What does ChatGPT mean for me?
All Things Venture #083
Hot damn. Hey there everyone. It’s been a
minute, jk it’s been a month since I’ve written an article. A lot has happened since we last talked. A new season of White Lotus was released. Democrats retained control of the Senate. SBF tanked the Crypto industry. You get the gist. It’s wild how, the older you get - the faster time feels to move, and what’s even wilder is how the world around us feels like it’s moving even faster. I guess that’s what we should expect in today’s digital environment. Out of the 8 billion of us living here on the big, blue, beautiful (and burning) planet Earth, more than 5 billion of us use the internet. 5 billion people hooked up to an information superhigh way that sends memes, and shares our collective memories, at the speed of light.
The internet, is first and foremost, a communication tool. You and I, all of us, rely on the internet to communicate. My news is from the internet, I check the weather on the internet, I talk to my friends, my family, my girlfriend - through the internet. Undeniably, the internet is an extremely important tool for modern communication, and it’s quite possible that it’s the most important communication tool ever created.
But things change.
On Nov. 30th OpenAI, an artificial intelligence research laboratory based started in 2015 with the mission to, “ensure that artificial general intelligence benefits all of humanity” took over the internet when it released ChatGPT.
ChatGPT is a large language model that allows anyone to ask it a question, and receive a response in a conversational manner. (To be more accurate, ChatGPT is actually a UI layer on top of a specifically trained version of a separate large language model built by OpenAI called GPT 3.5, you can read more about it here but for purposes of this article I’m going to only reference ChatGPT) Similar to the internet, ChatGPT is a communication tool. You ask it questions, it responds. But it’s much more than just a communication tool, it’s a productivity tool, an automation tool, and a communication tool all in one.
Even as I type that out, in my head I’m like, “that sentence feels inconclusively broad” so let me just show you what it can do rather than tell you.
Here’s a pretty easy answer for ChatGPT
Not bad right? Sounds like a standard response from your standard smart guy/gal friend. Let’s up the ante though.
Now, because I am not a programmer, I didn’t audit this code. I can’t speak to whether it’s correct or not, but this query is indicative of the current power and future potential of this technology. Lastly, let’s go crazy and see how weird GPT can get.
To be honest, I lol’d when I saw this response. Is it the perfect rap ever? No, absolutely not. But does it sound like the Migos? Kinda??? Does it sound enough like the Migos to where someone who actually wanted to create a rap song talking about how interest rates are cool in the style of the Migos could actually use it? Absolutely.
This brings me to today’s topic du jour. What does ChatGPT mean for me? And by me, I mean us. Technology has a weird and objectively terrible habit of stirring up hype cycles. Maybe it’s a function of how hard it is to actually build things that are net new, maybe it’s because we’re all secretly heat seeking status missiles constantly trying to reaffirm our position in the world. Maybe it’s because humans just suck? Who knows? But, in my experience, when something genuinely new and genuinely different enters the world - we all foam at the mouth ad nauseum until we break things, set progress back a few years, and then leapfrog forward. Regardless of why we humans are fallible, technology is undeniably a force that alters the course of human history. The printing press supercharged the Italian Renaissance, ushered in the Protestant Reformation, and massively accelerated the spread of human knowledge. The industrial revolution introduced the factory system of production, accelerated the shift from rural to urban societies, and laid the groundwork for modern day capitalism. The internet, well, the internet is the internet. With all three of these technology shifts, they improve at least one, if not multiple facets of communication, productivity, and automation.
So again, I ask myself the question: What does ChatGPT mean for me (for us)? How will this new technological innovation impact the shape of history? Are we entering a new age of life as we know it? Or are we just at the peak of another hype cycle due to collapse faster than FTX’s house of cards or Herschel Walker’s bid for the Senate?
