ChatGPT is about to make AI as personal as your iPhone

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Transforming chatbots like OpenAI's ChatGPT from generalists to specialists is, perhaps, the most momentous development in the very short history of consumer-grade AI.

When OpenAI CEO Sam Altman unveiled this week GPTs, bespoke versions of ChatGPT generative AI that virtually anyone could build and eventually sell in a GPTs Store, I thought of both the early days of Apple's Apps store and how this could be the moment where ChatGPT and generative AI chatbots like it stop being a solution in search of a problem and become, instead, the answer to your problem.

Most people I talk to remain interested if not a little concerned about the rapid rise of generative AI technology. However, just as many people have moved on after spending maybe a little too much time trying to draft clever questions that could elicit an intelligent answer or, sometimes, result in an AI malapropism or offensive mistake. It's a game we all played for months as many of us tried to figure out what we might do with all the large language models and image generation engines.

Even as we developed usable stuff, we realized that it might not be appropriate for use in our offices and professional lives. There were, it seemed, too many risks. And with such broad capabilities, we didn't know where to turn the AI's formidable focus.

GPTs, however, change that.

We are about to transform from the world of general AI (not Artificial general intelligence) to specific AI, tailored to your needs and ready and willing to fulfill them just for you.

You need only look at the world of smartphones to understand why this is such a powerful idea.

As personal as your smartphone

First of all, let's agree that we all love our best iPhones and best Android devices. Why do we love our smartphones so much? Is it because they can take beautiful pictures? Maybe. Is it the lovely screens? That's possible. What about their infinite access to a world of information? Sure, that's part of it. However, the real reason we love them is that each one is uniquely ours. It's full of our own personal information. We define the wallpaper, organize the home screen, and, most importantly, choose the apps.

There are numerous pre-installed apps we all use (Maps, Safari, Messages), but the collection of apps we choose to install is like a digital thumbprint. We add them because, for as much as we like our phone's general capabilities, we each have very specific needs and cherish the tools and apps that we find to serve them.

When something shifts from general and banal to specific and personal, our relationship with it changes.

A world of GPTs generative AI chatbots built by us and others is a cornucopia of AI choice. No longer are you staring at the ChatGPT prompt wondering what to ask. Instead, you visited the GPTs store looking for an AI that was trained to do just one thing. You won't bother asking it a random question about the existence of God because that's not what it's for and you know where to go to do that.

OpenAI's GPTs library is tiny right now. The beta GPTs creator tool isn't live yet. Still, even in these scant few GPTs, I see that specificity potential.

The Math Mentor GPTs is a perfect example. I've always been terrible at math, so it was easy to ask it some of my burning questions like How to explain the Pythagorean Theorem to me like I'm a 10-year-old or the difference between algebra and trigonometry.

Open AI Math Mentor

Open AI Math Mentor answers my burning math questions. (Image credit: Future)

The start of a good AI idea

Like any good AI, even these ultra-specific GPTs will be nowhere without a good data set. So, don't imagine you will always find the right or best GPTs in the store. That, though, is also not much different than Apple's App Store or Google's Play Store where your specific app category search might return results featuring a collection of great, good, okay, and rather awful apps.

In the early going, at least, we can expect a higher quality of topic-specific GPTs. The builder tool is only part of premium ChatGPT Plus. If you have to pay, you're bound to create something more useful. Plus, OpenAI plans to keep a close eye on what people are creating.

I do expect, though, that many of the people who are already part of the ChatGPT Plus GPT-4 community will be inspired by this GPTs idea of boiling down the general ChatGPT into something that serves their industry, office, home, or just one ultra-personal need.

This will change how we think about and work with future generative AIs and will pave the way for a world of custom bots that speak your language, think your way, and know your needs above all else.

This is where it all begins.

Lance Ulanoff
Editor At Large

A 38-year industry veteran and award-winning journalist, Lance has covered technology since PCs were the size of suitcases and “on line” meant “waiting.” He’s a former Lifewire Editor-in-Chief, Mashable Editor-in-Chief, and, before that, Editor in Chief of and Senior Vice President of Content for Ziff Davis, Inc. He also wrote a popular, weekly tech column for Medium called The Upgrade.

Lance Ulanoff makes frequent appearances on national, international, and local news programs including Live with Kelly and Ryan, the Today Show, Good Morning America, CNBC, CNN, and the BBC.