ChatGPT spells the end of coding as we know it (2023)

Discourse Tech

ChatGPT has come for software developers

ChatGPT spells the end of coding as we know it (1)

Arif Qazi / Insider

Aki Ito


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ChatGPT spells the end of coding as we know it (2) ChatGPT spells the end of coding as we know it (3)

When ChatGPT was released to the world in November, most of us marveled at its ability to write rap lyrics and cover letters and high-school English essays. But Adam Hughes, a software developer, was intrigued by artificial intelligence's much-ballyhooed aptitude for writing code. So he signed up for an account and asked ChatGPT to program a modified tic-tac-toe game, giving the game some weird rules so the bot couldn't just copy code that another human had already written. Then he quizzed it with the kind of coding questions he asks candidates in job interviews.

Whatever he threw at it, Hughes found that ChatGPT came back with something he wasn't prepared for: very good code. It didn't take him long to wonder what this meant for a career he loved — one that had thus far provided him with not only a good living and job security, but a sense of who he is. "I never thought I would be replaced in my job, ever, until ChatGPT," he says. "I had an existential crisis right then and there. A lot of the knowledge that I thought was special to me, that I had put seven years into, just became obsolete."

Coding, as an occupation, has long been considered a haven from the relentless advance of technology. Even as new gizmos replaced other jobs, the people who wrote the instructions for the machines felt untouchable. Universities rushed to expand their computer-science programs. Policymakers scrambling to futureproof the workforce stuck to one unwavering message: Learn to code! But in recent weeks, behind closed doors, I've heard many coders confess to a growing anxiety over the sudden advent of generative AI. Those who have been doing the automating fear they will soon be automated themselves. And if programmers aren't safe, who is?

Much has been written about how AI is coming for white-collar jobs. Researchers at OpenAI, which created ChatGPT, recently examined the degree to which large language models could perform the 19,000 tasks that make up the 1,000 occupations across the US economy. Their conclusion: 19% of workers hold jobs in which at least half their tasks could be completed by AI. The researchers also noted two patterns among the most vulnerable jobs: They require more education and come with big salaries. "We didn't think that would be the case," says Ethan Mollick, a professor of management at Wharton who studies innovation. "AI was always supposed to automate dangerous, dirty tasks — not the things we want to do."

But one white-collar skill set, the study found, is especially at risk for being automated: computer programming. The reason? Large language models like the one powering ChatGPT have been trained on huge repositories of code. Researchers at Microsoft and its subsidiary GitHub recently divided software developers into two groups — one with access to an AI coding assistant, and another without. Those assisted by AI were able to complete tasks 56% faster than the unassisted ones. "That's a big number," Mollick says. By comparison, the introduction of the steam engine in the mid-1800s boosted productivity at large factories by only 15%.

Tech companies have rushed to embrace generative AI, recognizing its ability to turbocharge programming. Amazon has built its own AI coding assistant, CodeWhisperer, and is encouraging its engineers to use it. Google is also asking its developers to try out new coding features in Bard, its ChatGPT competitor. Given the tech industry's rush to deploy AI, it's not hard to envision a near future in which we'll need half as many engineers as we have today — or, down the line, one-tenth or one-hundredth (Emad Mostaque, the CEO of Stability AI, has gone as far as predicting "there's no programmers in five years."). For better or worse, the rise of AI effectively marks the end of coding as we know it.

Now, before we dive into this doomsday scenario, let's pause for a moment and consider the case for optimism. Perhaps, as the industry's sunnier forecasts are predicting, there's enough of a demand for coding to employ both humans and AI. Sure, the arrival of the tractor threw a lot of farmers out of work. But coding isn't like farming. "There's only so much food that 7 billion people can eat," says Zachary Tatlock, a professor of computer science at the University of Washington. "But it's unclear if there's any cap on the amount of software that humanity wants or needs. One way to think about it is that for the past 50 years, we have been massively underproducing. We haven't been meeting software demand." AI, in other words, may help humans write code faster, but we'll still want all the humans around because we need as much software as they can build, as fast as they can build it. In the rosiest outlook, all the productivity gains from AI will turbocharge the demand for software, making the coders of the future even more sought after than they are today.

