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Who’s Afraid of ChatGPT?

Teachers, journalists, and Google are decrying ChatGPT’s dangers. But even some of its biggest fans consider it “as mundane as Excel.” Who’s right?

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It’s tempting to ask ChatGPT to write an introduction to a reading list about ChatGPT, but I went the old-fashioned human route for this one. Not because of journalistic integrity or to avoid a increasingly-tiresome shtick, but because, as OpenAI told me when I tried, ChatGPT is at capacity right now. Too many old-fashioned humans had gotten there before me.

That makes sense: ChatGPT is dominating the headlines, often for its potential to destroy industries, professions, and possibly democracy. In some cases, these concerns are easy to refute, especially as we layer the technology with human innovation to create something new and special (see the NPR piece below for more on this idea). But there’s also a vague sense of dread lurking as some of the tech world’s top thinkers consider what a world filled with generative AI might mean ethically and existentially.

If this leaves you feeling a little uneasy, you’re not alone—and not without resources. We’ve gathered 10 fascinating stories that investigate the different ways ChatGPT has quickly seeped into our lives and economy, and which fears are most (and least) unnerving.

Image by Westend61/Getty Images

How ChatGPT Will Destabilize White-Collar Work

Annie Lowrey
The Atlantic

Amy Maoz: “Don’t let the word ‘destabilize’ in the headline trick you into thinking this is a fear-mongering piece. Annie Lowery’s nuanced approach and thoughtful choice of interview subjects (something she notes ChatGPT specifically can not do) left me feeling more hopeful than I thought possible.”

I’m a Noted Music Critic. Can A.I. Do My Job?

Simon Reynolds

AM: “Legendary music journalist Simon Reynolds calls ChatGPT’s attempt to steal his job ‘earnest, plodding, attuned to bland generalities rather than arresting specifics, and irritatingly fair-minded’—harsh words for the machine, but a relief for journalists concerned by the threat of machines taking their jobs.”

Inside CNET’s AI-Powered SEO Money Machine

Mia Sato
The Verge

AM: “Oops did I just say journalists can feel relieved? I read Mia Sato’s investigation of how a venture capital-backed publisher was relying on predictive text models the way I watch horror movies—with my hands over my eyes, desperate to turn away but too fascinated. I won’t spoil the last line but it certainly nails the issue that underscores most fears of ChatGPT.”

ChatGPT Can’t Kill Anything Worth Preserving

John Warner
The Biblioracle Recommends

AM: “John Warner is not an algorithm; he notes that in his bio on his Substack ‘Biblioracle’ where he recommends a book based on a person’s last five reads. To answer the question in this Collection’s headline, Warner is not afraid of ChatGPT—in fact he sees it as a jumping off point for reevaluating the systems we live with, the very ones being exploited by the tool in the first place.”

ChatGPT Could Make Life Easier. Here’s When It’s Worth It.

Tatum Hunter
The Washington Post

AM: “The Help Desk at The Washington Post suggests using ChatGPT as a tool to help get yourself started at something, rather than outsourcing the entire task, and as a result, knocks the tool down a few pegs from the all-powerful machine some make it out to be. It’s a sentiment best summed up by Post commenter My Name Is Jim: ‘If Chatbox can cure pancreatic cancer, fine. If not, get lost.’”

Google Calls In Help From Larry Page and Sergey Brin for A.I. Fight

Nico Grant
The New York Times

AM: “Google’s concerns about ChatGPT are different than, say, a third-grade teacher’s: Teachers are not scared that ChatGPT will threaten their $149 billion search business. Google, meanwhile, seems to be all hands on deck in ensuring that their ChatGPT-adjacent releases have the proper guardrails in place to keep them from powering the kind of hate speech and misinformation that thrives on the internet.”

Why The AI Ethics War Will Make The Content Moderation Fight Seem Tame

Alex Kantrowitz
Big Technology

AM: “Now we’re getting into the more pressing reasons to be concerned about ChatGPT, with Alex Kantrowitz giving a quick and sobering overview of the ethical issues generative AI forces us to face. For instance: What’s a chatbot’s stance on war—or the death penalty? As Kantrowitz reminds us, ‘AI’s intelligence may be artificial, but humans encode its values.’ And how those values will be shaped over time is still unknown.”

This 22-Year-Old Is Trying to Save Us From ChatGPT Before It Changes Writing Forever

Greg RosalskyEmma Peaslee

AM: “Edward Tian went from using ChatGPT to write poems and raps about his friends (relatable) to create and release an app that allows users to identify if their break-up email/homework assignment/cover letter was written by a machine (less relatable.) He calls it GPTZero and hopes for it to be a tool to promote and ‘incentivize originality in human writing.’ While Tian’s achievement is incredible on its own, I look forward to tracking how many other brilliant minds find ways to deactivate some of the threats of generative AI while taking advantage of its usefulness.”

The ChatGPT Bot Is Causing Panic Now—But It’ll Soon Be as Mundane a Tool as Excel

John Naughton
The Guardian

AM: “This piece contains an excellent, plain English explainer on how ChatGPT functions and highlights how we might see the tool as a jumping off point for some of our most creative thinkers.

It’s also important to note that the author, John Naughton, is hardly tuning out the bad stuff—he recently posted about reading Gary Marcus’ work. Does it comfort me that he can consider these dangers but still see a 'mundane' future for this tool? Absolutely. Does it comfort you? I certainly hope so. Or at the very least that you've come away from this with some new ideas about what our ChatGPT-ified future might look like.”