A.I.s, like ChatGPT, are not “intelligent” in the way that term implies. They are extremely powerful tools that we are only beginning to explore their full uses and how quickly they will become part of our day-to-day lives—if they haven’t already. But they aren’t quite at the level where they are intelligent.
Here’s what ChatGPT and others like it are so far: they are massive pattern recognition machines. Have you ever seen a science fiction story where someone talks about using math to predict human actions? Well, that’s not even remotely science fiction now with A.I.
Let me give you an example. Have you ever noticed how most people tend to form their small talk the same way? The “How are you?” and “How was your weekend?” moments? And, after doing that enough, you can kind of guess, down to the exact words, how specific people are going to talk?
Now imagine you could record every single instance of small talk in the entire United States and feed that into a computer. It would be able to produce small talk pretty damn well, don’t you think?
That’s basically ChatGPT. Except take that concept and magnify it with a truly staggering amount of information. Conversations, recipes, programming languages, jokes, weather reports, anecdotes, and much, much more. It has a template for basically any possible conversation, with almost any context underpinning it.
But that’s not independent intelligence. It’s not sapient yet. Granted, the argument of what exactly constitutes human intelligence is well beyond the scope of this article, and how much of the human mind consists of pattern recognition is a question for philosophers, but human intelligence is surely more than having an answer key for a trillion tests. A.I., as it stands, is a very, very, very good mimic that isn’t able to think on its feet.
The thing about that, though, and why I called it an “extremely powerful tool,” is that you don’t need tools to be particularly adaptive. You need it to fulfill a function—ideally very quickly. And A.I., if it continues to grow, will start to be the most multi-tool of all possible multi-tools. And that can change the world just as much, if not more, than a robot that can think for itself.