ChatGPT: the latest news, controversies, and helpful tips

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ChatGPT has continued to dazzle the internet with AI-generated content, morphing from a novel chatbot into a piece of technology that is driving the next era of innovation. No tech product in recent memory has sparked as much interest, controversy, fear, and excitement.

If you’re just now catching on, it’d be fair to wonder what the fuss is all about. You can try it out for yourself for free (or use the official free iOS app), but here’s the detailed guide you’ve been looking for — whether you’re worried about an AI apocalypse or are just looking for an intro guide to the app.

OpenAI ChatGPT rules and limitations.

What can you do with ChatGPT?

ChatGPT is a natural language AI chatbot. At its most basic level, that means you can ask it any question, and it will generate an answer.

Using the ChatGPT chatbot itself is fairly simple, as all you have to do is type in your text and receive information. The key here is to be creative and see how your ChatGPT responds to different prompts. If you don’t get the intended result, try tweaking your prompt or giving ChatGPT further instructions. ChatGPT knows the context of previous questions you ask, so you can refine from there rather than starting over fresh every time.

For example, starting with “Explain how the solar system was made” will give a more detailed result with more paragraphs than “How was the solar system made,” even though both inquiries will give fairly detailed results. Take it a step further by giving ChatGPT more guidance about style or tone, saying “Explain how the solar system was made as a middle school teacher.”

You also have the option for more specific inputting requests for an essay with a specific number of paragraphs or a Wikipedia page. We got an extremely detailed result with the request “write a four-paragraph essay explaining Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.” And remember, ChatGPT is great at making tweaks to previous answers, so you can always ask for more detail, ask it to rewrite something, or ask it further questions.

To see what it can do, try using ChatGPT in daily life or work activities to see how it can help. Ask it to write emails, craft business proposals, fun date night ideas, or even a best man’s speech. So long as it doesn’t break some of the explicit or illegal content rules, the generator will do its best to fulfill the commands. It’s certainly is potential for ChatGPT to begin filling in gaps with incorrect data. As OpenAI notes, these instances are rare, but AI “hallucinations” certainly do happen. The company also notes that ChatGPT, which uses the GPT-3.5 LLM (large language model), currently has “limited knowledge of world events after 2021.” For more recent knowledge of the world, consider using another tool like Bing Chat.

Even so, you have the option to input queries continuously until you close your browser or reset the thread to clear your previous requests. These chats are then saved in conversations in the sidebar, even automatically naming the chat. From there, you can manage these chats, renaming or deleting them as needed. You can even “hide” specific chats if needed.

You also have the option to use ChatGPT in dark mode or light mode.

Unlike Bing Chat, which can now generate images with Bing Image Creator and receive images as prompts for questions, ChatGPT only works with text in both directions. Google Bard also recently got this feature included.

How does ChatGPT work?

As opposed to a simple voice assistant like Siri or Google Assistant, ChatGPT is built on what is called an LLM (Large Language Model). These neural networks are trained on huge quantities of information from the internet for deep learning — meaning they generate altogether new responses, rather than just regurgitating specific canned responses. They’re not built for a specific purpose like chatbots of the past — and they’re a whole lot smarter.

This is implied in the name of ChatGPT, which stands for Chat Generative Pre-trained Transformer. In the case of the current version of ChatGPT, it’s based on the GPT-3.5 LLM. The model behind ChatGPT was trained on all sorts of web content including websites, books, social media, news articles, and more — all fine-tuned in the language model by both supervised learning and RLHF (Reinforcement Learning From Human Feedback). OpenAI says this use of human AI trainers is really what makes ChatGPT stand out.

How to use ChatGPT

First, go to chat.openai.com. If it’s your first time, you’ll need to set up a free account with OpenAI before getting started. You have the option of choosing an easy login with a Google or Microsoft account, or just entering your email address. You’ll be asked next to enter a phone number; however, keep in mind that you cannot use a virtual phone number (VoIP) to register for OpenAI. You will then receive a confirmation number, which you will enter on the registration page to complete the setup.

