This 22-year-old is trying to save us from ChatGPT before typing changes forever Planet Money : NPR

Edward Tian
Edward Tian

While many Americans were nursing hangovers on New Year’s Day, 22-year-old Edward Tian was busy working on a new app called ChatGPT, a powerful new artificial intelligence tool to combat abuse.

Given the buzz, there’s a good chance you’ve heard of ChatGPT. It is an interactive chabot powered by machine learning. The technology has consumed the entire Internet by reading human collective works and learning a language that can recreate them. All you have to do is give it a question, and ChatGPT can do endless things: write a story in a different style, answer a question, explain a concept, write an email — write a college essay — and spit it out. Consistent, human-looking text in seconds.

The technology is amazing – and scary.

“I think we’re absolutely at the tipping point,” Tian said. “This technology is incredible. I believe it is the future. But at the same time, it’s like opening Pandora’s Box. And we need defenses to hold him accountable.”

Tian is a senior majoring in computer science and journalism minors at Princeton University. Before his recent rise to fame, Tian’s biggest plan was to graduate college and get his wisdom teeth pulled. He is now fielding calls from venture capital firms, academic leaders and the international media.

Over the past two years, Tian has been researching an AI system called GPT-3, the predecessor to Chat GPT, which was not user-friendly and was behind a paywall, generally inaccessible to the public. In his research this fall semester, Tian worked in Princeton’s Natural Language Processing Lab to investigate how AI systems can access written text.

Then, as the semester drew to a close, OpenAI, the company behind GPT-3 and other AI tools, released ChatGPT to the public for free. For the millions of people around the world who have used it since then, interacting with the technology is like looking into the future. Before long, the future seemed like science fiction.

Despite studying AI, Tian, ​​like the rest of us, was fascinated by the power of ChatGPT. He and his friends used it to write lyrics and raps about each other. “And it was like: ‘Wow, these results are great,'” Tian says. It seems like everyone on campus is talking about how amazing this new technology is. Of course, the text it generates is pretty formulaic and not always accurate. But it also seems like the beginning of a revolution.

For many users of the new technology, surprise quickly turned to alarm. How many jobs will this kill? Will this encourage violent actors and further corrupt our public discourse? How does this affect our education system? What’s the point of learning to write essays in school when AI, which is expected to get significantly better in the near future, can help us?

Writing Stephen Marche Atlantic last month, announced “The college essay is dead” He paints ChatGPT and the AI ​​revolution as part of humanity’s existential crisis. “The essay, especially the elementary essay, has been central to human learning for generations,” Marche wrote. “It’s the way we teach kids how to research, think and write. That whole tradition is about to be undermined.”

Edward vs the machine

After the fall semester ended, Tian traveled home to Toronto for the holidays. He stayed with his family. Watched Netflix. But as AI advances rapidly, it fails to shake off thoughts about the enormous challenges facing humanity.

And then he had an idea. What if he applied what he learned in school in the last two years to make people aware that something was typewritten?

Tian already had the knowledge and even the software on his laptop to create such a program. Interestingly, this software is called GitHub Co-Pilot. Powered by GPT-3. With his help, Tian was able to create a new app in three days. This is a testament to how powerful technology can be to make us more productive.

On January 2, Tian released the app. He named it GPTZero. By creating a given text, the AI ​​system uses ChatGPT on its own to check whether there is “zero engagement or not much engagement”.

When Tian went to bed that night, he didn’t expect much for the app. “When I put this out there, I thought maybe a few dozen people would be better off trying it. I didn’t expect what happened,” Tian said.

When Tian woke up, his phone was blown. He’s seen countless texts and DMs from journalists, principals, teachers, you name it, from as far away as France and Switzerland. His app, hosted on a free platform, became so popular that it crashed. Buoyed by the app’s popularity and purpose, the hosting platform gave Tian the resources needed to bring the app’s services to a mass audience.

Fight the Halamarking of everything

Tian says he had two primary motivations for creating GPTZero. The first is transparency. “Humans deserve to know when something is written by a human or by a machine,” he says.

Along these lines, one obvious application for GPTZero is to help teachers know if their students are uncovering their texts from ChatGPT. “Teachers from all over the world are concerned about this,” says Tian.

Some in the tech world, however, are not sold on the copy-and-paste problem that ChatGPT spews. “‘chatgpt scam’ is not a problem at all”. tweeted Marc Andreessen., a venture capitalist and Internet pioneer, earlier this month. “If you can’t type, what are you typing?”

Elon Musk, one of the original founders of OpNAI; Recently posted on Twitter, “It’s a new world, goodbye homework!” According to a report, schools are taking strict new measures against chatgpty theft.

Of course, these are reverse tweets. But it seems we’ve entered a new world where we’re forced to reevaluate our education system and even the importance of teaching kids how to write — or at least the method.

Many of us lost the ability to remember our phone numbers when cell phones came along. By outsourcing memory, we’ve become dependent on it to call our friends and family. It’s for the best, you might say, and our minds are freed up to focus on other things. Or you might think of it as an evolution, a confession of our intellectual prowess. Don’t lose your mobile phone!

Humans now face the prospect of becoming more dependent on machines. We may be headed for a world where a larger proportion of the population loses the ability to write well. It’s a world where all of our written communication can be like a Hallmark card, written without our own creativity, personality, thoughts, feelings, or distinctiveness. Call it the Halamarking of everything.

But at least when we give people Hallmark cards, people know we give them Hallmark cards. If you use ChatGPT to congratulate or apologize to a friend, you may not even know it’s typed.

Which brings us to another goal Tian envisions for the app: to recognize and encourage originality in human writing. “If we stop teaching writing in schools, we’re losing that individuality,” Tian said. “Human writing can be beautiful, and there are aspects of it that computers should never be able to handle. And everyone feels that’s at risk if they’re using ChatGPT to write.”

Tian is not a Luddite. It’s not trying to stop AI in its tracks. He believes this is impossible, and, he says, opposes a blanket ban on the use of chatgpty. announced recently New York City Public Schools. Students, he believes, will use the technology anyway. And, he said, it’s important that they learn how to use it. They must be aware of the technological changes that are happening in our world. “It doesn’t make sense to go blindly into that future,” he says. “Instead, you need to build defenses to get in there.”

As for his post-college plans, Tian says the excitement — and sheer demand — for the new app convinced him to focus on making a better, more accurate product. “If you’re a teacher or a teacher, our group – which is now just me and my best friend from college joined yesterday – would love to talk to you,” says Tian.

So if you come across text that you suspect may have been written by a machine, maybe run it through the new Tian app? You can find it at

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