‘ChatGPT needs a huge amount of editing’: users’ views mixed on AI chatbot

Some readers say software helps them write essays and emails, while others question its reliability

ChatGPT has been a godsend for Joy. The New Zealand-based therapist has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and often struggles with tasks such as drafting difficult emails, with procrastination kicking in when she feels overwhelmed.

“Sitting down to compose a complicated email is something I absolutely hate. I would have to use a lot of strategies and accountability to get it done, and I would feel depleted afterward,” says Joy, who is in her 30s and lives in Auckland. “But telling GPT ‘write an email apologising for a delay on an academic manuscript, blame family emergency, ask for consideration for next issue’ feels completely doable.”

While the copy the AI chatbot produces usually needs editing, Joy says this comes at a smaller cost to her psychologically. “It is much easier to edit a draft than to start from scratch, so it helps me break through blocks around task initiation,” she says, adding that she has recommended using it this way to clients. “It avoids a psychological logjam for neurodiverse people. I think it would also potentially have value for people who struggle with professional norms due to neurodivergence and come across as curt.”

ChatGPT, developed by San Francisco-based OpenAI, has become a sensation since its public launch in November, reaching 100 million users in the space of two months as its ability to compose credible-looking essays, recipes, poems and lengthy answers to a broad array of queries went viral. The technology behind ChatGPT has been harnessed by Microsoft, a key backer of OpenAI, for its Bing search engine. Google has launched its own chatbot and has said it will integrate the technology into its search engine.

Both ChatGPT and Google’s competitor to it, Bard, are based on large language models that are fed vast amounts of text from the internet in order to train them how to respond to an equally vast array of queries. According to Guardian readers who are among those 100 million users, the ChatGPT prototype has been used for mixed reasons – and with mixed results.

Naveen Cherian uses it to condense book descriptions
Naveen Cherian uses ChatGPT to condense book descriptions. Photograph: Naveen Cherian

Naveen Cherian, a 30-year-old publishing project manager in Bengaluru, India, also started off using ChatGPT for emails but quickly discovered it could be deployed to tackle repetitive tasks at work. He uses it to condense descriptions of books into 140-character blurbs, and is pleased with the results so far: “It works brilliantly, and I only need to do a sanity check after it is done.”

This frees up time for him to focus on the creative aspects of his role. “I can concentrate on the actual book content and focus on how I can edit it to make it better,” he says. Cherian says his employer knows he uses the tool. “As long as the work is of quality, and I get to do more processing than before, they are happy. The concern they had was only that I shouldn’t fully depend on it, which I do not.”

Like many students, Rezza, a 28-year-old in Yogyakarta, Indonesia, has been making use of the chatbot for academic purposes. “I have so many ideas but only enough time to act on a few of them because I need to write them,” he says, adding that writing is the “most time consuming” part of his work.

He claims it has speeded up the time it takes to write an essay threefold. “With the improved workflow my hands are catching up with my brain,” he says. However, he says the chatbot’s output requires heavy editing, and has not been helpful in creating references; when he tried, it “gave out nonexistent academic citations”.

Rezza has not informed his university that he is using the tool. “I don’t tell my professors because there is not yet a clear policy enacted on this matter in my university. I also think it is not necessary; using a calculator does not stop you from becoming a mathematician.”

Emma Westley says editing is required
Emma Westley says editing is required. Photograph: Emma Westley

Emma Westley, a 42-year-old marketing executive for a tech startup in France’s Nouvelle-Aquitaine region, says it can be a boon for clarifying complicated, technical concepts in her work. “I have found ChatGPT to be instrumental in making the whole research, brainstorming and writing process more efficient. While a huge amount of editing is still required to make the copy sound human, I’m really growing to love it as a brainstorming partner.”

But others have found the bot’s limitations to outweigh its benefits. Dan Atkinson, a 40-year-old software engineer, says he has found glaring errors in the information it has provided. “I asked about the diet in 11th century England and apparently it consisted of potatoes and other vegetables, but potatoes didn’t exist in Europe until the 16th century,” he says.