You’ll see some basic rules about ChatGPT, including potential errors in data, how OpenAI collects data, and how users can submit feedback — all of which have some wondering about whether or not ChatGPT is safe to use. Once you’re through that, you know you have successfully registered. You’re in!

How to use the ChatGPT iPhone app

ChatGPT app running on an iPhone.
Joe Maring/Digital Trends

After many months of anticipation, OpenAI has finally launched an official iOS app that you can go and download today. The app quickly topped half a million downloads in less than a week and is becoming available in an increasing number of countries.

Instructions for using it aren’t dissimilar to the ChatGPT web application. You do get an extra option for signing in using your Apple ID account, but it otherwise functions nearly identically to the web app — just type in your question and let the conversation begin.

The clean interface shows your conversation with GPT in a straightforward manner, hiding the chat history and settings behind the menu in the top right.

The ChatGPT iPhone app answering the question "how long are canned tomatoes good for."
Digital Trends

For those who are paying for ChatGPT Plus, the app lets you toggle between GPT-3.5 and GPT-4 too. You can even use the microphone to chat with ChatGPT over voice.

As our mobile editor noted in his experience with the app, it still doesn’t provide a connection to the internet like chatbots like Bing Chat and Perplexity.

Please note, though, that there is no official Android, Mac, or Windows app just yet. If you’re using one of those platforms, we recommend sticking to the web app to avoid any possible scams or fakes.

Is ChatGPT free to use?

A laptop opened to the ChatGPT website.
Shutterstock

Yes, the basic version of ChatGPT is completely free to use. There’s no limit to how much you can use ChatGPT in a day, though there is a word and character limit for responses.

It’s not free for OpenAI to continue running it, of course. Initial estimates are currently that OpenAI spends around $3 million per month to continue running ChatGPT, which is around $100,000 per day. A report from April indicated that the price of operation is closer to $700,000 per day.

Beyond the cost of the servers themselves, some egregious information has recently come out about what else has been done to train the language model against producing offensive content.

OpenAI also has a premium version of its chatbot, called ChatGPT Plus. It costs $20 a month but provides access even during peak times, faster responses, and first access to new features like GPT-4.

Who created ChatGPT?

ChatGPT was created by an organization called OpenAI, a San Francisco-based AI research lab. The organization started as a non-profit meant for collaboration with other institutions and researchers, funded by high-profile figures like Peter Thiel and Elon Musk.

OpenAI later became a for-profit company in 2019 and is now led by its CEO, Sam Altman. It runs on Microsoft’s Azure system infrastructure and is powered by Nvidia’s GPUs, including the new supercomputers just announced this year. Microsoft has invested heavily in OpenAI too, starting in 2019.

What does the ChatGPT ‘At Capacity’ error mean?

Many people attempting to use ChatGPT have been getting an “at capacity” notice when trying to access the site. It’s likely behind the move to try and use unofficial paid apps, which have already flooded app stores and scammed thousands into paying for a free service.

Because of how much ChatGPT costs to run, it seems as if OpenAI has been limiting access when its servers are “at capacity.” It can take as long as a few hours to wait out, but if you’re patient, you’ll get through eventually. Of all the problems facing ChatGPT right now, this had been the biggest hurdle for keeping people from using it more. In some cases, demand has been so high that ChatGPT has gone down for several hours for maintenance multiple times over the past few months.

This seems to be less of a problem recently, though, as demand has normalized and OpenAI has learned to manage the traffic better, but in the middle of the day, it still makes an appearance from time to time.

Latest ChatGPT controversies

Although ChatGPT is a very useful tool, it isn’t free of problems. It’s known for making mistakes or “hallucinations,” where it makes up an answer to something it doesn’t know. A simple example of how unreliable it can sometimes be involved misidentifying the prime minister of Japan.

Beyond just making mistakes, many people are concerned about what this human-like generative AI could mean for the future of the internet, so much so that thousands of tech leaders and prominent public figures have signed a petition to slow down the development. It was even banned in Italy due to privacy concerns, alongside complaints from the FTC — although that’s now been reversed. Since then, the FTC has reopened investigations against OpenAI on questions of personal consumer data is being handled.

