What comes to your mind when you hear the term ‘artificial intelligence’? Scary, sinister robots? Free help on assignments? Computers taking over the world?
Well, on January 24, Duke Media Architect Stephen Toback hosted a lively conversation on all things AI. An expert in the field of technology and media production, Toback discussed some of the practical applications of artificial intelligence in academic and professional settings.
According to Toback, enabling machines to think like humans is the essence of artificial intelligence. He views AI as a humanities discipline — an attempt to understand human intelligence. “AI is really a digital brain. You can’t digitize it unless you know how it actually works,” he began. Although AI has been around since 1956, the past year has seen an explosion in usage. ChatGPT, for example, became the fastest-growing user application in the world in less than 6 months. “One thing I always talk about is that AI is not gonna take your job, but someone using AI will.”
During his presentation, he referenced five dominant AI platforms on the market. The first one is ChatGPT, created by OpenAI. Released to the public in November 2022, it has over 100 million users every single month. The second is BardAI, which was created by Google in March 2023. Although newer on the market, the chatbot has gained significant traction online.
Next, we have LLama, owned by tech giant Meta. Last September, Meta launched AI ‘characters’ based on famous celebs including Paris Hilton and Snoop Dog, which users could chat with online. “They’ve already started commercializing AI,” Toback explained.
Then there’s Claude, by Anthropic. Claude is an AI assistant for a variety of digital tasks. “Writers tend to use Claude,” Toback said. “Its language models are more attuned to text.”
And finally on Toback’s list is Microsoft Copilot, which is changing the AI game. “It’s integrating ChatGPT into the apps that we use every day. And that’s the next step in this evolution of AI tools.” Described on Microsoft’s website as ‘AI for everything you do,’ Copilot embeds artificial intelligence models into the entire Microsoft 365 suite (which includes apps such as Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Outlook). “I don’t have to copy and paste into ChatGPT and come back- It’s built right into the app.” It’s also the first AI tool on the market that provides integration into a suite of applications, instead of just one.
He outlined several features of the software, such as: summarizing and responding to email threads on Outlook, creating intricate presentations from a simple text document in PowerPoint, and generating interview questions and resume comparisons in Word. “There’s a great example of using AI for something that I have to do… but now I can do it a little bit better and a little bit faster.”
Throughout his presentation, Toback also touched on the practical use of ChatGPT. “AI is not perfect,” he began. “If you just ask it a question, you’re like ‘Oh that sounds reasonable’, and it might not be right.” He emphasized challenges such as the rapidly changing nature of the platform, inherent biases, and incorrect data/information as potential challenges for practical use.
“Rather than saying I don’t know, it acts a lot like a middle schooler and says it knows everything and gives you a very convincing answer.”Stephen Toback
These challenges have been felt nationwide. In early 2023, for example, lawyers for a federal court case used ChatGPT to find previous claims in an attempt to show precedent. However, after presenting the claims to a judge, the court found that the claims didn’t actually exist. “It cited all of these fake cases that look like real citations and then the judge considered sanctions, ” said Toback. ‘AI hallucinations’ such as this one, have caused national controversy over the use and accuracy of AI-generated content. “You need to be able to double-check and triple-check anything that you’re using through ChatGPT,” Toback said.
So how can we use ChatGPT more accurately? According to Toback, there are a variety of approaches, but the main one is called prompt engineering: the process of structuring text so that it can be understood by an AI model. “Prompts are really the key to all of this,” he revealed. “The better formed your question is, the more data you’re giving ChatGPT, the better the response you’re going to get.” Below is Toback’s 6-step template to make sure you are engineering prompts correctly for ChatGPT.
So there you have it — your 2024 AI survival guide. It’s clear from the past few years that artificial intelligence is here to stay, and with that comes a need for improved understanding and use. As AI expert Oren Etzioni proclaims, “AI is a tool. The choice about how it gets deployed is ours.”
Have more questions about AI tools such as ChatGPT? Reach out to the Duke Office of Information Technology here.
Written by Skylar Hughes, Class of 2025