ChatGPT: Davos CEOs use it to write business emails

Davos, Switzerland

When he first tried ChatGPT, he was “blown away,” said Jeff Magioncalda, CEO of online learning provider Coursera. Now, this is part of his daily routine.

It uses a powerful new AI-powered chatbot to take out emails. He uses it to craft speeches “in a friendly, upbeat, authoritative tone with a jumbled beat”. He even uses them to help detail big strategic questions — like how Coursera should approach integrating AI tools like ChatGPT into its platform.

“I use her as a writing assistant and as an intellectual partner,” Magioncalda told CNN.

Maggioncalda is one of thousands of business, political and academic leaders who gathered in Davos, Switzerland, this week for the World Economic Forum. On the agenda are a host of pressing issues weighing on the global economy, from the energy crisis to the war in Ukraine and the shift in trade. But what many people can’t stop talking about is ChatGPT.

The tool, made publicly available by artificial intelligence research firm OpenAI late last year, has sparked conversations about how “generative AI” services — which can turn prompts into original articles, stories, songs and images after training on massive online datasets — can transform radically the way we live and work.

Some claim it will put artists, teachers, programmers, and writers (yes, even journalists) unemployed. Others are more optimistic, supposedly allowing employees to process to-do lists more efficiently or focus on higher-level tasks.

Many CEO leaders have been captivated by this discussion, often after they have tested the tool themselves.

Christian Lanning, CEO of digital supply chain platform Tradeshift, said he was amazed at the capabilities ChatGPT has demonstrated, even after years of exposure to Hype in Silicon Valley.

He has also used the platform to write emails and claims that no one has noticed the difference. He even did some accounting work, a service Tradeshift currently employs as an expensive professional services firm.

Until now, ChatGPT has been mostly treated as a curiosity and a harbinger of what’s to come. It is based on OpenAI’s GPT-3.5 language model, which is already outdated; A more advanced version of GPT-4 is in the works and could be released this year.

Critics—many of them—are quick to point out that it makes mistakes, that it’s painfully impartial, and that it displays a distinct lack of human empathy. For example, a tech news publication was forced to issue several significant corrections to an article written by ChatGPT. New York City public schools have also banned students and teachers from using them.

However, software, or similar software from competitors, could soon sweep through the business world.

Microsoft (MSFT), the investor in OpenAI, announced this week that the company’s tools — including GPT-3.5, the Codex programming assistant, and the DALL-E 2 image generator — are now generally available to business customers in a package called Azure OpenAI Service. ChatGPT will be added soon.

“I see these technologies as a co-pilot, helping people get more done with less,” Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella told an audience in Davos this week.

Maggioncalda has a similar perspective. He wants to incorporate generative AI into Coursera’s offerings this year, seeing an opportunity to make learning more interactive for students who don’t have access to in-person classroom instruction or one-on-one time with subject matter experts.

It acknowledges the challenges that must be addressed such as preventing fraud and ensuring accuracy. He worries that the increased use of generative AI may not be entirely beneficial to society — people may become less intelligent at thinking, for example, because the act of writing can be useful for processing complex ideas and refining results.

However, he feels the need to move quickly.

“Anyone who doesn’t use this will soon be at a disadvantage. Soon. Like, very soon,” Magioncalda said. “I only think about my cognitive ability with this tool. Compared to the previous one, it is much higher, and my efficiency and productivity are much higher.”

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