Speaking of bans, a number of high-profile companies have been disallowing the use of ChatGPT internally, including Samsung, Amazon, Verizon, and even the United States Congress. Apple is also on the list, though Tim Cook stated that he uses it, just weeks after having it banned.

There’s also the concern that generative AI like ChatGPT could result in the loss of many jobs — as many as 300 million worldwide, according to Goldman Sachs.

Beyond that, multiple controversies have also sprung up around people using ChatGPT to handle tasks that should probably be handled by an actual person.

For example, Vanderbilt University’s Peabody School was recently under fire for generating an email about a mass shooting and the importance of community. In addition, JPMorgan Chase is restricting the use of the AI chatbot for workers, especially for generating emails, which companies like Apple have also prohibited internally.

The largest controversy to spring up since the release has been ChatGPT passing the Wharton MBA exam. According to the school, ChatGPT scored between a B- and B on the MBA exam and provided “excellent” responses.

Lastly, ChatGPT was even made able to generate Windows 11 keys for free, according to one user. Of course, this is not how ChatGPT was meant to be used, but it’s significant that it was even able to be “tricked” into generating the keys in the first place.

Can ChatGPT be detected?

Teachers, school administrators, and developers are already finding different ways around this and banning the use of ChatGPT in schools. Others are more optimistic about how ChatGPT might be used for teaching, but plagiarism is undoubtedly going to continue being an issue in terms of education in the future. There are some ideas about how ChatGPT could “watermark” its text and fix this plagiarism problem, but as of now, detecting ChatGPT is still incredibly difficult to do.

ChatGPT recently launched a new version of its own plagiarism detection tool, with hopes that it will squelch some of the criticism around how people are using the text generation. It uses a new feature called “AI text classifier,” which operates in a way familiar to other plagiarism software. According to OpenAI, however, the tool is still a work in progress and is “imperfect.”

Other tools like GPTZero claim to help detect ChatGPT plagiarism, too. Although they work, some extra editing on AI responses can still trip up these tools.

Common uses for ChatGPT

Well, that’s the fun part. Since its launch, people have been experimenting to discover everything the chatbot can and can’t do — and some of the results have been mind-blowing.

Learning the kinds of prompts and follow-up prompts that ChatGPT responds well to requires some experimentation though. Much like we’ve learned to get the information we want from traditional search engines, it can take some time to get the best results from ChatGPT. If you want to get started, we have a roundup of the best ChatGPT tips.

It really all depends on what you want out of it. To start out, try using it to write a template blog post, for example, or even blocks of code if you’re a programmer.

Our writers experimented with ChatGPT too, attempting to see if it could handle holiday shopping or even properly interpret astrological makeup. In both cases, we found limitations to what it could do while still being thoroughly impressed by the results.

But the fun is in trying it out yourself. Whether you think ChatGPT is an amazing piece of tech or will lead to the destruction of the internet as we know it, it’s worth trying out for yourself to see just what it’s capable of.

You can’t ask anything, though. OpenAI has safeguards in place in order to “build a safe and beneficial artificial general intelligence.” That means any questions that are hateful, sexist, racist, or discriminatory in any way are generally off-limits.

What are ChatGPT plugins?

The announcement of ChatGPT plugins caused a great stir in the developer community, with some calling it “the most powerful developer platform ever created.” AI enthusiasts have compared it to the surge of interest in the iOS App Store when it first launched, greatly expanding the capabilities of the iPhone.

Essentially, developers will be able to build plugins directly for ChatGPT, to open it up to have access to the whole of the internet and connect directly to the APIs of specific applications. It’s ChatGPT out in the real world. Some of the examples provided by OpenAI include applications being able to perform actions on behalf of the user, retrieve real-time information, and access knowledge-based information.

It’s currently only available on a waitlist, but early applications to use plugins with ChatGPT include Expedia, Instacart, Slack, and OpenTable — and now there are lots to explore, including the ones we’ve seen as the best ChatGPT plugins to try out.

Is there a ChatGPT API?

Outside of the ChatGPT app itself, many apps have announced partnerships with OpenAI using the ChatGPT API. So far, the most prominent example is Snapchat’s MyAI.

