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ChatGPT has been around for a year. Users discover it's learn as you go

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

It's been a year since ChatGPT made its public debut, and in that time, people have been trying to figure out what it's good at, what it's not good at and how AI tools more broadly will change how we live and how we work. As NPR's Andrea Hsu reports, it's a lot of learn as you go.

ANDREA HSU, BYLINE: If you wonder how useful, really, are these AI chatbots, well, consider this story from Jon Friedman about the time he dropped his daughter off at a community center for her first basketball practice.

JON FRIEDMAN: And I get there and the person signing all the girls up said to me, oh, she's on this team. They don't have a coach yet.

HSU: Well, Friedman played basketball in high school. He's a big Steph Curry fan, but he'd never coached basketball before. Nevermind, he thought, and went to his computer. You see, Friedman is a corporate vice president at Microsoft. He's leading the development of Microsoft's chatbot, Copilot. He asked it...

FRIEDMAN: How do you get started coaching an eighth-grade girls basketball team?

HSU: The bot told him, understand the rules of the league, know the level of your players, plan practices. He then told it to come up with five days of one-hour practices for beginners.

FRIEDMAN: And I got all of these awesome practices that I then turned into practices that we used.

HSU: In Friedman's mind, this is what AI should be - a tool to help us, not replace us. But already, newspapers have used AI to write recaps of high school sports matches. Video game companies are using AI to come up with characters. It's easy to think could AI be coming for all of our jobs?

KARIN KIMBROUGH: I'm not saying that.

HSU: But Karin Kimbrough, chief economist at LinkedIn, which is owned by Microsoft, says AI will change how most of us work.

KIMBROUGH: Sort of enhance what we can do, and ultimately what we're hoping is that it'll give us some productivity growth. It'll make us more efficient.

HSU: But there are all kinds of pitfalls along the way. John Friedman readily admits AI is prone to mistakes, also known as hallucinations.

FRIEDMAN: It gets things wrong. It'll confidently tell you something that's just incorrect. And if people aren't taking ownership and control over that, it's so easy to spread misinformation.

HSU: In ways that could be harmful to people and society. It's daunting, given these tools are available for anyone to use for fun or for work. Jeffrey Garcia, a technical program manager, tried using AI to overcome a lifelong frustration with art. As a kid, he would close his eyes and conjure up a detailed image in his mind.

JEFFREY GARCIA: And then my hands were incapable of creating it. So I have a deep love for art, but I suck at it.

HSU: Earlier this year, he started playing around with the program Midjourney. You give it instructions, it gives you an image. Garcia and his wife live outside Baltimore, and his wife's a biologist. He thought, let's get the program to create a vintage-style poster of a Baltimore oriole.

GARCIA: The bird species.

HSU: Which the AI delivered. Except, his wife pointed out, there were extra toes on its feet. Garcia was impressed that the bot thought to add a skyline with a couple Baltimore landmarks, but...

GARCIA: You know, if you're familiar with the city, it doesn't really hold up.

HSU: Experiments like this have informed how Garcia uses AI at work. He thinks of it as an assistant whose work needs to be checked. So a first draft of a project plan? Sure, he says, AI can handle that. Other things, like correspondence, he's not ready to relinquish.

GARCIA: While I am - I'm a human being, I'm flawed, and will often miscommunicate, I don't feel comfortable handing off this thing that I view as essential and deeply human to an automated system.

HSU: But not everyone will be so careful. Earlier this year, a New York lawyer suing an airline was caught citing bogus cases that ChatGPT had just made up. In court, the lawyer said he didn't think the bot could do such a thing. Andrea Hsu, NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF ROBOHANDS' "LEAVES") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Andrea Hsu
Andrea Hsu is NPR's labor and workplace correspondent.