Sheoli Lele ’26 is a prospective math and philosophy double major. She uses her free time to paint, take photos around campus and debate. Contact her at email@example.com.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own.
At the mention of the term “artificial intelligence,” too many people’s minds jump to rogue automated empires, mass unemployment and fading human connection. Media representations of the technology have all but helped. Look no further than the 2023 horror/sci-fi movie “M3GAN,” in which a lifelike AI doll designed to be a child’s closest companion quickly spirals out of control. The “AI takeover” has been added to the same category of doomsday events as the zombie apocalypse, the alien invasion and large-scale volcanism.
Even worse than these disaster scenarios, some argue, is the spread of AI as a tool for cheating in school. The reality is that this technology is here to stay, and it will only get more sophisticated and widespread. It is in our best interest to improve our relations with AI and stay informed about the field’s latest advances. A great way to achieve this end is to recognize how AI can personally benefit us and help us grow as people. My goal in the next few paragraphs is to introduce to you three simple ways you can use AI — specifically, ChatGPT — to make your life easier.
Before I move further, I would like to provide some necessary background on AI. Knowing even a smidge will help demystify the concept for anyone who fears it. Simply, AI is the development of machines that can think and learn in similar ways to humans. So far, the field’s main goal has been to use pattern recognition to accomplish tasks that once cost hours of human energy, time and resources. The most famous example of AI in 2023 is Chat Generative Pre-Trained Transformer (known by its users as “ChatGPT”), which is a large, language model-based chatbot. Large language models take in huge chunks of data, enabling them to recognize, predict and generate text. For example, when I type “Who was the 30th U.S. president?” into ChatGPT’s chat bar, the system pores over the content of the datasets it was trained on, finding the repeated associations between the terms like “30th president,” “U.S.” and “Calvin Coolidge.” A misconception many have is that ChatGPT is able to “think” and “remember” on its own, but it only predicts outcomes based on instances of connections between words. In the interest of simplicity and time, I cannot explain it (or completely understand it, myself) to its full complexity.
One of ChatGPT’s best uses is its abilities to deal with administrative tasks. Before ChatGPT, my sloppy attempt at time management involved at least five different resources, including but not limited to Google Docs, Google Calendar, Notepad, Excel and a paper planner. I drowned in the inconsistency of my own habits and was largely oblivious to many assignments’ due dates. Upon the chatbot’s release in late fall last year, I learned to delegate to it the mundane task of planning my day of studying. By typing in a short list of tasks, estimated durations of each and a time range, I get a personalized study schedule to follow. The time that I used to spend thinking up the nuances of difficulty and motivation that varied between tasks, I now spend on the work itself. Unlike word processors, ChatGPT helps me keep planning uncluttered and in one place.
Another of ChatGPT’s best uses is research. In many ways, I treat it like I once treated Wikipedia: a source meant to introduce a topic but is better used in conjunction with other, more credible sources. Especially in the case of highly technical and jargon-heavy concepts, it is difficult to be a beginner looking for a simplified explanation online outside of ChatGPT. As a student of an intro-level computer science class, I had never before seen the terms “SSH key,” “Git Bash terminal” and “object-oriented programming.” A quick exchange with ChatGPT mediated through my request to get answers “in language that a beginner would understand” gave me a base of knowledge that allowed me to understand more rigorous explanations. Looking for the same answers on websites whose target audiences are computer science professionals would hardly help me. In this way, the free chatbot profoundly increases access to the realm of technical fields.
I also use the chatbot to help debug my code by pasting in errors and requesting that it explains the errors in natural language. This process is the equivalent of having a constantly-available computer science major help me reason through my mistakes and learn. If more students began to recognize and take advantage of AI’s power for good, we would be less frightened by its mention.
The last personal benefit of AI that I will discuss has to do with writing and editing. By this, I do not mean that you should use ChatGPT to write your papers or cheat in any way. However, I find that immediately after I write a paper, I am unable to find flaws with it because I cannot see where it does not make sense; my background knowledge fills in the gaps that other readers would not be able to fill. To help with this problem, I paste chunks of my writing into ChatGPT, asking for it to return a summary. From this, I am able to gauge how another person would interpret my writing from a quick read and pinpoint my own logical jumps.
My father has also told me how he uses ChatGPT to quickly read and return emails. He types in the content of replies in a set of bullet points and requests a well-worded format from ChatGPT, which he is able to paste, tweak and send. For anyone who spends a lot of time wording emails or dreads doing so, this strategy can be quite beneficial. Essentially, ChatGPT can take the place of the well-versed friend who we ask to look at our papers before submitting them and who offers constructive advice that ultimately makes us better writers.
It is saddening that many people took the chatbot’s release as a sign to misappropriate it, but the fact that it can be used in dishonest ways does not exclude it from doing good if used properly. The advancement that ChatGPT brings, however, will pale in comparison to what comes after it. It is time we accepted this reality and changed our ways to adapt to AI, especially when part of “adapting” is seeing the fruits of technology work in our personal favor.