ChatGPT (Chat Generative Pre-trained Transformer) has become a viral sensation in recent months. It seems that everyone is talking about its abilities and how it’s going to change the world and displace numerous jobs. But what is it really and how can small businesses and entrepreneurs take advantage of it?
To understand what ChatGPT is, I asked it to define itself:
“ChatGPT is a large language model developed by OpenAI that uses deep learning techniques to generate human-like text. It can be fine-tuned for a variety of natural language processing tasks such as language translation, question answering, and text summarization. It is based on the GPT (Generative Pre-trained Transformer) architecture, which is trained on a massive amount of text data to generate human-like text."
When asked to summarise its response:
“ChatGPT is a language generation model by OpenAI which uses deep learning to generate human-like text.”
So ChatGPT is a chatbot that provides natural language answers to a great many questions and challenges that we might have. It uses data from a massive amount of text derived from books, websites and articles. It does not produce images or graphical representations, so its use is restricted to text-based answers. However, given the natural language output, the responses could be used in text-to-speech applications and vice versa to respond to verbal queries. This would require some basic programming to interface speech applications with ChatGPT, but it’s entirely possible.
Our experimentation and testing have revealed it to be a highly useful, but not entirely infallible, tool, that small businesses can use to save time, understand complex problems and rapidly find answers to challenges. However, ChatGPT is limited by the fact that it uses pre-existing language models and so there is a risk that responses will lack uniqueness and creativity that only humans can provide. Having said that, there is very little in the world that is truly original. Most content that is produced, whether it is articles, music, art or fiction, is likely to have been influenced by some pre-existing content. ChatGPT can also become quite repetitive in its responses and deriving original and useful content becomes an exercise in asking the right questions and providing the right level of context. This takes some practice and trial and error to get right, but it’s worth persevering.
Big businesses are already looking at how they can use ChatGPT and other AI language models to address challenges, but how can small businesses and entrepreneurs take advantage of this solution? So, how much is hype and how much is hyperbole?
To some extent the ChatGPT is worthy of the hype that it has received. Even with short answers to technical questions, ChatGPT can save the user a significant amount of time searching the internet for the right answer. Unfortunately, the Google search engine often presents the results that it thinks you want to see rather than those that you actually want to see. It’s algorithms sometimes work against it when you are seeking literal answers to questions. ChatGPT on the other hand can provide very direct answers to queries, but it isn’t always 100% correct. Human validation is still required, but the solution continues to learn and is likely to improve over time.
Additionally, there are frequently capacity problems with ChatGPT, meaning that it is not always available due to demand. The author has also experienced limitations on the number of requests that can be made in an hour (presumably to overcome capacity issues). These issues are likely to subside as this and other AI solutions evolve over time. Premium business applications are also likely
to subside as this and other AI solutions evolve over time. Premium business applications are also likely to emerge and become commercially available. Google is currently working on its own version of a large natural language AI model called Bard which is likely to be available in 2023 .
ChatGPT has been used to write blog articles, legal documents, summarise complex articles, produce software code and translate documents from a huge number of different languages.
Human intelligence is the key to exploiting artificial intelligence. If you ask stupid questions, you are likely to get stupid answers, or ‘junk in, junk out’ as the saying goes. The same applies with AI. Questions must be structured in such a way that the AI can understand the correct context and scope, and to provide tailored and personalised output. The AI will produce responses as good as the questions that you ask it, but you will also need to interpret and enhance the results
ChatGPT is therefore an excellent solution to provide preliminary research, answer literal questions or produce draft documents. The content that it produces, while high quality compared to what has come before it, should be used with caution to ensure that it is accurate and valuable to the reader.
How small businesses can exploit ChatGPT. Small businesses have limited access to specialised resources and typically outsource a significant amount of non-core work. This can be costly and does not always deliver the best quality outputs. Efficiency and agility are therefore essential to maintain a competitive edge and achieve speed to market with new products and services
The following applications of ChatGPT could help small businesses to save time, improve innovation and enhance sales and marketing:
1.Market research – ChatGPT is reasonably good at identifying competitors and targeting companies if the context and targets are properly defined. Identifying market sizing is more difficult and it is necessary to be quite specific in terms of sector, location and industry. ChatGPT will also not provide references to back up the market research results, so it is difficult to validate the data. ChatGPT is also limited by the fact that it can only access data up to 2021. However, to gain an initial view of the market landscape, ChatGPT will provide some useful insights. Market research is therefore limited, but later iterations of the AI (including access to the latest data and the internet) will likely address some of these limitations.
