died six years later.
    The Napoleonic Wars had a significant impact on Europe and the world. They helped to spread the ideals of the French Revolution throughout Europe, but also led to the establishment of new conservative regimes in many countries. The wars also marked the beginning of the end of the Age of Enlightenment and the rise of nationalism and imperialism.
  • What happened between Napoleon’s defeat in Russia and the Battle of Waterloo?
  • After Napoleon’s disastrous invasion of Russia in 1812, his once-mighty Grande Armée was severely weakened. In the following years, Napoleon struggled to hold onto his empire as other European powers launched offensives against him.In 1813, the Sixth Coalition, made up of Austria, Prussia, Russia, Sweden, and the United Kingdom, defeated Napoleon at the Battle of Leipzig, also known as the “Battle of Nations.” This marked a turning point in the war, as the Coalition forces continued to push into France, capturing Paris in 1814.
    Napoleon was forced to abdicate the throne and was exiled to the island of Elba. The Bourbon monarchy was restored in France, with Louis XVIII becoming king.
    However, in 1815, Napoleon escaped from Elba and returned to France, where he was able to rally his supporters and regain power for what is known as the Hundred Days. The Seventh Coalition, made up of the same powers as the Sixth Coalition, was formed to oppose Napoleon’s return.
    The Coalition forces defeated Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo on June 18, 1815, ending his rule and exiling him once again, this time to the remote island of Saint Helena in the South Atlantic.
    The defeat at Waterloo marked the end of the Napoleonic era and the restoration of the Bourbon monarchy in France once again. It also marked a turning point in European history, as the balance of power shifted away from France and towards the other major powers, particularly the United Kingdom.
Note
Be aware of the limitations of ChatGPT: while it’s a revolutionary technology, it’s not always trustworthy, can’t cite its sources accurately, and isn’t a credible source for factual information. Use it to explore topics in an interactive way, but always check specific claims against other sources.

Who made ChatGPT?

ChatGPT was developed and released by OpenAI, a major company in the world of AI research and development. The company was founded in 2015 by Ilya Sutskever, Greg Brockman, Sam Altman, and Elon Musk (who is no longer involved). The current CEO is Sam Altman.

OpenAI began as a nonprofit company but transitioned to for-profit in 2019. The company has been praised for its commitment to developing AI in a safe and open way, but it has also been criticized for failing to live up to that commitment by refusing to reveal the technical details of its models.

The same company is responsible for other AI products, most notably DALL-E (an AI image generator) and its follow-up, DALL-E 2, both of which run on the same GPT technology as ChatGPT.

The implications of ChatGPT

ChatGPT has been a huge success for OpenAI and is claimed to be the fastest-growing app in history, having reached 100 million monthly active users in just two months. It’s widely regarded as a big step forward in the development of AI technology and seen as having major implications for society.

Many commentators have highlighted the positive potential in ChatGPT, pointing out its ability to:

  • Improve productivity in many professions by automating routine writing tasks (e.g., writing emails)
  • Allow individuals or smaller teams to carry out more ambitious projects by speeding up processes like research and content generation
  • Serve as an interactive learning, research, and writing assistant in academic contexts
  • Facilitate creativity by making tasks like coding and writing more accessible to those who struggle to manage them alone

Others have criticized the technology for various reasons, arguing that it:

  • May spread misinformation either inadvertently (due to its difficulty admitting when it doesn’t know something) or deliberately (when asked by the user to generate fake news)
  • Enables academic dishonesty if students present AI-generated text as their own work (an AI detector may be used to determine when students have used these tools)
  • Could be disruptive to many professions, resulting in job losses
  • Reproduces biases (such as sexism) that are present in its training data

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Other interesting articles

If you want to know more about ChatGPT, AI tools, fallacies, and research bias, make sure to check out some of our other articles with explanations and examples.

Frequently asked questions about ChatGPT

How does ChatGPT work?

ChatGPT is a chatbot based on a large language model (LLM). These models are trained on huge datasets consisting of hundreds of billions of words of text, based on which the model learns to effectively predict natural responses to the prompts you enter.

ChatGPT was also refined through a process called reinforcement learning from human feedback (RLHF), which involves “rewarding” the model for providing useful answers and discouraging inappropriate answers—encouraging it to make fewer mistakes.

Essentially, ChatGPT’s answers are based on predicting the most likely responses to your inputs based on its training data, with a reward system on top of this to incentivize it to give you the most helpful answers possible. It’s a bit like an incredibly advanced version of predictive text. This is also one of ChatGPT’s limitations: because its answers are based on probabilities, they’re not always trustworthy.

How do I access ChatGPT?

You can access ChatGPT by signing up for a free account:

  1. Follow this link to the ChatGPT website.
  2. Click on “Sign up” and fill in the necessary details (or use your Google account). It’s free to sign up and use the tool.
  3. Type a prompt into the chat box to get started!

A ChatGPT app is also available for iOS, and an Android app is planned for the future. The app works similarly to the website, and you log in with the same account for both.

Who created ChatGPT?

ChatGPT was created by OpenAI, an AI research company. It started as a nonprofit company in 2015 but became for-profit in 2019. Its CEO is Sam Altman, who also co-founded the company. OpenAI released ChatGPT as a free “research preview” in November 2022. Currently, it’s still available for free, although a more advanced premium version is available if you pay for it.

OpenAI is also known for developing DALL-E, an AI image generator that runs on similar technology to ChatGPT.

Who owns ChatGPT?

ChatGPT is owned by OpenAI, the company that developed and released it. OpenAI is a company dedicated to AI research. It started as a nonprofit company in 2015 but transitioned to for-profit in 2019. Its current CEO is Sam Altman, who also co-founded the company.

In terms of who owns the content generated by ChatGPT, OpenAI states that it will not claim copyright on this content, and the terms of use state that “you can use Content for any purpose, including commercial purposes such as sale or publication.” This means that you effectively own any content you generate with ChatGPT and can use it for your own purposes.

Be cautious about how you use ChatGPT content in an academic context. University policies on AI writing are still developing, so even if you “own” the content, you’re often not allowed to submit it as your own work according to your university or to publish it in a journal. AI detectors may be used to detect ChatGPT content.

What does “ChatGPT” stand for?

GPT stands for “generative pre-trained transformer,” which is a type of large language model: a neural network trained on a very large amount of text to produce convincing, human-like language outputs. The Chat part of the name just means “chat”: ChatGPT is a chatbot that you interact with by typing in text.

The technology behind ChatGPT is GPT-3.5 (in the free version) or GPT-4 (in the premium version). These are the names for the specific versions of the GPT model. GPT-4 is currently the most advanced model that OpenAI has created. It’s also the model used in Bing’s chatbot feature.

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Jack Caulfield

Jack is a Brit based in Amsterdam, with an MA in comparative literature. He writes for Scribbr about his specialist topics: grammar, linguistics, citations, and plagiarism. In his spare time, he reads a lot of books.

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Jack Caulfield
Jack Caulfield (Scribbr Team)
April 28, 2023 at 1:05 PM

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