Another argument from the optimists: Even as AI takes over the bulk of coding, human coders will find new ways to make themselves useful by focusing on what AI can't do. Consider what happened to bank tellers after the widespread adoption of ATMs. You'd think ATMs would have destroyed the profession, but surprisingly, the number of bank tellers actually grew between 1980 and 2010. Why? Because bank tellers, one analysis found, became less like checkout clerks and more like salespeople, building relationships with customers and selling them on additional services like credit cards and loans. Similarly, Tatlock envisions a future for software engineers that involves less writing of code and more verifying of all the cheap and potentially dangerous code the machines will be generating. "You probably don't need to formally verify a widget on your website," Tatlock says, "but you probably do want to formally verify code that goes into your driving assistant in your car or manages your insulin pump." If today's programmers are writers, the thinking goes, their future counterparts will be editors and fact-checkers.

So maybe, long term, human coders will survive in some new, as-yet-to-be-determined role. But even in the best-case scenario, the optimists concede, the transition will be painful. "It is going to be the case that some people's lives are upended by this," Tatlock says. "This happens with every technological change." Some coders will inevitably be displaced, unable to adapt to the new way of doing things. And those who make the transition to the AI-driven future will find themselves performing tasks that are radically different from the ones they do today.

There's only so much food that 7 billion people can eat. But it's unclear if there's any cap on the amount of software that humanity wants or needs. Zachary Tatlock, University of Washington

The first question is: In this evolutionary battle for survival, who is best positioned to adapt, and who's going to get left behind? Intuitively, you would think seasoned veterans — those who already spend less time coding and more time on abstract, higher-order, strategic thinking — would be less vulnerable to AI than someone straight out of college tasked with writing piecemeal code. But in the GitHub study, it was actually the less experienced engineers who benefited more from using AI. The new technology essentially leveled the playing field between the newbies and the veterans. In a world where experience matters less, senior engineers may be the ones who lose out, because they won't be able to justify their astronomical salaries.

Then there's the issue of job quality. The optimists assume that AI will enable us to outsource a lot of the boring, repetitive stuff to the bots, leaving us to concentrate on more intellectually stimulating work. But what if the opposite ends up happening, and AI takes on all the fun stuff? No disrespect to my colleagues in the research department, who do vital work, but I'm a writer because I love writing; I don't want my job to morph into one of fact-checking the hallucinogenic and error-prone tendencies of ChatGPT. What feels unnerving about generative AI is its capacity to perform the kind of highly skilled tasks that people enjoy most. "I really love programming," says Hughes, the software developer. "I feel like I'm one of the few people who can say for sure that I'm in the career I want to be in. That's why it's scary to see it at risk."

But the greatest glitch in the "it'll be OK" scenario is something the optimists themselves admit: It's predicated on the assumption that generative AI will keep serving as a complement to human labor, not as an outright replacement. When ATMs came along, bank tellers were able to adapt because there were still things they could do better than the machines. But go back a few decades, and you'll find a technology that obliterated what was one of the most common jobs for young women: the mechanical switching of telephones. Placing your own calls on a rotary-dial phone was way faster and easier than going through a human switchboard operator. Many of the displaced operators dropped out of the workforce altogether — and if they kept working, they ended up in lower-paying occupations. Their fate raises the question: At what point does AI get so good at coding that there's nothing left for a human programmer to do?

The fact we need to ask that question underscores one of the most glaring problems with AI research: Far too much of it is focused on replacing human labor rather than empowering it. Why are we deploying our best and brightest minds to get machines to do something humans can already do, instead of developing technology to help them do something entirely new? "It's a sad use of innovation," says Katya Klinova, the head of AI, labor, and the economy at the nonprofit Partnership on AI. There are plenty of dire problems in the world that need solving, she points out, like the urgent need for more sources of clean energy. The question we should be asking about AI isn't how well it can perform existing human tasks, and how much money that automation will save businesses — it's whether the technology is doing what we, as a society, would like it to do.

In the meantime, on an individual level, the best thing coders can do is to study the new technology and to focus on getting better at what AI can't do. "I really think everybody needs to be doing their work with ChatGPT as much as they can, so they can learn what it does and what it doesn't," Mollick says. "The key is thinking about how you work with the system. It's a centaur model: How do I get more work out of being half person, half horse? The best advice I have is to consider the bundle of tasks that you're facing and ask: How do I get good at the tasks that are less likely to be replaced by a machine?"

