There’s currently a mad rush of YouTube videos, Twitter threads and blogposts teaching people how to use ChatGPT, but this is a movie that’s played out before.
Twitter user Steven Sinofsky has pointed out that when Google had first launched, there had been a similar deluge of books on how to use the search engine. “When Google was new (even though Yahoo already existed) some thought Googling was a skill that one needed to sit down and learn like a new language,” he tweeted, while sharing the covers of physical books which aimed to teach people how to use Google.
The books were published by some prominent publishers. In the popular “For Dummies” series, there had been a book published titled “Google for Dummies”. Yet another book promised to tell people the “Simplified Tips and Tricks: to use Google, while another was a “Bible” for Google Power Tools. “Teach yourself Google the quick and easy way! The Visual Quickstart Guide uses pictures rather than lengthy explanations. You’ll be up and running in no time,” gushed a book titled “Google and other search engines”, and there was even a book titled “Google for Seniors”.
Now this will sound familiar to anyone who’s spent time on the internet over the last few months. Twitter is littered with clickbait threads unlocking “the power of ChatGPT”; YouTube has a similar glut of videos promising users to turn them into entrepreneurs with ChatGPT, and there are entire blogs and sites dedicated to sharing the best GPT prompts.
And all this might seem as incongruous to us in a few years as the “Learn how to Google” books feel today. Google managed to become so intuitive and easy to use that it never required any books to use it. ChatGPT is already quite sophisticated, but it’s possible that as the models become even better, it might not require detailed instructions on how to use them. But the fact that these “How-To” guides have mushroomed around ChatGPT do hint at one thing — ChatGPT appears to be on the same trajectory as where Google was in its early days, and that’s some pretty rarefied space to occupy for OpenAI.