What Is ChatGPT: A Plain English Explanation of How It Works and What It Can Do

what is chatgpt

What Is ChatGPT: A Plain English Explanation of How It Works and What It Can Do

From the moment you first try ChatGPT, you are likely to be wowed by its ability to answer even the most complex questions. Taking the world by storm during the last half of 2022, all it takes is a question or two on the ChatGPT platform to see why this is the future of human-like responses. It’s not quite Tony Stark’s Jarvis but, so far, OpenAI has shown to be the start of something magical. 

With the ability to answer long-form questions and do so in a way that feels very conversational, it’s no wonder that any conversation around AI these days is centered around ChatGPT. Let’s take a look at what ChatGPT is, how it works, and how you can use it today. 

What Is ChatGPT? 

Regardless of whether you are someone who is interested in learning more about artificial intelligence or not, it’s been hard to ignore ChatGPT over the last 6 months. Even as AI has been part of our lives for years in the form of curated Spotify playlists, Siri, facial recognition, navigation applications, or even the TikTok For You page, ChatGPT has significantly raised visibility about the role AI can play in our lives. 

ChatGPT is built on top of OpenAI’s GPT-3.5 and GPT-4 families of LLMs.


So, what is ChatGPT? Simply stated, ChatGPT is a tool that uses natural language processing to have a conversation with the user as though the chatbot itself were a person. Except this person is a bot and can respond to your questions (or queries) with natural-sounding answers on just about any topic.

Each response you receive has been designed to read or sound as if you were having a conversation with another person, which makes ChatGPT feel very natural to use. 

How to Access ChatGPT

As the service is in open beta right now, you can head to chat.openai.com and click the Sign Up button to start setting up your account. It’s that simple; just create your login, watch some examples of how you can use the tool, and then you are free to ask your questions.

As of April 2023, the service is free to use, though the company has released a paid solution that costs $20 a month and provides faster access to new features. 

How to Use ChatGPT

As it stands today, you can ask ChatGPT to do simple things. For example, you can ask it to make a music playlist for New Year’s and it will instantly come up with a list of songs. You can also ask ChatGPT to write you a poem and it will come up with a new poem every time you ask, whether it’s around love, family, or something else entirely. 

There are also more complex questions that have been discovered, like translating text from one language to another or writing Excel formulas. Even actions like writing a cover letter or building a resume using a brief description of your job have become popular and are starting to gain some virality across social media

ai chatbot
In January 2023, TIME magazine reported that OpenAI outsourced Kenyan workers earning less than $2 per hour to label toxic content.

©John Williams RUS/Shutterstock.com

What you shouldn’t ask ChatGPT is anything critically important at the moment, like telling you how to heal a broken leg. However, the technology is there and these types of answers are not out of the question in the future. 

It’s also important to note that ChatGPT is only able to access information off the internet up to 2021. Hence, it differs from search engines that can immediately answer queries relating to who won the World Series in 2022, for example, which is a question ChatGPT cannot answer.

Sam Altman, OpenAI’s CEO, has even said that relying on OpenAI for anything important would be a mistake and that the company is making progress on making it more reliable for factual questions. 

Who Founded ChatGPT? 

Developed by OpenAI, the company operates its research lab in the San Francisco area and has both a nonprofit and for-profit branch.

Originally founded in 2015, a consortium of partners came together to help invest, including Elon Musk, Amazon Web Services, Infosys, and a host of other investment firms. In 2019, a $1 billion investment from Microsoft helped ensure that OpenAI’s patents and research remain open to the public.

Frequently Asked Questions

Should we worry that OpenCPT can turn into something like Skynet?

There are certainly worries over how advanced AI will go and there are few real reasons to be concerned about this type of technology. 

How much does ChatGPT cost to use?

As of April 2023, ChatGPT remains free to use in its research stage. However, ChatGPT Plus is available as a $20 paid subscription and provides faster response speeds and access to new features as soon as they arrive. 

Is there an official ChatGPT app for smartphones or tablets?

At this moment, no, there are no official smartphone or tablet apps available for the ChatGPT platform, and beware of any apps that claim otherwise. 

What does ChatGPT stand for?

The GPT stands for Generative Pre-trained Transformer which is the learning model the ChatGPT service uses. Chat, well that stands for a chat.

How fast has ChatGPT grown?

Think about ChatGPT’s growth this way: it took Facebook more than 4.5 years to achieve 100 million years and Instagram took 2.5 years. ChatGPT took only six months.

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