Mollick adds that he's watched people try ChatGPT for a minute, find themselves underwhelmed by its abilities, and then move on, comforted by their superiority over AI. But he thinks that's dangerously shortsighted, given how quickly the technology is improving. When ChatGPT, powered by the 3.5 model of GPT, took the bar exam, for instance, it scored in the 10th percentile. But less than a year later, when GPT 4 took the test, it scored in the 90th percentile. "Assuming that this is as good as it gets strikes me as a risky assumption," Mollick says.

"The best advice I have is to consider the bundle of tasks that you're facing and ask: How do I get good at the tasks that are less likely to be replaced by a machine?"

Hughes has seen the same head-in-the-sand reaction from his fellow coders. After ChatGPT aced his tic-tac-toe challenge, he was scared to look at his phone, for fear of seeing yet another headline about the tool's human-like capabilities. Then, as an act of catharsis, he wrote a long post on his Medium blog — a step-by-step, worst-case scenario of how he thought AI could replace programmers over the next decade. The response was telling: Developers flooded the comments section with impassioned critiques, some of them so aggressive and toxic that Hughes felt forced to delete them. In post after post, they listed all the ways they thought they were still better coders than ChatGPT. "You are a really bad software developer if you don't understand the number of AI limitations," one seethed. AI, they were confident, won't replace what they bring to the job anytime soon.

Reading the comments, I found myself thinking the critics were missing the point. AI is still in its infancy. Which means, much as with a newborn human, we need to start thinking about how it will affect our lives and our livelihoods now, before its needs outstrip our ability to keep up. For the moment, we still have time to shape the future we actually want. Sooner or later, there may come a day when we no longer do.

Aki Ito is a senior correspondent at Insider.

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Will Chatgpt replace programmers? ›

In summary, while GPT has made significant progress in recent years, it is unlikely to replace human programmers entirely because it lacks the ability to execute code, think critically and solve complex problems, and generate new ideas. …. and this article was entirely generated by Chat GPT 🤓.

What do programmers actually code? ›

Programmers write code for computer programs and mobile applications. They also are involved in maintaining, debugging and troubleshooting systems and software to ensure that everything is running smoothly.

How do you know if coding is not for you? ›

  • 5 Subtle Signs That Show Programming Is Not for You. ...
  • You're not interested in computers or technology. ...
  • You don't like to solve problems or debug code. ...
  • You're not patient enough to wait for results. ...
  • You don't want to spend your life in front of a screen. ...
  • You're not willing to put in the hard work required to succeed.
Nov 6, 2022

Will coding become redundant? ›

The short answer is yes. Humans will turn over the bulk of programming in software engineering to artificial intelligence. Before you panic, consider this. Coders aren't making themselves obsolete by using automation tools—just more efficient.

Is ChatGPT a threat to software engineers? ›

ChatGPT is not a threat to software developers, but rather a tool that can help them produce more efficiently. ChatGPT is a language model that has been trained on a massive amount of data, allowing it to generate responses that are often indistinguishable from those of a human.

Will ChatGPT replace DevOps? ›

Conclusion. I come to the same conclusion as my colleague regarding Oracle DBA, ChatGPT will not replace a DevOps consultant yet as we can reach its limits when the topic becomes too complex or when we need a creative solution to an issue.

Do programmers actually code all day? ›

At times, multiple languages are used together. In fact, most websites include a combination of HTML, CSS, and JavaScript in addition to other languages as well. In some companies, developers may write code for nearly 100% of the time, while in other companies the day may also contain meetings of various sorts.

What pays more coding or programming? ›

While programmers typically earn more than coders do because of their advanced skill set, both careers provide lucrative job options.

Do programmers code all day? ›

Typically, computer programmers work an average of 40 hours per week, which comes to eight hours per day, Monday through Friday. They usually work between the hours of 9:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m or comparable work schedules that are typical to office culture.

Is IT stressful to be a programmer? ›

In general, coding is a fairly relaxing job. There is the flexibility of working remotely as a programmer, and in many cases there is the security of routine. However, as with any job, whether coding is stressful depends largely on the company you work with. Cultural pressures and tight deadlines can cause stress.

Why does coding seem so hard? ›

The major reason why programming is considered difficult to learn is primarily due to the complexity of the instructions that computers comprehend. You can't give computers instructions in English or any other human language.

Is IT normal to get stuck in coding? ›

Don't worry. Getting stuck is a part of being a programmer and It's common to all levels of programmers. No matter he or she is a beginner or an expert.

Why do most people quit coding? ›

After some time in the profession, some devs start to feel anguished that they find themselves doing basically the same thing every day. In general, programmers working in a profession that deals with the future and change feel the need to dedicate themselves to something bigger.

Why do coders quit? ›

Often programmers quit because they can make more money elsewhere. Compensation structures often incentivize developers to change jobs: the experience a person acquires in the role becomes more valuable than the incremental raises most developers can expect every couple of years.

How many people drop out of coding? ›

Students continue to withdraw or fail introductory programming courses at rates of 30–50% (Bennedsen & Caspersen, 2007; Bennedsen & Caspersen, 2019), often because they find the material too difficult (Margolis & Fisher, 2003).

What jobs are in danger from ChatGPT? ›

According to the report, jobs that involve repetitive or routine tasks such as data entry or customer service are at a higher risk of being replaced by ChatGPT. Additionally, professions that require a high degree of text-based communication, such as writers, editors, and journalists, are also at risk.

Will ChatGPT replace junior developers? ›

“ChatGPT is Additional Asset to Developers; Not a Replacement” – Lucjan Suski, CEO and Co-Founder of Surfer. “ChatGPT or Natural Language Processing (NLP) technology will not be able to replace developers anytime soon due to its lack of flexibility across different programming languages.

Will coders be replaced by AI? ›

While using current AI technology to replace coding professionals may be years and years down the line, and especially for more advanced software development functions, O'Brien expects some jobs more generally to become obsolete due to advancements in AI.

Can ChatGPT pass the bar exam? ›

Did ChatGPT pass the bar exam? Professors from Illinois Tech and Michigan State College of Law put GPT-3.5 up against the multistate bar exam (MBE). In their research paper, they found that the model “achieves a passing rate on two categories of the Bar” and achieved similar marks to human “test-takers” on another.

Will ChatGPT 4 replace developers? ›

Programmers are unlikely to be replaced by ChatGPT (Generative Pre-trained Transformer) technology. Artificial intelligence software called ChatGPT is made to provide replies in natural language in response to human input. Because it is still in its infancy, programming specialists cannot yet be replaced by technology.

Can ChatGPT write Java code? ›

As a large language model, ChatGPT is all about text. And that text includes—lucky for you! —code. It has the ability to write code snippets in popular programming languages such as JavaScript, Python, C#, PHP and Java.

What is the average day in the life of a coder? ›

Programmers usually work between 9 am to 5 pm or work schedules comparable to typical office culture. However, some programmers work additional hours to finish coding, troubleshoot errors, meet deadlines and oversee multiple projects simultaneously.

Why do programmers code at night? ›

By working at night, developers can avoid as many distractions as possible. Without the constant barrage of interruptions, they can spend a few solid hours focusing on the task at hand and be as productive as possible.

Is 2 hours of coding enough for a day? ›

On average, people spend 2 – 4 hours a day coding”.

The duration of time allocated to coding is individual-specific. This means you alone know your daily work schedule, and you're in a much better position to figure out what best works for you than any published guideline on the internet.

Is it too late to learn coding at 40? ›

Let's get this out of the way: no, you are not too old to program. There isn't an age limit on learning to code, and there never was. But all too often, insecurity and uncertainty compel older adults to put a ceiling on their achievement potential.

Which coding has highest salary? ›

  • Clojure. Salary: $106,644. Clojure, according to StackOverflow, is the highest-paying programming language. ...
  • Erlang. Salary: $103,000. At number two we have Erlang. ...
  • F# Salary: $95,526. ...
  • LISP. Salary: $95,000. ...
  • Ruby. Salary: $93,000. ...
  • Elixir. Salary: $92,959. ...
  • Scala. Salary: $92,780.
Jan 25, 2023

How much do Google programmers get paid? ›

The estimated total pay for a Programmer at Google is $207,263 per year. This number represents the median, which is the midpoint of the ranges from our proprietary Total Pay Estimate model and based on salaries collected from our users. The estimated base pay is $139,427 per year.

Is 30 too old to learn programming? ›

Coding is a skill that can be learned at any age. Many people who learn to code later in life go on to have successful tech careers.

Can a programmer be a hacker? ›

A hacker is a coder/programmer who creates programs by combining a bunch of existing code (written by other) in a short period of time. Some are self taught, others formally trained but all are considered extremely creative and preferring a lack of structure in the process of building.

What is the life of a programmer? ›

A programmer's day-to-day life is generally spent reading code, fixing errors, and writing new pieces of code. Programming is a highly mentally demanding job as it requires constant problem-solving. In addition to these tasks, there are also meetings with other programmers and stakeholders in the project.

What is the hardest part of being a programmer? ›

Programmers can then create actions to manipulate the object rather than solve each individual problem. Many programmers regard this as one of the most challenging aspects of their job. As programs become more advanced the need for robust simplification becomes even greater.

How long do programmers stay at a job? ›

Most developers stay in their jobs for an average of two years and in that time can fully master their assigned role. After that point, you should either look for a promotion or look to switch companies for more money. Be aware that staying at a company too long means you are likely to earn less over your career.

Are programmers happy with their job? ›

Based on a small survey of 350 respondents, some 70.3 percent of developers said they were happy at work, versus 14.4 percent who said they were unhappy, and 15.3 percent who claimed indifference.

What is the hardest coding language ever? ›

Malbolge is by far the hardest programming language to learn, which can be seen from the fact that it took no less than two years to finish writing the first Malbolge code. The code readability is ridiculously low because it is designed to be as challenging as possible, providing programmers with a challenge.

Is math or coding harder? ›

The majority of programming doesn't involve any math at all, and the parts that do require basic math. Advanced mathematics, on the other hand, will let you solve complex formulas, but you will never have to do this in web development, so coding is far easier.

What is the hardest thing to learn in coding? ›

Here are 5 things most people struggle with when starting with programming.
  1. Arrays. One of the first obstacles new programmers often walk into is the concept of arrays. ...
  2. Loops. ...
  3. Recursion. ...
  4. Object-Oriented Programming. ...
  5. Regular Expressions. ...
  6. Wrapping it up.
Jun 15, 2020

Why am I so addicted to coding? ›

One of the characters of a coder or developer job is the ever-changing nature of programming. Most developers starve and are thirsty for knowledge and for learning new things. That makes coding so addictive. You're growing your skills every time.

How long can it take to get good at coding? ›

Ways to Learn Coding

Through many of these resources, you can learn to code for free. The downside: By taking various courses instead of sticking to one structured program, you could get sidetracked. It typically takes 6-12 months to get a firm grasp on 3-4 programming languages.

How long should I take a break from coding? ›

“More than anything, you should take a break from coding for a day or two. You did this lab once and you're gonna be able to do it again. Don't worry about losing the code; whenever you feel ready to come back, put in a new ticket here and we'll work through the lesson together over screenshare!”

What percentage of programmers quit? ›

Software developers are burned out and looking to get out, and it has those in charge of recruiting tech talent scrambling. A report from software platform LaunchDarkly revealed that nearly 7 in 10 developers (67%) have left a job due to pressure around minimizing deployment errors or know someone who has.

What is coder burnout? ›

Developer burnout is when a programmer or software engineer suffers from feelings of exhaustion, increased mental distance, demotivation, and cynicism with their job, and therefore experiences reduced professional efficacy.

Why are coders paid so well? ›

There's always more demand for programmers than supply. So, if you're a programmer, it's like playing a game of musical chairs, but where there's way more chairs than there are people. In a sense, there's not a lot of pressure on a programmer if they're not in a Silicon Valley or high-pressure job.

Are programming jobs decreasing? ›

Employment of computer programmers is projected to decline 10 percent from 2021 to 2031. Despite declining employment, about 9,600 openings for computer programmers are projected each year, on average, over the decade.

Will coding ever get easier? ›

Learning anything new initially seems difficult, if not impossible, but it gets easier over time. The same goes for learning to code. With a blend of time, determination, and practice, it's possible to become a master coder quickly.

Is coding the only future? ›

Computing power is transforming modern industries and the ability to create applications, programs and websites by coding will open many doors for job seekers. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, software developer jobs are expected to grow 21% through 2028 — far above average for other occupations.

What is the average rate of a coder? ›

The national average salary for a computer programmer or coder is $73,473 per year .

Which jobs can ChatGPT replace? ›

ChatGPT predicted that LLMs could one day replace workers in the following roles:
  • Customer service representatives.
  • Technical writers.
  • Translators and interpreters.
  • Copywriters.
  • Data entry clerks.
Apr 5, 2023

Are ChatGPT and Alphacode going to replace programmers? ›

It is unlikely that ChatGPT or Alphacode will replace programmers” because they are “not capable of fully replacing the expertise and creativity of human programmers...programming is a complex field that requires a deep understanding of computer science principles and the ability to adapt to new technologies.”

Will chatbots replace developers? ›

As AI continues to advance, it's natural for programmers and other professionals to worry about their jobs being replaced. However, it's important to note that AI is not going to replace programmers, but rather, it will augment and enhance their work.

Will ChatGPT replace data scientists? ›

While AI language models like ChatGPT can generate text and perform certain data analysis tasks, they cannot replace the expertise and creativity of a human data scientist. It is very unlikely that ChatGPT or any other AI models can replace data science job completely.

What is the future of ChatGPT? ›

ChatGPT has the potential to be transformative in the business landscape. With its ability to automate routine tasks, provide real-time data analysis, support multiple languages and improve data accuracy, ChatGPT could change the way time and resources are allocated.

What is the future of programmers with ChatGPT? ›

In conclusion, Chat GPT has the potential to revolutionize the world of programming by automating repetitive tasks, improving code quality, and increasing productivity. However, the technology also presents challenges, including data privacy, model bias, lack of creativity, and technical difficulties.

Is ChatGPT better than human? ›

For example, Steven T Piantadosi, a professor at UC Berkeley has shown in a series of tweets how ChatGPT is not free from biases and that its filters can easily be bypassed with simple tricks. So the answer to the question above - is ChatGPT capable of replacing Google search or humans - is a simple no.

Why do so many programmers quit? ›

Often programmers quit because they can make more money elsewhere. Compensation structures often incentivize developers to change jobs: the experience a person acquires in the role becomes more valuable than the incremental raises most developers can expect every couple of years.

Will coding ever become obsolete? ›

Hand coding is definitely not becoming obsolete. But some people may need to grow up and start treating more seriously skills other than just coding. And a lot of people will lose their jobs if the only thing they can do is coding boring application and that only barely.

Is ChatGPT making jobs obsolete? ›

The surprisingly intelligent bot ChatGPT — released to the public as a free tool by a Microsoft-backed research laboratory in November 2021 — and other upcoming AI systems can leave many well-paid workers vulnerable, making many jobs obsolete in industries such as finance, health care, higher-ed, graphic design, ...

Will 90% of chatbots live today be discarded by the end of 2023? ›

Gartner analyst, Anthony Mullen predicts that 90% of the chatbots live today will be discarded by the end of 2023. As technology leaders at ISVs and system integrators you might be wondering 'How can I capture the surging demand for conversational AI and enable teams to build useful applications that delight customers?

What is the biggest problem with chatbots? ›

7 Reasons Chatbots Fail and How We Can Fix it
  • Not identifying the customer's use case. ...
  • Not understanding customer emotion and intent. ...
  • The chatbot lacks transparency. ...
  • When customers prefer human agents. ...
  • Not able to address personalized customer issues. ...
  • Lacking data collection and analysis functions. ...
  • Not aligning with the brand.
Dec 2, 2021

Is data science going to be dead? ›

By definition, “Data science is the field of study that combines domain expertise, programming skills, and knowledge of mathematics and statistics to extract meaningful insights from data.” So, until and unless we find a way to not use data itself, data science as a field is not going to be obsolete anytime soon.

Will ChatGPT replace ML engineers? ›

No, ChatGPT is a natural language processing tool, while Google is a search engine and a provider of various online services. ChatGPT can be used to improve the search results or question-answering feature of Google, but it cannot replace the entire company.

Will ChatGPT replace machine learning engineers? ›

So now the question is will it replace software engineers anytime soon? The answer is No. Programmers are unlikely to be replaced by ChatGPT (Generative Pre-trained Transformer) technology. Artificial intelligence software called ChatGPT is made to provide replies in natural language in response to human input.


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