Duc Luan, president of an AI-lover student group, receives hundreds of requests for help setting up ChatGPT accounts each day.
Luan provides the service to strangers for a small fee, and to friends for free.
The artificial intelligence (AI) app chats with users as though it were a human being with the ability to apply encyclopedic knowledge in a variety of ways.
More than one million people around the globe signed up for the app during the first week of its release in early December of last year.
The AI-based chatbot became highly sought-after in Vietnam shortly thereafter.
Luan said he received about 300 requests to create accounts with the chatbot in December.
By mid-January, ChatGPT had taken the world by storm and the number of global users had skyrocketed.
ChatGPT had signed up 10 million subscribers across the world 40 days after its launch.
According to Google Trends statistics over the past three days, “ChatGPT” and “OpenAI” (the U.S. startup that created ChatGPT) have been two of the most searched keywords in Vietnam.
Luan said the number of account set up requests he received last month increased five times compared to a month earlier.
“There are hundreds of requests a day,” he said, even though many other people and groups are providing the same service.
“This is a good sign when AI is getting closer to life,” he said.
ChatGPT was developed and “trained” by OpenAI to give provide answers to questions as though users were in a conversation with a real person.
Although ChatGPT works for free, users need an account on the OpenAI platform.
However, OpenAI has not made ChatGPT accounts officially available in Vietnam.
So users in the country who want to experience the AI app must use a virtual private network (VPN), buy a foreign phone number and use an international payment card to register, or buy an account from someone else.
That’s where Luan comes in: to help people through the complicated process of getting accounts set up stealthily in Vietnam.
Additionally, some members of online technology groups are sharing lists of OpenAI accounts for everyone to use.
Leasing or buying ChatGPT accounts has also become extremely popular in Vietnam.
People are now regularly buying accounts for prices ranging around VND20,000-150,000 ($0.8-6.4).
Minh Phong, an office clerk in Ho Chi Minh City, said he’s become “addicted” to the AI app ever since he bought an account.
“Most of the time I use ChatGPT as a friend to chat with and consult with about everything in the world,” he said. “When I get a funny or insightful answer, I take a photo to show it off.”
Some people ask ChatGPT to write stories or poems, or do homework. And in many cases, it does the job well.
Phong said the number of ChatGPT users is so large that the system often gets overloaded and answers are delayed or cancelled due to network errors.
Experts attributed the success of ChatGPT to the fact that this is the first time a powerful AI tool has been fully released into the community, instead of just via limited testing phases.
“ChatGPT has created great interest because for the first time there has been a widely introduced application of AI that is very close to human intelligence,” said Dang Minh Tuan, director of the Ho Chi Minh City Institute of Science and Technology.
According to Tuan, ChatGPT’s most attractive quality is not its ability to answer a variety of knowledge-based questions, but it’s ability to create on-demand content such as movie scripts and computer programming.
However, new AI tools like ChatGPT are all two-sided coins, he said.
On the positive side, users can leverage AI to attain knowledge.
AI can help save time by quickly answering questions, straight to the point, instead of other tools like Google, which give a list of links that users then have to cull themselves.
On the other hand, AI often provides incorrect answers to questions and problems, which can make it a very dangerous tool.
“ChatGPT is just a language model, so it can answer questions correctly or incorrectly. There are no sources to prove the given results,” Tuan said.
In addition, in conversation, ChatGPT does not understand context or users’ feelings, so it may respond inappropriately and adversely affect user experiences.
According to Tuan, the power of an AI app like ChatGPT is immense, so users should use it appropriately, responsibly and with purpose.
They should consider ChatGPT a reference resource only, for the purpose of learning or finding information, not as an absolute source of information. They should not use it to make decisions and take actions that have impact on others, he said.
“At the same time, it is necessary to be careful with information that is controversial or harmful to individuals or organizations.”
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