If you’ve been keeping an eye on the news lately, you’ll inevitably have come face to face with an interesting new technological development – ChatGPT. Created by a company called OpenAI, this Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology has been created to answer complex questions conversationally, resulting in an experience that echoes human interaction. In fact, it’s software that has been specifically trained to learn what humans mean whenever they ask it a question, meaning that it actively learns from every interaction.
So, why do I bring this up? ChatGPT has already started to kindle interest and concerns, especially as it represents a future that we thought was further away than it is – one where chatbots could take over certain tasks. So, what are the projected uses of this software and how would it affect dentistry?
The complexities of ChatGPT
First of all, let’s take a deeper look at this technology in order to understand just how innovative it truly is. ChatGPT is the largest and most sophisticated language model ever created, with the ability to process billions of words in mere seconds. It’s been fed mountains of text in order to detect how our language works and learn how to respond, made possible through the use of things called self-attention mechanisms. These allow the software to weigh up the importance of certain words in any text fed to it, giving it a better understanding of how our language works in conversation and, importantly, how to respond appropriately and in a human manner.[i]
This is a huge step forward in this type of technology. Although AI chatbots have existed for a long time now, never before have they had this level of sophistication. This meant that although early iterations of this technology were amusing, it effectively meant that they were rarely more than a novelty, especially as they could be easily bamboozled by straightforward questions, conflicting facts and other simple measures.
For the most part, ChatGPT works incredibly well. It answers questions, reacts to changes in tone and can even navigate people being hostile to it in conversation. Plus, while people have tried their hardest, the software is also pretty good at keeping itself neutral and refraining from praising bad people or saying nasty things, which is impressive.
That’s not to suggest that ChatGPT is flawless, however. Since its release in November 2022, a surge of users has inundated the software, asking all things under the sun. While the AI tackles most problems with seamless accuracy, it does still struggle with things like logic puzzles and scientific facts.[ii] Furthermore, it can still occasionally just be completely wrong, especially if a question is phrased in a complex way.
ChatGPT and dentistry
You may have already noticed, or even implemented one yourself, but many dental practices have a function built into their website that allows visitors to chat to someone working in the practice directly. This is a useful tool for a number of reasons, especially as it allows patients and potential patients to ask any questions and receive an answer swiftly, as long as the staff member manning this function is present.
But what if this tech was swapped for AI like ChatGPT? I think, in many cases, this could potentially be a very useful switch, especially if the software could be fed information specific to our practices such as opening times, current deals and knowledge of all procedures offered. This way, any patients exploring our website could find out everything they wanted to know via a conversation with the software, with one huge benefit – this information would be available 24/7 and free up real time for our human staff. Additionally, as the software is, even now, very good at navigating hostility and other difficult situations, it could be a very useful tool for solving problems and maintaining a good reputation.
There may even come a time where this type of technology could be utilised to a much deeper level, perhaps even acting as a first step for patient appointments or performing checks such as medical histories.
Of course, the danger here is that no technology is fool proof, at least certainly not yet. What would happen if our practice AI gave misinformation or, even worse, was somehow rude or aggressive towards a patient? There’s no way of removing these concerns, especially as ChatGPT itself has proven it isn’t without its flaws.
Change is coming
While we can’t conclusively predict where AI is headed, ChatGPT certainly gives us an insight into its current capabilities. The future is coming, and while we will, undoubtedly, adapt and embrace it, we must still keep informed, especially as this sort of technology could be game-changing for industries across the globe.
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[i] Clear Cogs. The Technology Behind ChatGPT. Link: https://www.clearcogs.com/post/the-technology-behind-chat-gpt-3 [Last accessed February 23].
[ii] Mashable. The ChatGPT chatbot from OpenAI is amazing, creative, and totally wrong. Link: https://mashable.com/article/chatgpt-amazing-wrong [Last accessed February 23].