New York bans AI program ChatGPT from its classrooms, Musk cheers its capabilities

Educators forced to adapt to advancing technologies saw the need to ban developing the artificial intelligence (AI) program ChatGPT from classrooms, leading Elon Musk to offer his take on what the software, from a company he co-founded, meant for homework.

(Video: NBC News)

At the end of November, the research laboratory OpenAI, cofounded in part by Musk and Sam Altman in 2015, rolled out ChatGPT, or generative pre-trained transformer which accepts prompts from users and then utilizes predictive text to create all sorts of written products like essays, screenplays or code. While the billionaire tech mogul had called the development “scary good,” the New York City Department of Education focused on the problem presented when they announced a ban on the program.

Jenna Lyle, a spokesperson for NYCDOE, offered a statement to NBC News that read, “While the tool may be able to provide quick and easy answers to questions, it does not build critical-thinking and problem-solving skills, which are essential for academic and lifelong success.”

As such, the department banned the use of the software on public school networks and devices for fear of “negative impacts on student learning.” Musk reacted differently to the news as he seemed to cheer the capabilities of the program and tweeted Thursday in response to one critic qualifying the ban, stating “The war on children intensifies,” by writing, “It’s a new world. Goodbye homework!”

The hot take from the owner of Twitter was in line with his initially reported reaction to ChatGPT’s capabilities when he posted on Dec. 3, “ChatGPT is scary good. We are not far from dangerously strong AI.”

Meanwhile, in December Altman offered a more measured opinion on the program’s current capabilities, writing, “ChatGPT is incredibly limited, but good enough at some things to create a misleading impression of greatness. It’s a mistake to be relying on it for anything important right now. It’s a preview of progress; we have lots of work to do on robustness and truthfulness. Fun creative inspiration; great! Reliance for factual queries; not such a good idea. We will work hard to improve!”

For the time being, enterprising developers have already begun working on means to detect whether a piece of writing was generated by AI or traditionally composed, with one computer science student at Princeton University, Edward Tian, tweeting he had done just that.

“I spent New Years building GPTZero–an app that can quickly and efficiently detect whether an essay is ChatGPT or human written,” Tian posted before later writing to NBC News, “AI text generation is like opening a pandora’s box. It’s an incredibly exciting innovations, but with any new technology we need to build safeguards so that it is adopted responsibly.”

Those looking to adopt the software include none other than Microsoft which, according to the Information, spent $1 billion investing in OpenAI to incorporate the technology into their Bing search engine to make it a larger competitor with Google. As it stands, Google covers 84 percent of search engine traffic while Bing only covers around nine percent.

Should OpenAI sell $300 million in shares to Thrive Capital and Founders Fund, as reported by The Wall Street Journal, the company’s value would roughly double to $29 billion.

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