Jeff Maggioncalda, the CEO of online learning provider Coursera, said he was amazed when he first tried ChatGPT. Now it is part of his daily routine.
He uses the powerful new AI chatbot tool to send emails. He uses it to make speeches “in a friendly, cheerful, authoritative tone with mixed cadence.” He even uses it to answer big strategic questions like how Coursera should go about integrating artificial intelligence tools like ChatGPT into its platform.
“I use it as a writing assistant and as a thought partner,” Maggioncalda told CNN.
Maggioncalda is one of thousands of business leaders, politicians and academics gathered this week in Davos, Switzerland, for the World Economic Forum. On the agenda is a range of pressing issues weighing heavily on the global economy, from the energy crisis to the war in Ukraine and the transformation of trade. But what many can’t stop talking about is ChatGPT.
The tool, which artificial intelligence research firm OpenAI made available to the general public late last year, has sparked conversations about how “generative AI” services – which can turn prompts into original essays, stories, songs and images after training on huge online datasets – can revolutionize the way we live and work.
Some claim it’s artists, teachers, programmers, and writers (yes, even journalists) unemployed. Others are more optimistic, assuming it will allow employees to complete to-do lists more efficiently or focus on higher-level tasks.
It’s a discussion that occupies many C-suite leaders, often after they’ve tested the tool themselves.
Christian Lanng, CEO of digital supply chain platform Tradeshift, said he was impressed with ChatGPT’s capabilities, even after years of exposure to Silicon Valley hype.
He has also used the platform to write emails and claims no one noticed the difference. He even had it do some bookkeeping work, a service Tradeshift currently employs an expensive professional services provider for.
To date, ChatGPT has mostly been treated as a curiosity and a harbinger of things to come. It relies on OpenAI’s GPT-3.5 language model, which is already deprecated; the more advanced GPT-4 version is in the works and could be released this year.
Critics – and there are many – are quick to point out that it is flawed, painfully neutral, and shows a clear lack of human empathy. For example, a tech news publication had to make several significant corrections to an article written by ChatGPT. And public schools in New York City have banned students and teachers from using it.
Still, the software, or similar competitor programs, could soon take the business world by storm.
Microsoft (MSFT), an investor in OpenAI, announced this week that the company’s tools — including GPT-3.5, Codex programming assistant, and image generator DALL-E 2 — are now generally available to enterprise customers in a package called Azure OpenAI Service. ChatGPT will be added soon.
“I see these technologies acting as a copilot, helping people do more with less,” Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella told an audience in Davos this week.
Maggioncalda has a similar perspective. He wants to integrate generative AI into Coursera’s offerings this year, seeing an opportunity to make learning more interactive for students who don’t have access to face-to-face classroom instruction or one-on-one time with subject matter experts.
He recognizes that challenges such as preventing fraud and ensuring accuracy must be addressed. And he worries that the increasing use of generative AI may not be entirely good for society — for example, people may become less nimble thinkers, as writing can be useful for processing complex ideas and sharpening takeaways.
Still, he sees the need to act quickly.
“Anyone who does not use this will soon be seriously disadvantaged. Like, soon. Like, very soon,” Maggioncalda said. “I only think about my cognitive skills with this tool. Compared to before, it is a lot higher, and my efficiency and productivity are much higher.”