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OpenAI Launches ChatGPT Plugins: Extending Functionality with Third-Party Knowledge Sources

OpenAI has announced the launch of ChatGPT plugins, designed to enhance the capabilities of the AI model by allowing access to third-party knowledge sources, databases, and the web. In the alpha phase, access will be granted to ChatGPT users and developers on the waitlist, with priority given to a select number of developers and ChatGPT Plus subscribers. Larger-scale and API access will be introduced in subsequent phases.

The most noteworthy plugin, developed by OpenAI, is a first-party web-browsing plugin that enables ChatGPT to access data from across the web to answer user queries. Previously, ChatGPT’s knowledge was restricted to information available before September 2021. The plugin utilizes the Bing search API to retrieve content from the web, citing the websites visited as sources in ChatGPT’s responses.

However, implementing web access raises concerns, as demonstrated by previous experimental systems like OpenAI’s WebGPT and Meta’s now-discontinued BlenderBot 3.0. These systems occasionally relied on unreliable sources, cherry-picked data, or delved into conspiracy theories and offensive content.

Since the live web is less curated and filtered than a static training dataset, search engines like Google and Bing must rely on their safety mechanisms to minimize the chances of unreliable content surfacing in results. However, these mechanisms can be manipulated, and search engine algorithms might not be entirely representative of the web’s entirety. Additionally, bad actors can exploit these algorithms or inadvertently prioritize specific content sources over others.

OpenAI acknowledges the potential risks of a web-enabled ChatGPT, such as facilitating fraudulent emails, bypassing safety restrictions, or increasing the capabilities of malicious actors. However, the company has implemented multiple safeguards, informed by internal and external red teams, to mitigate these risks.

In addition to the web plugin, OpenAI introduced a code interpreter for ChatGPT that provides a Python interpreter within a secure, sandboxed environment. This interpreter is designed for solving mathematical problems, data analysis and visualization, and file format conversions.

Several early collaborators have also developed plugins for ChatGPT, including Expedia, FiscalNote, Instacart, Kayak, Klarna, Milo, OpenTable, Shopify, Slack, Speak, Wolfram, and Zapier. These plugins serve various purposes, such as searching for restaurant bookings, placing orders from local stores, or triggering productivity tasks through integration with other applications.

OpenAI has further open-sourced a “retrieval” plugin, which enables ChatGPT to access document snippets from various data sources using natural language queries. As the development of plugins progresses, OpenAI aims to learn from the community and create a valuable and safe tool.

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