What Is ChatGPT (And How Can You Use It)?

March 31, 2023

11 min read

ChatGPT has a number of impressive capabilities for users to explore.

There’s been a lot of hype around ChatGPT as of late. It’s dominated news headlines, trended on Twitter and Google, and has been a topic of discussion on both podcasts and on TV.

But what exactly is ChatGPT? And how is it used? In our cohesive guide, we’ll take a deep dive into what it is, how it works, and what you can expect when using this AI model.

What Is ChatGPT?

ChatGPT — which stands for Chat Generative Pre-trained Transformer — is a generative AI model. It communicates with users in a conversational manner using a dialogue format. This special format allows ChatGPT to deny inappropriate asks from users, answer follow-up queries, and even admit when it’s made a mistake. 

If you’re curious, you can try ChatGPT for yourself. 

ChatGPT's chatbox homepage, which lists examples, capabilities, and limitations.
ChatGPT’s chatbox homepage lists examples, capabilities, and limitations.

What Is Artificial Intelligence and Generative AI?

As humans, we often need to problem-solve and make decisions. Artificial intelligence marries those qualities with the power of machines and computers. AI can be applied in a number of different ways, such as with natural language processing (NLPs), machine vision, and speech recognition, among others. 

On the other hand, generative AI is a subset of AI in which machines generate content. This could include writing, audio, video, or imagery. Machines using generative AI rely on algorithms based on their training data.

What Is the Difference between a Search Engine and ChatGPT?

With the buzz around generative AI and ChatGPT, there’s been some confusion about how ChatGPT differs from a typical search engine, like Google search. Here’s the difference.

When users input a keyword into the search bar of a search engine, the search engine will use their keyword to provide a list of existing websites that are related to the said keyword. So, with a search engine, it’s the responsibility of the user to find relevant information they need by searching through the list to find the information they’re looking for. 

With ChatGPT, however, the model leverages natural language processing to give users more personalized information directed toward their query. It can understand not only the intent, but also the context of a user’s question. This is what allows ChatGPT to provide precise, specific, and often individualized responses to queries. 

Who Owns ChatGPT?

An AI and research development company, OpenAI, owns ChatGPT. OpenAI’s mission is to “ensure that artificial general intelligence benefits all of humanity.” 

Its headquarters is in San Francisco, California. In fact, it’s likely you’re familiar with a few of the key players. Figures like Peter Thiel, Elon Musk, Sam Altman, Jessica Livingston, LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman, and OpenAI chief scientist Ilya Sutskever, have all been involved with OpenAI in some way or another. 

But Isn’t ChatGPT Owned by Microsoft?

Some are under the impression that Microsoft owns ChatGPT. As we discussed above, that’s not true. But why does that misconception exist?

In 2019, Microsoft joined ChatGPT as a strategic investor. In return for a license to the technology, Microsoft gave OpenAI one billion dollars in funding.

Microsoft plans to up their investment with ten billion more dollars to OpenAI, solidifying their partnership even more, which is likely where the confusion is as to who owns ChatGPT.

Is ChatGPT Free?

Yes, ChatGPT’s basic version is totally free for anyone to use. Not only that, but you can use ChatGPT as much as you want, without any limits. The only limits are on the character and word counts for responses.

How Does ChatGPT Work?

ChatGPT works like this: It gets its info from a variety of sources (more on that below) and then returns responses to a user’s query or prompt based on that info it was trained on.

In addition to this, ChatGPT’s dialogue capabilities are optimized using something called reinforcement learning with human feedback (RLHF). Without getting into the nitty gritty, RLHF helps train these massive language models. And ChatGPT isn’t the only model using RLHF. In fact, it’s also used for OpenAI’s InstructGPT models, as well as Anthropic’s Claude, and DeepMind’s Sparrow.

Where Does ChatGPT Get Its Data?

ChatGPT gets its data from a variety of sources. This model was trained on data from sources like news articles, books, Wikipedia, and science journals. However, this data only goes up to 2021. In other words, ChatGPT is missing some more recent information and news.

What Can ChatGPT Do?