Essentially, this is a way for developers to access ChatGPT and plug its natural language capabilities directly into apps and websites. We’ve seen it used in all sorts of different cases, ranging from suggesting parts in Newegg’s PC builder to building out a travel itinerary with just a few words.

What’s the future of ChatGPT and GPT-5?

There’s no doubt that the tech world has become obsessed with ChatGPT right now, and it’s not slowing down anytime soon. ChatGPT-4, the next iteration of the model, has officially launched, though it’s currently only available for ChatGPT Plus. We do know, however, that Bing Chat is at least partially built on the GPT-4 language model, even if certain elements such as visual input aren’t available.

But the bigger development will be how ChatGPT continues to be integrated into other applications. Microsoft reportedly made a multibillion-dollar investment in ChatGPT, which is already starting to pay off. The first integration was in Teams Premium, with some of OpenAI’s features showing up to automate tasks and provide transcripts. Most prominently, Microsoft revealed 365 Copilot, which integrates ChatGPT natural language prompts directly into Office apps like Word, PowerPoint, Outlook, and more.

There were initial reports that GPT-5 is on the way and could finish training later this year, with some people claiming that it would achieve AGI (artificial general intelligence). That’s a big, controversial statement, but clearly, things are progressing at a rapid pace.

Since then, OpenAI has stated that GPT-5 is not on the timeline and is not currently planned. That being said, the next version, GPT-4.5, is currently training and may be available later this year. OpenAI indicated that it may be done planning as early as September or October.

All that to say, if you think AI is a big deal now, just wait until it’s built into the most common applications that are used for work and school.

ChatGPT alternatives worth trying

Bing Chat open on a smartphone showing visual results.

ChatGPT remains the most popular AI chatbot at the moment, but it’s not completely without competition. Microsoft’s Bing Chat is the biggest rival, which uses OpenAI’s GPT-4 model as a basis for its answers. Although it requires downloading the Edge browser to use, Bing Chat is free and offers some added features such as different writing modes, image creation, and search links. It even got a significant update recently that introduced features like export, third-party plugins, and multimodal support. There’s also YouChat, which uses GPT-3, an older model from OpenAI, and Forefront AI, which gives you access to GPT-4 and beyond.

The biggest non-GPT competitor to ChatGPT is Google Bard. It’s based on Google’s own homegrown language model, LaMDA, and Google seems intent on competing directly with OpenAI with Google Bard. The most recent updates make it a far more compelling alternative to ChatGPT, even if it’s not quite there.

There are a number of other chatbots out there, some of which are based on Meta’s open-source language model, LLaMA, such as Vicuna and HuggingChat.

Other things to know about ChatGPT

Are ChatGPT chats private?

It depends on what you mean by private. All chats with ChatGPT are used by OpenAI to further tune the models, which can actually involve the use of human trainers. No, that doesn’t mean a human is looking through every question you ask ChatGPT, but there’s a reason OpenAI warns against providing any personal information to ChatGPT.

It should be noted that if you don’t delete your chats, the conversations will appear in the left sidebar. Unlike with other chatbots, individual chats within a conversation cannot be deleted, though they can be edited using the pencil icon that appears when you hover over a chat. When you delete the conversations, however, it’s not that ChatGPT forgets they ever happened — it’s just that they disappear from the sidebar chat history.

Fortunately, OpenAI has recently announced a way to make your chats hidden from the sidebar. These “hidden” chats won’t be used to train AI models either.

When was ChatGPT released?

ChatGPT was originally launched to the public in November of 2022 by OpenAI. The chatbot is based on the GPT-3.5 LLM, which is a fine-tuned version of GPT-3, a model first launched on March 15, 2022. GPT-3 itself, though, has been around for a few years now. It was first released in June 2020, but only as an autoregressive language model.

The predecessors to GPT-3 had very limited public exposure. GPT-2 was announced in February 2019, and the first research paper on GPT was published on OpenAI’s website in 2018.

Will ChatGPT replace Google Search?

