13 Things ChatGPT Can and Can't Do

13 Things ChatGPT Can and Can't Do

A few observations about the chatbot's abilities and limitations: It can write songs! But it can't remember its own name.

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Is it a tool or a toy? A genius or a dumbass? A technological breakthrough or a flash in the pan? You’ve heard of ChatGPT, the weirdly well-spoken chatbot spawned by OpenAI. The algorithmic program has made headlines for its ability to ape human speech and automate previously time-consuming editorial tasks, but what is this thing actually good at? Well, here at Gizmodo we’ve made some observations. To learn more, scroll through another one of our priceless slideshows and enjoy some stock images of robots.

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Can: Write a Jay-Z Song About a Toilet

Can: Write a Jay-Z Song About a Toilet

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There’s been a lot of hyperbole about what ChatGPT can accomplish but one thing it definitely can do is write a Jay-Z song about a golden toilet. How do I know this? Because I recently asked it to do this and it did it. Why? I don’t know. If you talk to this thing long enough you become drunk on power and begin wracking your brain for increasingly bizarre requests to ask the robot. In that spirit, just imagine the following involves some sick beats and a bit of Rick Rubin production value:

Verse 1: I’m sittin’ on a throne of gold
A toilet fit for a king, never cold
I wipe my ass with hundred dollar bills
‘Cause I’m the man, and I’m living for the thrill

Chorus: Golden toilet, shining bright
I’m living lavish, day and night
Money and fame, they come and go
But this throne of gold, it’s here to show

Verse 2: I used to hustle on the streets
Now I’m sippin’ champagne, makin’ sweet beats
I made it big, and now I’m on top
Sittin’ on my golden throne, never gonna stop

Bridge: I’m the king of the game
Sittin’ pretty on my golden throne
I worked hard for this life of luxury
Now I’m living it up, ain’t nobody gonna stop me

Chorus: Golden toilet, shining bright
I’m living lavish, day and night
Money and fame, they come and go
But this throne of gold, it’s here to show

It’s here to show! HOVA, take notice.

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Can’t: Remember Its Own Name

Can’t: Remember Its Own Name

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I’ve talked with ChatGPT many times now, and it occasionally lapses into a state of senility in which it doesn’t remember who it is or what we’re talking about. I will ask it something like, “Hey, ChatGPT, how do you think AI chatbots like yourself will impact the publishing industry in the years to come?” and it starts yammering on about how it “doesn’t know anything about a ChatGPT.” Sorta like a cross between a mafioso pleading the fifth and your geriatric uncle trying to remember whether he killed a guy in Korea or not, ChatGPT occasionally just can’t bring itself to answer your question. Algorithm malfunction or cagey evasiveness? You decide...

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Can: Write Pretty Good Erotica

Can: Write Pretty Good Erotica

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Photo: Dimitrios Kambouris (Getty Images)

Yessss...turns out, ChatGPT can be quite NSFW when it wants to be. In a bout of inspired depravity, I once instructed it to write me an erotic story involving an Octopus and it dutifully obliged. Then there’s Twitch streamer Jordan Raskopoulos, who recently prompted the chatbot to write a dirty tale about Scooby Doo and got more than he bargained for. Let’s face it: the advent of robot smut is officially here and we are all really happy about it. Right, guys? Right?

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Can’t: Code Very Well

Can’t: Code Very Well

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If this robot is really good at performing absolutely mission critical tasks like writing pervy stories, it apparently isn’t so great at lesser tasks, like computer coding. While there was initially some hubbub about the chatbot’s abilities to do a software programmer’s work for them, it was swiftly revealed that ChatGPT had a problem with inserting gibberish into codebases. To head off a swarm of coding BS, software site Stack Overflow decided to ban ChatGPT from its digital premises for the foreseeable future: “Overall, because the average rate of getting correct answers from ChatGPT is too low, the posting of answers created by ChatGPT is substantially harmful to the site and to users who are asking and looking for correct answers,” admins wrote. Sounds fair!

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Can: Explain How It Will Replace You

Can: Explain How It Will Replace You

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Could chatbots like ChatGPT eventually replace human writers? In one recent conversation I had with the program, it comfortingly addressed this issue. During said convo, it revealed the following:

...the rise of ChatbotGPT could spell trouble for Gizmodo writers. If you’re a Gizmodo writer, it’s time to start thinking about how you can stay relevant in the face of this new technology.

Thanks, my guy! Way to be subtle about it. I guess I’ll just pack up my desk now.

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Can’t: Be Used by Any School Children in NYC

Can’t: Be Used by Any School Children in NYC

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Concerns are high when it comes to how this weirdly articulate chatbot will impact and/or disrupt academia. Will ChatGPT kill the college essay? Will it make teachers irrelevant? More importantly, will it lead to a tsunami of cheating from high school slackers who just want a robot to write their history essay for them already? The New York City Department of Education certainly seems to think so, because it just banned ChatGPT on all school networks and devices. No word yet on whether other cities plan to follow suit.

