Few more cents on ChatGPT

Ivan (Jonan) Georgiev
5 min readJan 23, 2023

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TL;DR: It is cool and controversial, and definitely not just about software development, and surely more than few cents.

When I was asked 6 months ago:

“Ok, when do you think the software development will be automated?“

“Five, to ten years”, was my answer.

Well, OpenGPT caught me a bit off-guard, and now I realize that more precise answer is “three to five”, and probably more on the sooner end.

And, of course, not all software development will be automated. I keep repeating for several years now, that majority of the software development is deprived of any creativity, and therefore — it is doomed to be automated. Just like compilers now convert the high-level language code into machine instructions better than humans — and it was not like this 20 years ago.

The AI-powered tools will convert the idea of a product into code in very similar manner. So far any attempts to do that were failing because stating the idea into formal, ambiguous way is at least as much of a philosophical question, as is an engineering one. But now, with the conversational, aware-of-context, incrementally detailing tool like ChatGPT this barrier will fall. And will fall soon.

But, let’s leave the software development industry on its own merits. After all, it is already too bloated with far more personnel than it actually needs, and the creative ones will always be needed.

A more significant aspects are coming, however.

Search engine revolution

I remember the time of AltaVista search engine, and how they’ve fought with Yahoo!. I also remember how quickly they were blown away by Google, just by delivering much, much more relevant information to the question asked, and delivering it in much, much more focused and usable way — AltaVista result page was bloated with additional, non-relevant, distracting ads, links, suggestions, etc.

Nowadays few people click on “Page 2” of the searches, and for a good reason — most of the time you get what you are looking for on the first one, and if you don’t — you refine your question and still look on the first result page.

However, gathering an overview on a certain topic is quite an effort — collecting information from different sources, each potentially involving multiple searches and a dozed page visits, peeling off the information and synthesizing the essence. And this is a zero creativity process, more or less — one is just trying to obtain more knowledge on an existing subject.

Now, with ChatGPT all that can be reduced in time dramatically — a short conversation with the bot, and “Voillah!” — you get the whole human knowledge on the topic synthesized and elaborated in details — as deep as you want. Sweet!

Education as one of the victims

Actually, the education is already a victim of the industrial mindset, and its own conservatism — stuck into the realm of knowledge, which is by far superseded of tools like Google, already. But this time, it will get exposed violently and nobody will be able to circumvent the fact that it is not about testing students for knowing facts, but about helping them develop the capabilities of doing something new. Some schools and universities already started the “stick your head in the sand” game, by limiting the Internet access to OpenAI servers. That, of course, will fail.

At some point, hopefully, most will understand that only the unique parts of the process of education are important, and the only agent that can bring uniqueness is the teacher -

… no testing procedures, no website restrictions, no detailed curriculums can replace the creativity of a teacher, engaging her students into a unique process, that ultimately develops them into something they value themselves.

All of the above — just like textbooks, exams, etc. — are just tools for the teacher to make her life easier and allow her to focus on the important — build and deliver a unique environment for students to grow.

Hopefully, ChatGPT will speed up the process of educational institutions and the society itself of realizing how depleted of meaning the current system already is.

The shadow of advertisement

The majority of revenue for Google comes from ads. They are clearly marked in the search results, although the process of ranking the results is not clear at all, and is heavily influenced by objective facts like general popularity of terms, the source, its connectivity, etc. But also with a lot of unknowns — like internal preferences on own products, for example.

Now imagine the new, almighty ChatGPT search engine, which is “rigged” for recommendations on certain brands or products, just based on the companies’ budgets?

Quite scary, huh! Because current results from Google are still referring to the original, genuine content which can always be tracked. This is not the case with AI systems! Neural networks are notoriously bad at explainability — a sore topic in scientific fields. This also makes it harder “to rig” the results, but not impossible, given that they are properly trained.

So, it will be quite a skill to distinguish the paid ad in the answer of the bot. This might be impossible even for the creators themselves — depending on how the advertisement is facilitated.

Stay creative

As a software architect, with Master degree in Computer Science, with a special interest in AI, and particularly in neural networks for decades, I would not say anybody should be scared. Automation is ever present topic in human history — from labor separation, to stock-raising, to modern agriculture, to mass production, etc.

What I see as a gauge is how much creativity is involved in a certain task or job, and if there is none left… well, it deserves to be automated! And I doubt that people performing it are very happy, anyways.

What stands out on this type of automation, however, is its wide range of coverage — it touches most aspects of modern human life, and the more general AI becomes, the easier it is to get transferred between fields. And that is a phenomenon we are yet to witness.

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

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Ivan (Jonan) Georgiev

Socially concerned, moderately optimistic, indie software developer & researcher.