Over the course of two months from its debut in November 2022, ChatGPT exploded in popularity, from niche online curio to 100 million monthly active users — the fastest user base growth in the history of the Internet. In less than a year, it has earned the backing of Silicon Valley’s biggest firms, and been shoehorned into myriad applications from academia and the arts to marketing, medicine, gaming and government. In short ChatGPT is just about everywhere. Few industries have remained untouched by the viral adoption of the generative AI’s tools. On the first anniversary of its release, let’s take a look back on the year of ChatGPT that brought us here. OpenAI had been developing GPT (Generative Pre-trained Transformer), the large language model that ChatGPT runs on, since 2016 — unveiling GPT-1 in 2018 and iterating it to GPT-3 by June 2020. With the November 30, 2022 release of GPT-3.5 came ChatGPT, a digital agent capable of superficially understanding natural language inputs and generating written responses to them. Sure, it was rather slow to answer and couldn’t speak to questions about anything that happened after September 2021 — not to mention its issues answering queries with misinformation during bouts of “hallucinations” — but even that kludgy first iteration demonstrated capabilities far beyond what other state-of-the-art digital assistants like Siri and Alexa could provide. ChatGPT’s release timing couldn’t have been better. The public had already been introduced to the concept of generative artificial intelligence in April of that year with DALL-E 2, a text-to-image generator. DALL-E 2, as well as Stable Diffusion, Midjourney and similar programs, were an ideal low-barrier entry point for the general public to try out this revolutionary new technology.
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