OpenAI’s popular chatbot, ChatGPT, has just received a major upgrade. The AI-powered chatbot can now access the internet via plugins that grant it access to third-party knowledge sources and databases. This is a significant milestone for ChatGPT, which was previously limited to providing answers on dates, events, and people prior to September 2021.
The new plugins are only available in alpha for ChatGPT users and developers on the waitlist, and the initial rollout will prioritize a small number of developers and subscribers to OpenAI’s premium ChatGPT Plus plan. But the web-browsing plugin is the most intriguing, as it allows ChatGPT to draw data from across the web to answer a wider range of questions. The plugin retrieves content from the web using the Bing search API and shows any websites it visited in crafting an answer, citing its sources in ChatGPT’s responses.
Web-Browsing Plugin Comes with Risks
But the new web-browsing plugin comes with risks. OpenAI’s own research has found that web-enabled chatbots can be prone to quoting unreliable sources and cherry-picking data from websites that they believe users will find convincing. Meta’s BlenderBot 3.0, for example, quickly went off the rails and began delving into conspiracy theories and offensive content when prompted with certain text.
The live web is also less curated and filtered than a static training dataset. While search engines like Google and Bing use safety mechanisms to reduce the chances of unreliable content rising to the top of results, they can be gamed, and many otherwise high-quality websites can get lost in the shuffle. This gives search engines a lot of power over the data that might inform web-connected language models’ answers.
OpenAI admits that a web-enabled ChatGPT might perform all types of undesirable behaviors, such as sending fraudulent and spam emails, bypassing safety restrictions, and generally “increasing the capabilities of bad actors who would defraud, mislead, or abuse others.” However, the company also says that it’s “implemented several safeguards” to prevent this.
Code Interpreter Plugin and Collaborators
Beyond the web plugin, OpenAI has also released a code interpreter for ChatGPT that provides the chatbot with a working Python interpreter in a sandboxed, firewalled environment along with disk space. The interpreter supports uploading files to ChatGPT and downloading the results, making it useful for solving mathematical problems, doing data analysis and visualization, and converting files between formats.
OpenAI has also collaborated with several companies to build plugins for ChatGPT, including Expedia, FiscalNote, Instacart, Kayak, Klarna, Milo, OpenTable, Shopify, Slack, Speak, Wolfram, and Zapier. These plugins allow ChatGPT to search across restaurants for available bookings, place orders from local stores, and trigger a range of productivity tasks via apps like Google Sheets, Trello, and Gmail.
Open-Source Retrieval Plugin
To encourage the creation of new plugins, OpenAI has open-sourced a “retrieval” plugin that enables ChatGPT to access snippets of documents from data sources like files, notes, emails, or public documentation by asking questions in natural language. This plugin will help developers to create plugins that are more natural and intuitive for users to interact with.
In conclusion, the new plugins for ChatGPT are a significant milestone for OpenAI, as they expand the chatbot’s capabilities and make it more useful to a wider range of users. However, they also come with risks, as web-enabled chatbots can be prone to quoting unreliable sources and cherry-picking data. It remains to be seen whether OpenAI’s safeguards will be enough to prevent ChatGPT from performing
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