It seems like ChatGPT can do everything. Well, almost everything. Here are the top 11 things that ChatGPT can do. 

  1. Solve mathematics equations. Yes, ChatGPT can solve math equations. But it doesn’t stop there. Not only does this model solve the problem, but it also guides the user step-by-step to how it arrived at the correct answer. This can help you understand a mathematics problem inside and out.
  1. Draw out the data from text. Extracting data from text is something ChatGPT does very well. Just input the text into the chatbox and tell the model which kinds of data you’d like to extract. You can also tell ChatGPT which format it should be in. 
  1. Write music. Although many people think of ChatGPT as useful for “practical” or “logical” needs like solving math problems, it can tackle creative endeavors as well. One such example is writing music. All you’d need to do is ask it to write a song on a certain topic and ChatGPT can even come up with some basic chords. For example, we asked it to write a song about climate change and here’s what it came up with: 

"Verse 1:

G D
The earth is getting hotter every day
Em C
The ice caps are melting, the oceans sway
G D
The air we breathe is full of smoke
Em C
The forests disappear, it’s no joke

Chorus:

G D
We need to act before it’s too late
Em C
The future of the planet is at stake
G D
Let’s reduce our carbon footprint
Em C
And take steps to heal our planet

Verse 2:

G D
The weather is changing, it’s not the same
Em C
The seasons are shifting, it’s not a game
G D
The animals suffer, their habitats gone
Em C
The damage we’ve done, can’t be undone

[Chorus]

Bridge:

Em C
The power is in our hands
G D
Let’s change our ways and take a stand
Em C
We can make a difference, it’s true
G D
Let’s save the earth for me and you

[Chorus]

Outro:

G D
The earth is our home, let’s keep it clean
Em C
Let’s work together, as a team
G D
The future is bright, if we try
Em C
Let’s protect the earth, before we say goodbye."

  1. Generate ideas. Another creative way in which you could use ChatGPT is for idea generation. The options here are endless. For example, you could ask for five party ideas for a 16-year-old’s birthday or for a creative writing prompt. You could also ask it for low-carb dinner ideas — whatever floats your boat.
  1. Simplify complex topics in plain language. You might be familiar with the subreddit, r/explainlikeimfive. It’s a subreddit that explains topics to users “as if they were 5 years old” — essentially, explaining complex topics in layman’s terms. Incredibly, ChatGPT can do this, too. All you’d have to do is ask a question, such as, “How does an Etch-a-Sketch toy work?” followed by “explain like I’m five.” The response will be an answer to your question in simple terms.
  1. Debug code. For programmers, debugging code can be a pain. Luckily, ChatGPT can debug your code for you. Beyond that, it can even point out vulnerabilities. Let’s say you ask it to debug your code. ChatGPT will do that, as well as break down what kind of bug you’re dealing with and examples of how to fix it. 
  1. Act as a Linux Terminal. Not many people realize this, but you can ask ChatGPT to “act as a Linux Terminal.” When you do so, you’ll be able to use Linux commands and create directories and files, among other things. If you’d like to try it out, input this text from research scientist Jonas Degrave and senior staff research engineer at DeepMind, Frederic Besse:

""I want you to act as a Linux terminal. I will type commands and you will reply with what the terminal should show. I want you to only reply with the terminal output inside one unique code block, and nothing else. Do not write explanations. Do not type commands unless I instruct you to do so. When I need to tell you something in English I will do so by putting text inside curly brackets {like this}. My first command is pwd.""

