ANALYSIS This week, OpenAI released ChatGPT plugins, which can be used to add business-specific information to its chatbot language model and make it more useful.

OpenAI is so worried about all the ways ChatGPT and its other models can go wrong that it starts its announcement by assuring people that its slow rollout is because it wants to solve “safety and alignment challenges.”

It does this for a good reason: some people think that large language models (LLMs), which are also called artificial intelligence (AI) or just “AI,” are dangerous things that need to be kept in check.

LLMs are also limited to the information they can get from their training data or figure out on their own. According to OpenAI, “This information may be out of date, and it fits all applications the same way. Also, out of the box, language models can only do one thing: send out text. This text may have useful instructions, but you need to do something else to follow these instructions.”

This other process is made up of apps and services from third parties. Expedia, FiscalNote, Instacart, Kayak, Klarna, Milo, OpenTable, Shopify, Slack, Speak, Wolfram, and Zapier are all testing the waters of this ecosystem right now. As OpenAI makes its plugin program easier to use, you can expect more to come.

“Plug-ins can be like ‘eyes and ears’ for language models, giving them access to information that is too new, too personal, or too specific to be included in the training data,” OpenAI said.

“At the explicit request of a user, plugins can also allow language models to take safe, limited actions on their behalf, making the system more useful overall.”

You can be sure that these steps will be safe because OpenAI’s post uses the words “safe” and “safety” more than 20 times. Repetition has taken the place of obedience.

During the safety testing of GPT-4 [PDF], the model tried to get a TaskRabbit worker to solve a CAPTCHA puzzle for it.

In practice, OpenAI plugins let people type or speak text commands, and ChatGPT will use information from third-party services to come up with a response. If this can be done quickly and accurately without costing too much, OpenAI may have found the new way to search the web.

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