Rather than replace it, chatbots are likely to be integrated directly into search. Microsoft has already done this with Bing Chat and Bing, which puts a “chat” tab right into the menu of Bing search.

Even Google has begun experimenting with integrating the smarts of Google Bard into search through its Search Generative Experience. We’re in the early days where all these exist as different products, but it’s not hard to imagine a future where it’s a completely unified experience.

Is Bing Chat the same as ChatGPT?

Bing Chat shown on a laptop.
Jacob Roach / Digital Trends

Microsoft has officially brought ChatGPT to Bing in the form of Bing Chat. After a long beta period, it was officially available to try out. But unlike ChatGPT, Bing Chat does require downloading the latest version of Edge. So Safari or Chrome users are out of luck.

In the early days of its release, Bing Chat was capable of some unhinged responses, but Microsoft has been quick to tame things a bit. It was recently announced that Bing Chat is using the latest GPT-4 language model, meaning it’s more powerful and accurate than ChatGPT. The new Edge Copilot mode also provides a more user-friendly way to get started, offering suggested prompts, links to learn more, and ways to tweak the kinds of answers it gives you. And now with the Windows Copilot, Bing Chat will live right on your desktop.

Is Google Bard the same as ChatGPT?

Unlike Bing Chat, Google Bard uses an entirely different LLM to power its natural language capabilities. Upon its release, Bard has been using LaMDA, the company’s own model, which stands for Language Model for Dialogue Applications. As has been demonstrated from early on, Bard didn’t have quite the precision in its answers.

Reports indicate, however, that Bard is getting a massive update soon, going from being trained on 30 billion parameters up to 600 billion parameters. That could make it closer to what is possible with GPT-4.

Can you write essays with ChatGPT?

The use of ChatGPT has been full of controversy, with many onlookers considering how the power of AI will change everything from search engines to novel writing. It’s even demonstrated the ability to earn students surprisingly good grades in essay writing.

Essay writing for students is one of the most obvious examples of where ChatGPT could become a problem. ChatGPT might not write this article all that well, but it feels particularly easy to use for essay writing. Some generative AI tools, such as Caktus AI, are built specifically for this purpose.

Can ChatGPT write and debug code?

Absolutely — it’s one of the most powerful features of ChatGPT. As with everything with AI, you’ll want to double-check everything it produces, because it won’t always get your code right. But it’s certainly powerful at both writing code from scratch and debugging code.

Developers have used it to create websites, applications, and games from scratch — all of which are made more powerful with GPT-4, of course. There’s even a plug-in called ChatGPT Code Interpreter that makes programming with AI even more accessible.

What is the ChatGPT character limit?

OpenAI doesn’t set an exact character limit, but it will cut off around its responses at about 500 words or 4,000 characters. If you happen to give the chatbot a request for a specific number of words above 500, you might find that it cuts off mid-sentence somewhere after 500 words.

One way to get around this is just to ask it to “go on” or “continue,” but it depends on the prompt and type of response. Sometimes ChatGPT will more or less repeat the previous answers in different words.

The best way to get access to responses with longer characters is to upgrade to ChatGPT Plus.

Is there a ChatGPT bug bounty program?

Yes. A bug bounty program for ChatGPT was recently announced. The program was unveiled officially on OpenAI’s website, which details the types of “cash awards” that are being offered. They range from $200 to up to $20,000 for what it calls “exceptional discoveries.”

While addressing security researchers interested in getting involved in the program, OpenAI said it recognized “the critical importance of security and view it as a collaborative effort. By sharing your findings, you will play a crucial role in making our technology safer for everyone.”

Do you need to download ChatGPT?

ChatGPT versus Google on smartphones.

ChatGPT is available via a webpage, so no downloading is needed. However, OpenAI has finally released a free, official iOS app that needs to be downloaded from the iOS app store. For many months, the various app stores were full of fake versions. These are still out there, though, and should be installed and used with caution, as they are not official ChatGPT apps. There is no still no official Android app.

On desktop, there are a couple of ways to install ChatGPT, though. First, you can navigate to the ChatGPT website and save it as a Windows app through Edge. Go to the site, click the ellipsis menu, and hover over Apps. Select Install this site as an app to load ChatGPT from your desktop.