  1. Write code. If you’re unfamiliar with programming, you can ask ChatGPT to write code for you. You can also ask it to write code for practice or as you’re learning to code. Either way, users can ask the model to write code. You can even specify to have ChatGPT write code in a specific language, like Java or Python. 
  1. Locate answers (to assignment or homework questions). No matter what grade level a student is, ChatGPT can answer homework or assignment questions. For example, math equations aside, you could ask it a question like, “What is the strongest muscle in the human body?” and the model will tell you it’s the masseter muscle (or the gluteus maximus, which the model added since some scientists disagree). 
  1. Translate text from one language to another. Like Google Translate, ChatGPT can also translate text into one language or another. For example, you can paste text in Polish and ask the model to translate it for you. Or, you could ask something like, “How can I wish someone a blessed Ramadan in Arabic?”
ChatGPT can inform users how to wish someone a blessed Ramadan in Arabic.
ChatGPT can also inform users how to wish someone a blessed Ramadan in Arabic, for example.
  1. Grade papers and essays. Believe it or not, ChatGPT can actually grade essays, too — not just write them. Professors (or students) can ask the model to grade an essay and ChatGPT will comply by assigning the essay a letter grade. It takes it a step further by also providing an explanation for how it arrived at that letter grade, as well as tips and feedback to improve the paper. 

What Are ChatGPT’s Limitations?

Of course, ChatGPT isn’t perfect. There are a few limitations to be aware of. 

First and foremost, its limited knowledge comes to mind. ChatGPT has access to lots of data, but not all data that’s ever existed. There’s a limit to what it knows. For example, things like recent news or niche topics might be outside the scope of the model. 

It’s also not always accurate. For example, ChatGPT is known for having grammatical errors, misspellings, and typos. That’s why it’s always recommended to double check the information (or at least acknowledge that it still might not be accurate). 

ChatGPT has trouble juggling multiple asks at once. Multitasking is not a strong suit of this model. If you ask a single question, it can provide a straightforward response. But once you start asking multiple questions or asking for multiple things, ChatGPT has a difficult time prioritizing. 

Still, the overall concept and capabilities of this generative AI model are pretty impressive.

How to Use ChatGPT

Luckily, learning how to use ChatGPT is actually pretty simple. You can learn how to use ChatGPT in these three easy steps: 

  1. Make an account. Visit chat.openai.com and make a free account. You can use an email address or sign in with your Microsoft or Google account. You’ll also need a phone number, and it can’t be a virtual phone number (VoIP). Once you input your phone number, you’ll have to input a texted code to verify your new account. 
  2. Now, just type your request into the ChatGPT chatbox and you’re ready to go. This can be a question, like, “What’s the weather usually like in Georgia in May?” or a prompt, like, “Give me some ideas for a baby shower.” 
  3. If you don’t get the answer you’re looking for, try again. Sometimes, you need to rephrase or ask a different question to get the results you’re looking for. 

Can ChatGPT Be Detected?

The short answer: Maybe? Currently, there aren’t many options available for detecting the use of ChatGPT in something like essays, for example. However, that doesn’t mean there isn’t anything out there.

Princeton University student Edward Tian created a detection tool called GPTZero that’s said to be able to detect the use of ChatGPT. It was announced early in 2023. 

ChatGPT Alternatives

As for ChatGPT alternatives, there are a handful out there. For example, Crossplag, a plagiarism checking tool, provides authenticity checking for content via AI detection.

If you’re looking for ChatGPT alternatives for writing, you might want to check out: 

On the other hand, if you want ChatGPT alternatives for research, options include: 

If you’re looking for ChatGPT alternatives for coding, you might have luck with: 

How AI Is Improving Public Speaking Coaching

AI examples like ChatGPT can successfully produce code, text, and research. But AI can assist in other areas too, such as public speaking coaching. Yoodli is a great example. 

Like ChatGPT, the Yoodli speech coach is powered by AI. Because of this, Yoodli is able to give users human-like feedback on their speaking patterns and speeches. For example, it can tell you things like: 

  • Be more succinct in a certain part
  • How to reword sections of your speech to improve quality and flow 
  • Where to add more information to improve cohesiveness 

This AI coach not only provides specific metrics, such as your speaking pace and your filler word usage, but it also offers individualized coaching comments just for you and your speech. 

For those looking for a judgment-free, personalized speech coach, Yoodli is one of the best available. 

What’s Next for ChatGPT?

In terms of what’s on the horizon for ChatGPT, experts say the model will have more specific applications. 

As a result, researchers expect more intense AI regulation as various models keep cropping up. For the United States, there’s no AI regulation as of right now. We can also expect models like this one to continue getting more buzz and hype as more people branch out and begin using it.

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