The answers are unknown, and I’m not entitled enough to be declarative in my predictions BUT, I am entitled enough (as we all should be) to share my opinions. When I think about ChatGPT and the technology that powers it, I think about what it can to today (to the best of my understanding), and what I think it could feasibly do in the future (if it continues to improve and advance). Here’s what I’ve noted down as I’ve played around with the tool:
ChatGPT can have full blown conversations without the need for human intervention (i.e. it’s fully automated)
ChatGPT can surface and regurgitate information (in a conversational manner) based off a pre 2021 dataset
ChatGPT can provide information in the format of code, lyrics, and scripts
ChatGPT can provide responses to technical questions (i.e. in the format of pre-writing code, or pre-writing excel functions)
ChatGPT can generate responses in the format you specify, in a style you specify (i.e. write rap lyrics in form of the Migos)
Maybe as important, here’s what I’ve noted it can’t do today:
ChatGPT cannot be 100% accurate (i.e. I’ve noticed bugs in excel formulas I’ve asked for and I’ve seen examples of code snippets being incorrect as well)
ChatGPT cannot generate recommendations personalized to your preference (i.e. your data) or someone specific you know’s preference (i.e. someone else’s data)
ChatGPT cannot share any information/perspective that is not included in the data set it is trained against
Finally, here are some of my guesses on what I think ChatGPT could do in the future:
ChatGPT could feasibly do generalized independent research of specific length (i.e. 10 page paper) if provided a prompt
ChatGPT could feasibly write the entire draft of a book, a movie script, a song album, if provided with specific instructions
ChatGPT could feasibly share real time information (or slightly time delayed information) that is injected into it’s dataset
ChatGPT could feasibly generate responses based off of YOUR individualized data
ChatGPT could feasibly generate more complex, structured outputs like a PowerPoint format styled after a McKinsey consultant, or a Pitch Deck in the format of a Series A startup
ChatGPT could feasibly interface with humans in digitized environments and surface accurate information without a need for human intervention
ChatGPT could feasibly become a personal assistant that completes routine manual tasks (i.e. calling for laundry, booking flights, etc.) NOTE: this would require a lot of infrastructure to be seamless
ChatGPT could feasibly function as a data analyst for internal businesses needs and answer routine requests that cannot be surfaced in simple dashboards
ChatGPT could feasibly accelerate code development for engineers by providing code snippets NOTE: a separate tool called CoPilot does this (it’s also trained on an OpenAI model)
ChatGPT could negotiate simple contracts on behalf of a business, provided it’s given specific parameters to stay within
So with all of the above, I have a few concrete ideas on what ChatGPT means and I’ll break it down by sharing my mental model for ChatGPT, and a practical example of how I think things will change. My mental model for ChatGPT is that it’s the first technology in the world that is natively a communication, productivity, and automation tool all in one. Taken in isolation, a technology improvement in any one of these areas has a step function effect on productivity. Taken together, a simultaneous technology improvement across all three areas will have a compounding effect on productivity.
Let’s bring this into a concrete example. Let’s say in the near future the media landscape continues to splinter. Jessica runs the Lower East Side Tribune, a historically traditional media outlet. It’s becoming harder and harder for the Lower East Side Tribune to maintain profitability as they lose subscribers and ad dollars to content creators on platforms like TikTok, YouTube, Twitch, etc. Topline revenue has compressed, cost structures remain the same, and the business has come under heighted competitive pressure to produce. The business, like any other, wants to survive. And in that desire for survival, they come across ChatGPT or an equivalent substitute. For our purposes let’s call it WriteGPT, and assuming that WriteGPT has:
Been trained on a relevant and live dataset or slightly time delayed data set
Compute costs below or at current costs
The ability to produce content at the level of the median professional reporter/content creator
Then the natural financial incentive for Jessica is to pay WriteGPT $50K a year to churn out content 24/7/365 versus paying Derek from Middlebury $50K a year to churn out content at a fraction of that pace, possibly create HR violations every 6 months, and take periodic breaks throughout the day to consume content on platforms outside of hers. It’d be no different from the myriad of Fortune 500 companies that outsourced millions of jobs around the globe, except now that opportunity for outsourcing is more widely available and applicable to a broader swath of business owners. A software alternative with a lower cost structures, higher productivity, and comparable accuracy is a kiss of death for almost any job function. Including mine.
Overall, I think what ChatGPT means is that we are in the early days of understanding how automation will affect our lives. I don’t believe we’re headed toward a singularity, or that universal basic income is on the near-term horizon, but I do believe that increasingly so, the level of human to computer interaction is only going to increase, and the level of computer to computer interaction is going to increase as well. I believe that in the short to medium term ChatGPT (and tools like it) will enhance rather than supplant human productivity, BUT if you believe that the field will continue to progress, if you believe that the availability and volume of data will continue to increase, then in the long term the ROI on hiring a full time writer (i.e the Dereks of the world) versus a tool like ChatGPT will increasingly favor ChatGPT.
So, should we all freak out? Should we all rush to back politicians who support universal basic income? Should we be excited about what’s to come?
My answers are no, probably not, and absolutely.
IF this world of generative AI and artificial general intelligence comes to realization, then just like every other technological advancement there will be extreme winners and extreme losers, but the broad middle will likely be better off. Also, in my opinion - what’s the downside of being scared? Technology advancement is a bit like a 2012 vintage Miami Heat era Lebron James on a fast break, it’s coming at you full speed whether you like it or not - so why not use the knowledge of that inevitability to your advantage and be thoughtful in your approach? Why not plan for that day and think creatively, think critically about how you can be positioned and take advantage of the new, new thing? Maybe that’s just the VC in me talking, but it’s also the competitor in me as well. If software is eating the world and automation is eating software, I’d much rather be on the winning side of that innovation.
So to be more succint in my thinking (and shamelessly sneak in a Friday Night Lights reference), about what ChatGPT means for all of us, to me it simply means, with clear eyes, full heart, and an extensively trained large language model. You can’t lose.