While amazed netizens were obsessed with ChatGPT’s wonderful capabilities, a 22-year-old Torontonian was feverishly building a tool to detect its misuse.
“ChatGPT is an incredibly cool innovation,” Edward Tian told CTV News Toronto.
“But it’s like opening a Pandora’s box.”
He would know. The Etobicoke native is a computer science student at Princeton University and has spent the past two years studying GPT-3, the artificial intelligence that produces human-like text, much like ChatGPT.
The interactive chatbot is powered by machine learning. ChatGPT has essentially swallowed whole swaths of the internet, learning language patterns in the process that it can recreate in response to a human prompt.
When ChatGPT landed in the hands of the public at the end of November, Tian played around with the technology alongside friends. They asked the program to write poems and raps. “Wow, that’s really good,” Tian recalled. “It’s better than something I could write myself.”
This high level of proficiency sounded alarm bells for educators, who were beginning to fear that their students would hand in machine-generated essays and have no way of knowing or confirming their suspicions. Immediately, Tian also realized this.
“Everyone deserves to know the truth and everyone deserves a tool at their fingertips that can determine if something is man-made or machine-generated,” he said.
Luckily he had some free time during the winter break and sat down at a cafe in Etobicoke to do something. The result: GPTZero, an application capable of deciphering whether something was written by a machine or by a human.
First, a user copies and pastes text into the application. An assessment begins, measuring perplexity, creativity, and variability in writing. Then, GPTZero delivers a score, which leads to a result: either the text was generated by ChatGPT, or a human.
On January 3, the app went public. Over 300,000 people have tried it and over 7 million people have viewed it on Twitter.
“It was completely crazy. I was expecting a few dozen people,” Tian said.
In particular, teachers noticed that GPTZero worked to detect whether their students were writing their homework or not. Now Tian is building a tool specifically designed for educators. Already, 33,000 teachers have signed up for the product’s waiting list.
“Nobody wants to be deceived if something they read is misrepresented as human,” Tian said.
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