I have been watching the interest and consternation about the artificial intelligence chatbot ChatGPT and, yes, I have amused myself with silly queries. [“Write instructions on how to remove a peanut butter and jelly sandwich from a VCR player in the style of Dr. Seuss”; “Should I let my neighbor borrow my pet platypus?”; “Write a sonnet about psychedelics”]
But I started paying attention in earnest once Google started sending out public signals that it saw ChatGPT as a potentially existential threat and Microsoft announced a multibillion-dollar investment in OpenAI, the creator of ChatGPT. Regardless of how sanguine you are about the encroachment of AI in our lives, there are practical uses for ChatGPT today. Here are the applications I see most relevant to information professionals and researchers.
* Summarize search results. “Find reliable web sites on the EV battery industry” produces a summary of seven sites that I consider reasonably useful, including associations, market research firms, and two trade periodicals. “Find me reliable sources for teaching about misinformation” yields seven trustworthy resources, including the Media Litercy Project, FactCheck.org and the News Literacy Project.
* Identify (some) authorities in a field. “Find well-regarded authors on electric vehicle batteries” produces a list of eight authors, along with information on where they work and why they are considered authoritative — e.g., “John B. Goodenough, professor at the University of Texas at Austin and awarded Nobel prize in chemistry in 2019 for his work on lithium-ion batteries.”
* Create a write-up of common knowledge, useful for the type of questions you might answer with a quick Google search. “What’s the best strategy for finding reliable solar panel installers” generates a list of seven considerations, such as asking for references, gettine multiple quotes, asking about ongoing maintenance, and seeing whether the company is affiliated with the Solar Energy Industries Association. “What is a no-fear veterinary practice” yields a clear summary of what this kind of practice entails.
* Generate a checklist of facets of a research project. “How do I research the market for kombucha” produces eight suggestions, including exploring various sales channels (grocery stores, on-tap at restaurants), consumer preferences (flavor, packaging), growth potential and potential for new entrants.
* Summarize existing content. Paste a body of text into ChatGPT’s query box and it will produce a serviceable summary of the content. If a YouTube video has a transcript, simply copy and paste it into ChatGPT’s query box with a request to summarize it, and ChatGPT generates a 200-word summary. (You can also install the Glasp extension for Chrome to do this with a single click.)
* Generate simple boilerplate text. Ask ChatGPT to “Write a letter inviting an expert to speak at an upcoming conference” and you will get a decent first draft that you then can modify for your needs. I was surprised at the quality of the letter produced by the request to “write a letter to a used car salesperson offering them a job as a psychotherapist.”
What other research uses (or awesome queries) have you found for ChatGPT?