SAN FRANCISCO — Businesses and nonprofit groups agree on one thing after testing some of the latest in artificial intelligence: It’s already changing the way they do business.
Five organizations that were among the first to get access to GPT-4, the latest product from San Francisco startup OpenAI, said in interviews that they were reassigning employees, reorienting internal teams and reevaluating their strategies in anticipation of the disruptive technology a lot of their work.
Their experiences support the idea that, for better or worse, AI technology may very soon fundamentally change some people’s daily lives.
But the organizations also said the technology required a huge amount of work to adapt to their specific needs, with employees giving daily feedback to the software to train it on terminology and methods specific to their fields, such as education or finance. OpenAI, best known for creating the AI chatbot ChatGPT, can then incorporate the data from this project into its own model to potentially improve its technology.
In fact, each of the early testers is a microcosm of what others may experience as access to GPT-4 expands.
“There’s a perception in the market now that you connect these machines and they give you all the answers,” said Jeff McMillan, head of analytics, data and innovation for Morgan Stanley’s wealth management division.
Not true, he said. He said the bank has 300 employees who dedicate part of their time to testing their technology using GPT-4.
“We have a team of people who review literally every response from the day before,” he said.
For Morgan Stanley, the result was a specialized chatbot built with GPT-4 that serves as an internal research tool for its financial advisory staff. McMillan said the tool is trained on not only 60,000 research reports on parts of the global economy, but also 40,000 other internal company documents — making it an expert on any financial topic a financial advisor might want to look up.
Certainly, the early adopters of GPT-4 are not a random sample of the economy. OpenAI, which went public in 2019, has hand-picked the organizations over the past few weeks and months.
Critics of OpenAI and its competitors claim that the field of artificial intelligence has benefited from mistrust in recent months. OpenAI was looking for positive examples to show when it approached Khan Academy, a nonprofit education organization, six months ago, founder Sal Khan said.
“The context was: We’re going to work on a next-generation model. we want to be able to launch it with positive use cases,” he said.
Khan Academy is best known for its YouTube videos, but since OpenAI reached out, Khan said it has poured resources into creating Khanmigo, a chatbot trainer specifically trained in established teaching concepts.
“In total we spent about 100 hours refining the model so that it could potentially behave like a very good teacher,” he said.
“If you look at the cost of teaching, this could be a very, very big deal,” Khan added. “It’s like having an amazing alumnus or teacher or professor that you can start talking to right now.”
Stripe, a technology company that makes payment software and related products for businesses, said that when it got early access to GPT-4 in January, it pulled 100 employees from their regular jobs and assigned them to an internal “hackathon” in which each person spent an average of a week testing ideas.
Duolingo, a language learning app, got access to GPT-4 in the fall, and employees said CEO Luis von Ahn was so excited that he called an 8 a.m. meeting the next morning and immediately changed people’s jobs .
“He, after that, said, ‘Get your team together,'” said Edwin Bodge, product manager. “Since then, we’ve been working extremely closely with GPT-4 and the OpenAI team.”
So far, Duolingo has added a new paid subscription tier that costs $29.99 per month or $167.88 per year, which allows access to a conversational chatbot in French or Spanish. They’ve also added an AI bot that will explain grammar concepts to you as you go through standard Duolingo lessons.
According to Bodge, the company has created 1,000-2,000 word prompts for GPT-4 that feed the bots. The company would not share the prompts upon request.
All the organizations that spoke to NBC News said they are proceeding with some degree of caution given that AI technology is so new and the potential risk is unknown. Mike Buckley, CEO of Be My Eyes, a company that makes an app for people who are blind or have low vision, said he would like to get a trial version of the GPT-4 app into more hands, “but we want be careful and be safe.”
“Could we roll it out more widely in the community in six to eight weeks? It’s possible, but we’ll go where the data and use cases take us,” he said.
The company works by connecting people with low vision with volunteers who, in a video call, can describe to app users what’s around them — like a product label at a grocery store, directions through an airport, or wording on a greeting card. The version with GPT-4 works without a volunteer at the other end because the AI describes what it “sees” with the camera.
One of the app’s blind representatives used it to get directions on the London Underground, according to a video he posted on TikTok.
“We tried to crack it,” Buckley said, adding that his staff ran thousands of tests. “We’ve been hitting the technology as hard as we could for several weeks and have been pleasantly surprised.”
He said his company had not experienced any security issues with GPT-4, but it had made mistakes. for example, mixing a toaster for a slow cooker on a site.