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Updated: May 18, 2023 @ 8:12 am
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ChatGPT, which stands for Chat Generative Pre-training Transformer, is an artificial intelligence (AI) program released by a San Francisco company at the end of 2022. Google has just released its AI program, Bard, to the public, and Microsoft has done the same with its AI Bing.
AI programs are proliferating. Currently, some programs are free. Some scientists and AI developers fear these programs will be dangerous as they become more advanced. At a recent interim meeting, the West Virginia Legislature discussed the future of AI in the state.
With all the recent publicity, I couldn’t resist trying ChatGPT. It produced an immediate and useful response for a meeting schedule, so I asked it questions about West Virginia and Huntington. ChatGPT warns of inaccuracies for data that may have changed since 2021.
With this caveat in mind, I asked “How would you improve West Virginia’s economy?” ChatGPT rapidly noted five areas including the state’s need to attract new industries, invest in education and workforce development, support small businesses, expand broadband access and address the opioid epidemic. No great surprises there. ChatGPT highlighted West Virginia’s history of poverty and economic struggles, remarking that much of the economy has been based on coal, which has had boom-and-bust cycles. The implication is that although the economy may be good for a while, it always has a serious downturn.
When the chatbot was asked about priorities for Huntington, it began by saying to address the opioid crisis. Huntington has addressed this problem, probably as well as or better than most communities. Additional suggestions included more economic development, improving public safety and promoting community engagement. My chatbot seemed stuck pre-2021; Huntington made much progress in these areas. ChatGPT offers an option for a “regenerative response” if you didn’t like the first. The second one wasn’t any better.
West Virginia, a state with friendly people, beautiful scenery and a great geographic location, has a negative reputation in many places, especially for those who have never been here, so I asked my AI bot to tell me about the reasons for this undesirable status.
One answer was that West Virginia has a history of poverty and economic struggles that are tied into media presentations that show the state’s residents as essentially poor, illiterate and lazy. People with those characteristics can be found in all 50 states. This reminded me about the time, when I was waiting for a show in Florida, the woman sitting beside me, started a conversation by asking where I was from. My response, “West Virginia,” led her to say something to the effect, “Then I guess I have nothing to say to you.” Talk about ignorance and prejudice!
ChatGPT also suggested that West Virginia has a reputation for being culturally isolated and insular. A final AI explanation for the state’s negative reputation was that “the state has been ranked as one of the most corrupt in the country, with a history of vote-buying, cronyism and nepotism,” leading the state to be viewed as backwards.
ChatGPT didn’t tell me anything startling or particularly helpful in understanding Huntington or West Virginia. However, soon AI will dramatically change the world’s access to information, which may not always be accurate.
Diane W. Mufson is a retired psychologist and a regular contributor to The Herald-Dispatch Opinion page.
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