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5 Uses for ChatGPT that Aren’t Fan Fiction or Cheating at School

Jul 5, 2023 8:00 AM

5 Uses for ChatGPT that Aren’t Fan Fiction or Cheating at School

Chatbots are great for lots of things, but these ones may be unexpected.

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Photograph: Elen11/Getty Images

AI is so powerful that it will inevitably destroy the world—at least, that's what the people who sell AI software keep saying, and I can't think of any reason why they might lie about how amazing they are. Still, I can't help but wonder: What is AI useful for right now, before it ends civilization?

I've done some experimenting and talked to my friends on LinkedIn and Mastodon. Here's the best use cases I could personally find.

I hate writing headlines. I spend hours crafting an article but most people will only ever see the few words I choose to put at the top. That's why I'll sometimes spend as much time on the headline and the first paragraph of an article as on the rest of the article combined.

ChatGPT can help here. When I feel stuck, I have started to ask the bot to recommend headlines for articles. I typically give it a few paragraphs of the article and ask it for a list of headlines recommendations. Most of what it gives me is bad, or cliche. A few ideas are alright. I will never use any of these ideas verbatim, but sometimes they'll point me in a direction I hadn't thought of. I don't do this every, or even most, times that I'm writing a headline. It's simply a nice tool to have on hand when I feel stuck.

This works for all kinds of brainstorming. You could ask it for a list of party themes, for example. Most of the ideas will be bad, or at least a little cringe, but something you get might be interesting enough to be worth building on. If you need a bunch of ideas, fast, asking ChatGPT for a list might be just enough to get you started.

Some people struggle with being assertive while writing a request. Others have a hard time being diplomatic. ChatGPT is really useful here. You can paste an email or message you wrote and ask for a different tone. For example, you could paste something that you know is wishy-washy and ask for a more assertive version, or paste something that sounds stuffy and ask to make it more casual.

This is going to feel weird, and I don't recommend you simply send whatever the bot gives you, but as I said in the previous section, the changes made by ChatGPT might help you notice how your writing comes across and give you ideas about how to change it. You can also use the service as a crude copy editor, in much the same way: Just ask the bot to clean up your writing or to point out any mistakes. It won't work perfectly, granted, but you'll get a few useful suggestions.

Making stuff up is one thing we know AI is good at with absolute certainty. That's why, if you need a convincing list of fake names, ChatGPT is a great place to start. I've used this while testing software, where I ask for a list of fake names and addresses to paste into a spreadsheet. It’s great at producing dummy data.

Alternatively, you could use this if you're writing a work of fiction or naming a character in a game: Just ask for a long list of fake names and use any that you like. I've heard this is invaluable for Dungeon Masters who design their own campaigns. Ask for a list of Dwarven or Elvish names and you get several plausible examples.

One area where large language models work well is looking up specific things to do with your computer. For example, if there's a keyboard shortcut you know exists but can't remember, asking ChatGPT can get you the answer instantly. The same goes for formulas in spreadsheet software like Excel or Google Sheets—you'll typically even get a guide on usage if you do this. This also works for Terminal commands. Yes, you could Google these things, but it's an example of something that's sincerely faster to do with ChatGPT and similar services.

The answer I hear most often when asking friends whether they use ChatGPT at work is: "Yes, for writing code." I’m not a programmer, but the use cases are pretty remarkable. You can paste code and ask the bot what it does. This is useful if you're asked to take over maintaining code that someone else wrote. You can provide code written in one language and ask the bot to rewrite it in another. Or you can just ask the bot to write code that does a specific thing.

None of this is going to be useful for anyone who doesn’t already know how to write code, because most of the time what the bot comes up with doesn’t quite work, and that’s where the expertise of an actual coder is most crucial. This isn’t that different from how I was talking about using ChatGPT in my other tips: It can help you with your writing, sure, but it’s really helpful if you already know how to write, so you can clean things up.

And that’s why I’m mentioning the code. Hearing about how programmers use this service helped me think up ways I could use it, and I'm glad I did. None of this is going to completely change the way I do my job, sure, but it's going to speed me up from time to time.

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Justin Pot is a freelance journalist who writes tutorials and essays that inform and/or entertain. He loves beer, technology, nature, and people, not necessarily in that order.
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