Dan Atkinson has found factual errors in the information provided by ChatGPT
Dan Atkinson has found factual errors in the information provided by ChatGPT. Photograph: Tony King/Tony King Photography

Atkinson is worried about the “misplaced confidence” the bot gives while providing factually incorrect information. These errors are known in tech jargon as “hallucinations”.

He says: “People are more willing to believe a machine, even when it is telling outright lies. This is dangerous for a number of reasons. For example, if you rely on something like this for basic medical advice. Or if you write code, it can give you examples which are bad practice and error prone.”

Microsoft has acknowledged potential problems with responses from its ChatGPT-powered Bing service. It said the AI-enhanced Bing might make errors, saying: “AI can make mistakes … Bing will sometimes misrepresent the information it finds, and you may see responses that sound convincing but are incomplete, inaccurate, or inappropriate.”

Roger McCartney, a teacher in South Korea, also raises concerns about the chatbot’s reliability, claiming it makes “the sort of errors a child could identify” such as basic mistakes about the solar system. Although he enjoys using it to “bounce ideas” off, McCartney, 38, also wonders if it is simply acting as a mirror for his own viewpoints.

“If I think of something that wouldn’t get an immediate answer from Google, I ask it a question and get an answer about something I didn’t know,” he says. “I tend to find this more useful than reading through lots of articles. I do, however, wonder if it is merely parroting back my own opinions at me in some sort of weird echo chamber.”

Some have found more lighthearted uses for the software. In a sign of the times, Lachlan Robertson, a 61-year-old part-time town planner and full-time Robert Burns fan in Wiltshire, used it to compose an “address to a vegan haggis” for his family Burns supper last month. With lines such as “Great haggis, plant-based and true/ No longer must the sheep pursue / Their lives, that we may dine on thee”, Robertson describes the result as “superb – though more William McGonagall than Burns”.


Clea Skopeliti and Dan Milmo

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Google v Microsoft: who will win the AI chatbot race?
Bard’s misfire on launch cost owner $160bn but experts believe ChatGPT is also prone to errors

Dan Milmo Global technology editor

10, Feb, 2023 @3:42 PM

Article image
Why did Google’s ChatGPT rival go wrong and are AI chatbots overhyped?
Alphabet’s shares plummeted after Bard gave incorrect answer in a demo

Dan Milmo Global technology editor

09, Feb, 2023 @12:09 PM

Article image
Claude 2: ChatGPT rival launches chatbot that can summarise a novel
Anthropic releases chatbot able to process large blocks of text and make judgments on what it is producing

Dan Milmo Global technology editor

12, Jul, 2023 @1:19 PM

Article image
AI race is disrupting education firms – and that is just the start
Companies’ shares plunge in London and New York after Chegg report that ChatGPT has hit revenues

Dan Milmo

03, May, 2023 @2:09 PM

Article image
Darktrace warns of rise in AI-enhanced scams since ChatGPT release
Cybersecurity firm notes emergence of sophisticated email scams featuring improved linguistic complexity

Mark Sweney

08, Mar, 2023 @12:54 PM

Article image
AI for all? Google ups the ante with free UK training courses for firms
US tech giant starts charm offensive on artificial intelligence with basic courses to help firms understand and exploit emerging phenomenon

Joanna Partridge

03, Aug, 2023 @6:00 AM

Article image
Elon Musk says Twitter, now X, could charge all users subscription fees
Billionaire also says platform has 550 million monthly users generating up to 200m posts a day

Dan Milmo Global technology editor

19, Sep, 2023 @2:08 PM

Article image
What is GPT-4 and how does it differ from ChatGPT?
The most powerful AI model yet from OpenAI, can tell jokes and write bar exams – but can it also cause harm?

Alex Hern

15, Mar, 2023 @5:23 PM

Article image
Twitter ‘to lose 32m users in two years after Elon Musk takeover’
Forecast predicts people will leave platform over technical problems and spread of hate speech

Mark Sweney

13, Dec, 2022 @11:00 AM

Article image
Biden trade curbs on China risk huge damage to US tech sector, says Nvidia chief
Jensen Huang says Chinese firms will ‘just build it themselves’ if they cannot buy from US

Dan Milmo Global technology editor

24, May, 2023 @11:31 AM