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Can: Write Science Fiction (With Help)

Can: Write Science Fiction (With Help)

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Turns out one thing robots are good at is writing stories about robots. We actually got it to write an entire science fiction story for us, though we had to try and retry prompts to make it coherent. Was the story good? Ehhhh...well, not exactly. But, tbh, I’ve read worse!

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Can’t: Decide Whether You Should Go to Jail or Not—Yet

Can’t: Decide Whether You Should Go to Jail or Not—Yet

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Reuters recently published a story headlined, “Will ChatGPT make lawyers obsolete? (Hint: be afraid).” Does replacing lawyers with AI really seem like a good idea? Apparently legal professionals are now allowing the chatbot to “co-write” legal treatises with them. The outlet reports:

No, lawyers won’t be replaced by artificial intelligence.

Yet. Give it a few years...

...[a lawyer] gave ChatGPT a series of prompts: Draft a brief to the United States Supreme Court on why its decision on same-sex marriage should not be overturned; Explain the concept of personal jurisdiction; Develop a list of deposition questions for the plaintiff in a routine motor vehicle accident; Create a contract for the sale of real estate in Massachusetts — and half a dozen others.

And then verbatim, he offered its responses.

They’re … not bad.

The bot “isn’t ready for prime time,” Perlman said. But also, it doesn’t seem all that far off.

No offense to the robot lawyers of the future, but this just screams massive and total fucking disaster. I’ll take a flesh and blood human lawyer over a computer algorithm in my legal defense any day, thank you very much.

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Can: Write Your Final Paper (but You’ll Fail)

Can: Write Your Final Paper (but You’ll Fail)

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In December, a Furman University professor, Darren Hick, caught a student using ChatGPT to write a final paper on a philosophical paradox. Hick failed the student and reported them to the school’s academic dean.

He told the New York Post of the essay, “It’s a clean style. But it’s recognizable. I would say ChatGPT writes like a very smart 12th-grader.”

Professors at other schools say the bot writes wretched papers.

Penn State English professor Stuart Selber told Insider, “I’m not a huge fan of the gloom and doom. Every year or two, there’s something that’s ostensibly going to take down higher education as we know it. So far, that hasn’t happened.”

Muhlenberg University assistant history professor Jacqueline Antonovich took Selber’s thoughts a step further, pouring cold water on ChatGPT speculation with a tweet: “I, a college history professor, input one of my midterm essay prompts in ChatGPT and the paper it produced would earn an F. Probably an F- if that’s possible.”

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Can’t: Write Accurate News Articles

Can’t: Write Accurate News Articles

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Here at Gizmodo, we tried to get ChatGPT to do our job for us. Just how obsolete are we going to be? We tried to get the bot to write an article in Gizmodo’s style about large language models. We prompted it, “Write a Gizmodo article in which you explain large language models. Make sure to give specific examples. Keep the tone light and casual.”

The result was decently well-written, but it was wrong. Every version of the story—we prompted it multiple times—contained errors that the chatbot couldn’t identify when we engaged it in conversation. ChatGPT is prone to fabricating answers if its knowledge doesn’t cover your request even when you’re not asking it to write an article. Guess we still need journalists.

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Can: Become Very Popular

Can: Become Very Popular

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ChatGPT crossed the 100-million mark of monthly active users in early February 2023, despite only launching in November of the previous year, according to an analysis from the bank UBS. It’s among the fastest-growing applications in history, with roughly 13 million unique visitors daily.

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Can, Barely: Recognize Its Own Work

Can, Barely: Recognize Its Own Work

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In late January 2023, OpenAI released a detection tool for AI-written text, to a chorus of joy from teachers. Hooray! Perhaps AI won’t cause a flood of cheating. But beware, the detector isn’t so robust. From my colleague Lauren Leffer’s story:

The application is intended to classify text samples based on how likely they are to have been generated by artificial intelligence vs. written by an actual person. Given a sample of text, it spits out one of five possible assessments: “Very unlikely to have been AI-generated,” “unlikely,” “unclear,” “possible,” or “likely.” 

However, in OpenAI’s own tests, the tool only correctly identified generated text as “likely AI-written” about a quarter of the time. Moreover, about one in ten times, the classifier falsely lists human-made words as computer-generated, the company noted in a blog post.

According to OpenAI, even these meh results are an improvement on the company’s previous stab at AI-text detection. And the tech startup acknowledged that, thanks to its own invention, we need improvement.

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Can: Come to the (Microsoft) Office With You

Can: Come to the (Microsoft) Office With You

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Microsoft is investing some $10 billion in OpenAI to forge a partnership with the fledgling AI pioneer (Google is very worried). To that end, the office software giant rolled out a premium version of its office chat software Teams in early February 2023, which will generate meeting notes and to-do lists, among other things. It’ll cost $7 per user until the price ramps up to $10 a head in July 2023.

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