2.Explaining complex concepts – Complex concepts such as calculus, thermodynamics and nuclear fusion can be described in simple terms and further clarification sought if needed. Asking ChatGPT to explain something as if you are a 10-year-old, will provide a very simplified overview which is sufficient to attain a basic understanding. Otherwise, asking ChatGPT to explain concepts to a novice and then seeking further clarification on specific terms or points can help to provide a fuller and more sophisticated explanation. Small businesses might use ChatGPT to better understand complex areas such as R&D tax credits, patent registrations, company filing requirements, import and export mechanisms, digital marketing strategy and legislation such as GDPR.
3.Content production  – ChatGPT will write articles, blogs and other content, but it is necessary to provide it with plenty of context. It is also important to include priority keywords so that the AI knows what to include to enhance search engine optimisation (SEO). The output can be somewhat repetitive, and in time people will learn to recognise AI output which will undoubtedly reduce its impact. It would therefore be advisable to personalise and customise any output from ChatGPT so that it is tailored to your own and your clients’ needs and so that it provides something insightful or impactful. Where ChatGPT really adds value is in its ability to produce a coherent article from a brief proposal that includes the requirement, context, some keywords and the target audience. A brief proposal can be created in a matter of seconds, potentially saving content producers a huge amount of time.
4.Document drafts and written communications : The drafting of official documents and communications is typically undertaken by legal and other professionals, however, when asking ChatGPT to produce a document in a particular style or format it will generate a preliminary draft which could save time and cost. Legal documents should always be reviewed and approved by legal and other suitably qualified professionals, but the time and cost saved could still be material, especially if professional services are outsourced, as is the case for many SMEs. Other applications could include developing policy documents, human resource documentation and communications, standard operating procedures, terms and conditions, user instructions and product descriptions.
6.Translating documents into foreign languages : Companies that are internationalising may need to write letters, produce documents and communicate in non-native languages. Google translate has major limitations in the way that it translates documents and it is more useful for translating short phrases and conversations. ChatGPT is quite effective at undertaking document translations, although it does not perform as well as premium translation applications or dedicated translators. However, for small businesses that work globally, ChatGPT should provide good support to help them translate inbound communications and prepare outbound communications in many different languages. ChatGPT knows approximately 100 natural languages which is likely to be more than enough for most business communication.
7.Support to raise finance: ChatGPT can help businesses to identify financing options, identify specialised angel or venture investors, support grant and tender applications, prepare business plans and provide guidance for pitching, negotiating and preparing responses to difficult questions. The AI can’t do everything, but it can help to make the complex process of raising finance faster and easier.
8.Self-development: ChatGPT can help with goal planning by providing guidance about how to plan, manage and achieve specific goals. It can educate by providing book overviews of important self-development works without having to read the entire book. It can also provide advice about how to overcome limitations and exploit strengths.
9.Customer query responses: The chat bot has the ability to generate life like personalised responses to customer queries. This could be enhanced by enabling voice recognition and text-to-speech capabilities. Although there are no specific ChatGPT applications that can be used for customer queries yet, they are likely to be available in the not-too-distant future. There are numerous ‘Virtual Agents’ on the market that can do this already, but for more complex queries, a larger language model is necessary, and it would be critical to train language models on all aspects of a company’s products and services.
10.Generating summaries and abstracts: Summarisation is essential in today’s world where we are overloaded with information, long documents and technical information. ChatGPT can be used to summarise articles, create document abstracts, executive summaries and undertake literature reviews. Testing has indicated that ChatGPT can cope with several pages of text. Longer documents can be broken down into smaller logical sections if required. This can save a significant amount of time reviewing and reading documents when it is not necessary to understand all of the content. Also, a where key technical information is required it is possible to ask ChatGPT to locate and summarise the information. Simply cut and paste the document content into the chat box and ask it to summarise or create an abstract.
