It has been just over two months since the release of ChatGPT. During this time, I have explored various use cases and compared different tools. In this post, I would like to share the two uses for ChatGPT that have proven to be the most valuable so far. Of course, it can be used for a thousand other things, but these two have personally stood out to me as the most consistently useful.
I have found that ChatGPT is most consistently useful in the role of an expert, tutor, and editor.
1. Expert and Tutor
When: I want to learn X.
Expertise vs Tutoring
These are very similar conceptually, but I would make a small distinction:
- Expertise. At times, I may want to get a brief overview (tldr) of a topic. This could be viewed as a quick chat with an expert. For example, if I wanted a brief summary of the life extension industry, but didn’t want to dive too deep, I could think of it as a quick chat with a friend who works in the industry.
- Tutoring: In other instances, I may want to dive deeper into a specific topic and ask a series of questions. For instance, while I was learning about machine learning with PyTorch, I found ChatGPT to be very helpful as a tutor.”
- Know Where to Start. If I don’t know where to begin, a general introductory question might be helpful, such as “What are the most important topics to master in order to learn X?”
- Troubleshoot. If I encounter a specific problem or question, it’s best to address it directly. I’ve found that this approach works particularly well with programming questions, at least at a basic level.
- Creative Prompting: Sometimes, getting creative with prompts can help. For example, instead of asking, “Explain general relativity as if I’m five years old,” it may be helpful to try, “Explain general relativity as if I’m five years old. Please respond as a physics professor at MIT who is good at communicating complex ideas without dumbing them down.”
- Follow-up: In my experience, one of the main advantages of ChatGPT over traditional search engines and previous-generation AI assistants or chatbots is its interactivity and ability to maintain the thread of the conversation. So, just like with a real tutor, it may be helpful to ask for explanations in a different way, provide an example, elaborate on a particular point, or step back and explain how a certain concept fits into the big picture.
When: I want to change anything about a text.
Some examples include:
- Checking grammar
- Summarizing or rephrasing the text
- Getting ideas on what else to consider and think about
- Analyzing the argument. For example, “What are the likely influences behind this text?” or “What are the strongest counter-arguments to this?”
Lessons and Challenges
- Hallucinations and Validation. Of course, one must watch out for hallucinations. That’s why I find that using ChatGPT in combination with Google may work best. The first step may be asking ChatGPT to provide an initial overview of a topic to save time reading long articles from the Google’s organic results that have been SEO’d in and out. And the next step may be to search for specific sub-topics — sometimes using search syntax/operators to find exact matches or limit the search to certain websites.
- Common Knowledge vs. Advanced/Niche Topics: I’ve found that ChatGPT is very good at summarizing and explaining common non-controversial knowledge, but is more likely to hallucinate or struggle when dealing with advanced or niche topics that may only be covered by a just few papers or blog posts. Another way to think about this is to consider how likely it is that this topic was prominent in the training dataset.
What I’ve Tested
Despite still relying on Google for the majority of my searches, I have come to the conclusion that ChatGPT — especially when combined with Google — is better or comparable for a specific subset of my use cases and queries. Depending on the question or query, I have also found Perplexity.ai, Neeva, You.com/chat, and Elicit.org to be worth trying out.
I am looking forward to trying Microsoft’s integration of ChatGPT with Bing and Google’s integration of Bard with Google Search. I find the intersection of search and conversational AI to be particularly intriguing, as these two tools are some of the best resources for organizing and retrieving information that we have today.
Please see — or skip — the three examples of actual “conversations” below: