OpenAI CEO Sam Altman loves that ChatGPT means he doesn’t have to read the whole article anymore: ‘Way more useful than I would have thought’

February 3, 2023, 11:38 PM UTC
OpenAI CEO Sam Altman
OpenAI CEO Sam Altman says ChatGPT's summarization skills have been "absolutely huge for me."
David Paul Morris—Bloomberg via Getty Images

ChatGPT has sparked imaginations worldwide, with everyone from professors to advertisers, hackers and judges pondering how to best leverage its capabilities. But what does the man behind it all think? 

Sam Altman is CEO of OpenAI, the company that developed the artificial-intelligence chatbot. For him, ChatGPT is useful as a time-saver—specifically when it comes to reading long articles or email threads.

Asked about the “coolest thing you’ve seen someone do with GPT so far” in a new Forbes interview, he declined to specify one thing. But he did agree to share the things he had found the most “personal utility” in. 

The answer may come as a surprise.

“Summarization has been absolutely huge for me, much more than I thought it would be,” he said. “The fact that I can just have full articles or long email threads summarized has been way more useful than I would have thought.”

That would seem a rather basic use of an A.I. chatbot that many believe will disrupt Google’s search engine business. Microsoft is investing billions into OpenAI with an eye on weaving its technology into all manner of products, including its Google rival Bing.

ChatGPT not a threat to search

But Altman downplays the ability of ChatGPT to replace traditional search, and doesn’t see that as the most interesting thing to focus on.

“I mean, I don’t think ChatGPT does [replace Search],” he told Forbes. “But I think someday, an A.I. system could. More than that, though, I think people are just totally missing the opportunity if you’re focused on yesterday’s news. I’m much more interested in thinking about what comes way beyond search. I don’t remember what we did before web search, I’m sort of too young. ”

On Friday, Google announced it’s investing $300 million in an OpenAI challenger called Anthropic that will take on ChatGPT while focusing on A.I. safety. Anthropic released a limited test of ChatGPT challenger Claude in January and plans to share it with a wider audience. 

Altman noted that another way ChatGPT is of practical use to him is with coding. The tool gives him “the ability to ask esoteric programming questions or help debug code in a way that feels like I’ve got a super brilliant programmer that I can talk to,” he said. 

However they use it, Altman is betting enough people find ChatGPT useful enough to pay $42 per month for a premium version, which the company launched last week. Paying customers can use ChatGPT even when demand is high, enjoy a faster response speed, and gain priority access to new features.

And ChatGPT is indeed frequently out of service due to an overwhelming number of users. Regardless, people keep returning to it—a sign of “great product-market fit,” Elad Gil, a Google alum and widely respected angel investor, noted last week.

Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, meanwhile, called ChatGPT and similar A.I. tools “every bit as important as the PC, as the internet.”

ChatGPT reached 100 million monthly active users faster than either TikTok or Instagram, UBS analysts noted this week, adding, “In 20 years following the internet space, we cannot recall a faster ramp in a consumer internet app.”

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