11.Rapid answers to technical questions: The author has tested ChatGPT with questions regarding types of herbs and spices used in certain dishes (chasseur, tagine and feijoada), bolt sizes required for a specific loudspeaker floor spike and hardware requirements and instructions for Linux platform installations, all of which were very specific and produced accurate responses. Using a search engine to find the same information would have required searching several different websites to find the right information which would have taken more time. ChatGPT provided a short narrative in a matter of seconds. Small businesses can use ChatGPT to find technical information, addresses, locations, instructions, product information and many other queries that require specific and detailed answers.
12.Rapid answers to technical questions: The author has tested ChatGPT with questions regarding types of herbs and spices used in certain dishes (chasseur, tagine and feijoada), bolt sizes required for a specific loudspeaker floor spike and hardware requirements and instructions for Linux platform installations, all of which were very specific and produced accurate responses. Using a search engine to find the same information would have required searching several different websites to find the right information which would have taken more time. ChatGPT provided a short narrative in a matter of seconds. Small businesses can use ChatGPT to find technical information, addresses, locations, instructions, product information and many other queries that require specific and detailed answers.
13.Innovate and solve problems: Type in the details of the problem, the context and ask ChatGPT to provide innovative ways to solve the problem. ChatGPT will use its large language model to find possible answers to the problem. A good analogy to this is the TRIZ method , which is a way of innovating that uses known inventive principles to help inventors identify solutions to problems. The inventive principles are comprehensive and based on the research by Altschuller into patent registrations to identify all known inventive principles. In a similar way, ChatGPT will look for all known solutions to similar problems, thereby creating fairly reliable solutions, although many of them will be relatively obvious. To improve the level of innovation it is possible to prompt ChatGPT to create novel or non-standard solutions, or to ask it to use analogies, break rules or ask it to solve the problem using certain nouns (things, people, objects, animals) for inspiration. Doing so can generate some interesting results.
Although ChatGPT is highly impressive in its natural language responses to sometimes extremely complex or specific requests, it does have some issues. Responses can occasionally be factually incorrect and are often not complete. Furthermore, the generic tone of responses will ultimately reduce the impact of content, making it less personal and less compelling to read. To overcome these issues it is necessary to proof any content that ChatGPT produces and review it with a critical eye. Human writers will still be needed in future, but they will need to produce engaging and interesting content. The days of generic article and blog writing are now gone. Content creators will need to focus on highly relatable and specific content that is both engaging and compelling to the reader.
Accessible AI will change the way that we interact with the world, but we must use human intelligence and our powers of critical analysis to make sure that AI delivers enhancements to what we do now and ensure that it does not limit our ability to create imaginative and original works. In a sense, AI has the power to make us more intelligent by forcing us to think critically rather than accepting everything at face value. Although various schools and colleges are banning the use of ChatGPT, this is likely a knee jerk reaction. We now rely on calculators and spell checkers to do our jobs and it is likely that the same will be true of AI chat bots in the near future. Indeed, Microsoft is looking to add ChatGPT to the Office suite and Bing search . Users of AI chat bots and large language models must build their critical thinking, problem solving and creative skills to get the most out of them. AI is not yet at the level where it can replace human creativity and critical and ethical thinking. Although people will rely more and more on AI to make their jobs and lives easier, people will still be needed to provide a level of interpretation and validation of the AI's outputs.
We all interact with various forms of AI daily, often without even realising it. AI has impacted our lives in ways typically hidden from the end user (analytics, marketing, customer service, systems decision-making, etc). If ChatGPT is an early iteration of the everyday applicability of AI language models, then humanity's future possibilities are staggering. ChatGPT-4  and Google’s Bard initiative are already in the pipeline, so we don’t have long to wait before we find out what else these AI solutions are capable of. Certain jobs and professions will need to change to accommodate this new technology, but that has always been the case with innovation. Humans will adapt and become more creative and productive as a result of AI as they learn to use it in different ways.
To try ChatGPT you will need to set up an account at OpenAI.com. Follow the link below to get started:
ChatGPT: Optimizing Language Models for Dialogue (openai.com)
Good luck getting onto it though… As ChatGPT has gone viral in recent weeks, so has the demand for it! The platform is frequently oversubscribed by requests, but non-peak US hours appear to be the best time to use it. ChatGPT Plus has been released in the UK in the last couple of days, providing General access to ChatGPT, even during peak times, faster response times and priority access to new features and improvements. This costs $20 (or just over £16.50) a month, which may be well worth it if you use this tool often!
Disclaimer: This article was written by a real human!