Other tools like MacGPT also allow shortcuts to access the browser service from your desktop. Recently, OpenAI made the ChatGPT API available to everyone, and we’ve seen a surge in tools leveraging the technology, such as Discord’s Clyde chatbot.

Can you use ChatGPT on iPhone or Android?

Three different screens from the official iOS app.

Now that there’s an official iOS app, you no longer have to rely solely on the web app to use ChatGPT on your phone. So, whether with the official app as downloaded through the app store or just the web version, you can certainly use ChatGPT on iPhones. In addition, there’s even a way to replace Siri with ChatGPT on your iPhone, as well as some useful mobile apps like Perplexity AI.

As for Android, you’ll need to rely on the web app. Just as on desktop, type in chat.openai.com to start using ChatGPT.

Can you get ChatGPT to answer any question?

Not exactly. ChatGPT has limitations in the kinds of questions it can answer. First of all, it can’t write about anything that requires internet knowledge after late 2021, which is when its training stopped.

Beyond that, ChatGPT is careful about answering questions that might imply illegal, explicit, or damaging activity. It’ll avoid swearing or political debates, and will (usually) avoid making malware. There is some amount of jailbreaking that can be done to get around these restrictions, but OpenAI is constantly tightening its content policies to restrict unwanted answers.

What is Auto-GPT?

Built on GPT-4, Auto-GPT is the latest evolution of AI technology to cause a stir in the industry. It’s not directly related to ChatGPT or OpenAI — instead, it’s an open-source Python application that got into the hands of developers all over the internet when it was published on GitHub.

With ChatGPT or ChatGPT Plus, the capabilities of the AI are limited to a single chat window. Auto-GPT, at its simplest, is making AI autonomous. It can be given a set of goals, and then take the necessary steps towards accomplishing that goal across the internet, including connecting up with applications and software.

According to the official description on GitHub, Auto-GPT is an “experimental open-source application showcasing the capabilities of the GPT-4 language model. This program, driven by GPT-4, chains together LLM ‘thoughts’, to autonomously achieve whatever goal you set. As one of the first examples of GPT-4 running fully autonomously, Auto-GPT pushes the boundaries of what is possible with AI.”

The demo used on the GitHub page is simple — just create a recipe appropriate for Easter and save it to a file. What’s neat is how Auto-GPT breaks down the steps the AI is taking to accomplish the goal, including the “thoughts” and “reasoning” behind its actions. Auto-GPT is already being used in a variety of different applications, with some touting it as the beginning of AGI (Artificial General Intelligence) due to its autonomous nature.

What is GPT-4 and how does it compare to GPT-3.5?

GPT-4 is a more advanced LLM — the most powerful that OpenAI currently offers. At the current moment, OpenAI only offers access to GPT-4 through ChatGPT Plus. GPT-3.5, on the other hand, is the LLM that powers the free ChatGPT tool. OpenAI no longer says exactly how many parameters these advanced models are trained on, but it’s rumored that GPT-4 boasts up to 1 trillion parameters.

Regardless, the results are a fairly dramatic difference between GPT-3.5 and GPT-4 in terms of quality. It offers much more precise answers, is significantly better at coding and creative collaboration, and can provide (and respond to) much longer selections of text. GPT-4 remains the best possible model available, while GPT-3.5 is more in line with some other models available.

Who owns the copyright to content created by ChatGPT?

This is a question open to debate. Much of the conversation around copyright and AI is ongoing, with some saying generative AI is “stealing” the work of the content it was trained on. This has become increasingly contentious in the world of AI art. Companies like Adobe are finding ways around this by only training models on stock image libraries that already have proper artist credit and legal boundaries.

According to OpenAI, however, you have the right to reprint, sell, and merchandise anything that was created with ChatGPT or ChatGPT Plus. So, you’re not going to get sued by OpenAI.

The larger topic of copyright law regarding generative AI is still to be determined by various lawmakers and interpreters of the law, especially since copyright law as it currently stands technically only protects content created by human beings.

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