June 5, 2023
Science fiction is often an allegory of current events, but the best sci-fi stories are those that predict the future to some extent. Consider the emergence of artificial intelligence (AI) and how it becoming self-aware was the focal point of the Terminator franchise and many books and short stories by Philip K. Dick. In the time since the public was first introduced to AI in sci-fi, the technology has many incredible leaps, especially with the creation of the new AI chatbot known as ChatGPT. The future that AI and ChatGPT will usher in will not likely be like Terminator or Blade Runner, but brands that are aware of new AI trends and how they can use them to connect with their customers in a more meaningful way will likely find success in the new business landscapes where computers do the thinking.
Before exploring how ChatGPT and other AI programs will affect the consumer space in the years ahead, it’s important to define what it is. ChatGPT is an artificial intelligence chatbot that was launched by AI company, OpenAI, on November 30, 2022. A chatbot is a software program than can create conversations naturally, based on algorithms. Chatbots have become a regular part of the customer service industry and there’s a good chance you’ve used one on a brand’s website when doing research on a product. Chatbots are created by human “trainers” who input potential conversations into the program, with the result being that the AI answers complicated questions in detail. ChatGPT is a step up from other chatbots because it has the ability to write complex text, including introductions and abstracts for academic papers, for which it has been cited as a coauthor! Although ChatGPT is new, by December 2022 it had one million subscribers and is viewed as having plenty of potential in many different spaces.
With the prevalence of the Internet of Things (IOT) in business, as well as computers in general, there’s little doubt in the minds of most business and technology experts that ChatGPT will play a pivotal role in the future of free enterprise. So let’s take a look at how technology has evolved to make ChatGPT possible, what ChatGPT offers brands and consumers today, and what we can expect in the future from this incredible technology.
From Concept to Reality
Today, AI includes many things, including search engines, computer games, and virtual assistants like Siri and Alexa, but as much as AI has become a major part of our lives in the last few years, it is part of a long process that began decades ago. Many experts say the journey to ChatGPT’s birth began in 1936, when scientist Alan Turing built the Turing machine, which marked the beginning of computer science as we know it. Computer science remained a relatively simple study, though, at least by today’s standards, until AI studies officially began at Dartmouth College in 1956. But due to a combination of a lack of government funding, technological limitations, and a lack of interest in the field, AI studies languished until the 2010s.
AI as we know it today became a reality when faster computers were developed along with the concepts of machine learning and deep learning. The technological advances led to a plethora of new AI based startups in Silicon Valley, including OpenAI, which was founded in 2015 by Sam Altman and Elon Musk. The company’s original goal was to function as a nonprofit organization that developed artificial intelligence benefiting “humanity as a whole”, but before too long ideological rifts became apparent between Altman and Musk, leading to Musk leaving the organization in 2018. Musk cited the organization’s transition from a nonprofit, open-source based organization to a for-profit closed-source company as his primary reason for leaving, although he remains active in the AI space.
As AI was not born overnight, neither was ChatGPT. OpenAI engineers first released GPT-2 in 2019 and GPT-3 in 2020, which were both AI ancestors of ChatGPT. Actually, ChatGPT is a fine tuned version of GPT-3.5, as it uses a technique called reinforcement learning from human feedback (RLHF). ChatGPT and all of its predecessors are what are known as “large language models” and “generative AI” that use natural language processing. The AI needs to be initially “taught” by programmers, but theoretically it can then learn as it interacts more with humans and the outside world.
ChatGPT is different than its predecessors, though, because it uses “adversarial training,” whereby it’s prevented from letting users trick it into “bad” behaviors, which the programmers have termed “jailbreaking.” The bad behaviors are a bit subjective, but often include offensive or insensitive text and/or speech. So now that we know about ChatGPT’s background, and a bit about how it works, let’s look at what we can expect from it in the future, particularly how it will affect consumers.
The Future of ChatGPT
ChatGPT’s potential success will be contingent upon a number of factors, including how well OpenAI functions as a business. In 2019, OpenAI received a major financial boost when Microsoft invested $1 billion into the company, which was followed up in February 2023 by a partnership between OpenAI and the global management consulting firm, Bain and Company. Bain plans to use OpenAI’s generative AI models, including ChatGPT, in marketing campaigns for its clients, one of the most notable being Coca-Cola. So, OpenAI certainly has the funding to advance ChatGPT, but what sectors of the economy can we expect to be most affected?
There is already a major push to automize many sectors of the economy, including assembly, fast food, and customer service just to name three, but ChatGPT will likely add to this revolution in fields that most would normally think are safe from automatization. ChatGPT has the potential to successfully write blogs, instruction manuals, and computer codes, while marketing and sales and research and development positions may also be done by generative AI. And as ChatGPT and generative AI develop further, they may also replace teachers, financial analysts, customer service reps, accountants, and paralegals. As distressing as this may be for some of us, ChatGPT and generative AI offer a wealth of opportunities for consumers and investors.
ChatGPT and Consumers
Experts have argued that ChatGPT and generative AI could revolutionize the health care industry by making it more efficient and affordable and with higher quality care. Generative AI will be able to analyze large amounts of data, discover coding errors, and even offer diagnoses. There are many future possibilities for generative AI’s influence in the health care industry, but the more immediate benefits consumers could experience will be in the retail sector.
As mentioned earlier, ChatGPT has the ability to conduct research, which retail brands can put to good use in the coming years. ChatGPT can analyze customer data, providing brands with valuable insight into consumer behaviors, giving companies insight into what channels are most effective and how to build brand identity and loyalty. ChatGPT can give consumers personalized recommendations, enhance customer service, and even do brand building on social media platforms. Experts point out that one of ChatGPT’s strengths is writing text for specific audiences, which is well-suited for short social media post on platforms that have enthusiastic followers.
Ultimately, ChatGPT and other generative AI have the ability to lower costs and increase brand identification. Consumers will certainly like the first point, while consumers and companies will enjoy the benefits of the second point. The work that ChatGPT can do will free the resources of companies, allowing them to develop their brands by growing their brand community with consumers.
Some retail brands have already found ways to use ChatGPT connect with their customers. For example, French retail chain Carrefour uses ChatGPT for the FAQ on its website, which will likely be emulated by other brands.
OpenAI’s success with ChatGPT has opened the doors for other tech companies to develop similar generative AI. Tech giant Alphabet – the parent company of Google – has more than one AI project in the works, including the Language Model for Dialogue Applications (LaMDA) and is in the testing stage of a ChatGPT-like conversational tool known as dubbed Bard. Meta and Quora have also jumped into the generative AI space with their own chatbots. Generative AI is clearly a growing space that offers many opportunities to tech investors who are willing to take some risks as well as brands that use this new technology for brand building.
Brands and AI
New technology is often complicated, misunderstood, and rarely appreciated until years after it is made widely available, with generative AI and ChatGPT being no different in that regard. Once you cut through the often Orwellian descriptions of ChatGPT, the benefits it can offer to consumers, brands, and investors become clear, and brands that recognize this, particularly how to us generative AI to connect with their customers better, will be positioned to use this incredible new technology for success.