ChatGPT is No Health Expert
A calculator is a fantastic tool. However, it’s really sort of worthless unless you understand how to do the math in the first place. The numbers you get ultimately mean nothing unless you understand what you are either typing in or expecting to get out. This means that you need to know something about what you are doing if you are going to use such an advanced tool to any real benefit. Well, the same is true for AI systems such as ChatGPT.
Just like a calculator, when using a tool like ChatGPT, it’s essential to understand what you’re looking for or writing about. No matter how amazing such tools may seem, we must remember that ChatGPT is a machine that has been trained on specific sets of text data. That does not mean it has all the answers. Like any tool, its real usefulness depends on you and how you use it.
First and foremost, it’s important to understand the limitations of ChatGPT. While seemingly advanced, it has several inherent flaws. For example, the bias of the programmers begins this conversation. What are the texts used to train the AI system? What texts were left out? A few more examples include the idea that ChatGPT is still just a machine and it doesn’t have the same understanding of language, context, and inference that a human does. It also lacks essential intuition.
The worst part is that it cannot and does not always provide accurate or nuanced information. Yes, it can be incredibly helpful and insightful. But again, it is imperative that you know what you’re talking about and what you’re trying to accomplish before using the tool. This is especially true when it comes to health.
I say it all the time. We must appeal to accuracy. Well, you need to understand that ChatGPT will provide what its programmers decided was correct. This also means that sometimes something important can be missed or prioritized incorrectly.
What follows is a brief conversation between myself and ChatGPT. I believe that it demonstrates the point. Review the discussion and then imagine what might happen if I did not have the necessary understanding. Worse yet, imagine that I was writing a paper or working with a client and relying on its suggestions.
Dr. David Robertson
Query: citric acid utilization in the human body
Citric acid is primarily used in the food and beverage industry as a flavoring and preservative, especially in soft drinks. It is also used in medicine to treat and prevent low potassium levels in the blood and is often included in effervescent tablets that are dissolved in water and sipped slowly. However, citric acid is not typically used by the body in any significant way. It is not an essential nutrient, and there is no recommended daily intake for it.
Dr. David Robertson
Houston! We have a problem. You said, “it is not typically used by the body in any significant way.” Wouldn’t you agree that your statement is highly inaccurate, considering its role in the prostate?
You are correct, I apologize for the error in my previous response. Citric acid does have a significant role in the body and is produced and secreted by the prostate gland and is an important component of semen. It is believed to play a role in sperm motility and viability.
Outside of its role in the prostate, citric acid is not typically used by the body in significant amounts. However, it is still an important compound used in various industries and applications. For example, it is commonly used as a preservative and flavoring agent in food and beverages.
I hope this clarifies any confusion and provides a more accurate answer to your question.
Note how ChatGPT’s opinion on citric acid shifted quickly from “not typically used by the body in any significant way” to “citric acid does have a significant role in the body.” However, its follow-up was also inaccurate. While I called out its flaw or mistake regarding the role of citric acid in the human prostate, the truth is that citric acid plays several key roles in the body.
For clarity, the body produces citric acid naturally as part of the Krebs cycle, which is a series of chemical reactions that occur within cells to generate energy from nutrients such as glucose and fatty acids. In fact, it is eventually broken down and used to generate ATP, the body’s main energy source. Therefore, the primary use of citric acid is within the body’s metabolic pathways for energy production. I would say that is rather significant on numerous levels.
Of course, we could go further and discuss how citric acid is used to help kill harmful bacteria and help prevent infections; it helps control acid and pH levels in the urine and helps to prevent gout. It also aids in nurient absorption. Indirectly, we can say that ascorbic acid (vitamin C) is also found in citric acid, which the body uses a considerable amount of each day.
So, in this case, and in several ways, ChatGPT was considerably off the mark. Unfortunately, this is only one example out of several that I have discovered thus far. Had I not known what I was talking about, I might have believed the first response and left it at that. As you can see, you must have an idea of what you’re talking about if you’re going to use tools such as ChatGPT.
So, what can we learn from this, and how can we use ChatGPT effectively while also preventing a big mistake from happening? First, it’s important to understand what ChatGPT is good at and what it’s not so good at. ChatGPT is excellent for generating ideas, providing general information on a topic, or even writing drafts. However, it’s not a substitute for human knowledge and expertise. You still hold the responsibility to know what you’re talking about.
My advice is to resist the urge to use what ChaptGPT provides as your own ideas or knowledge. Consider how wrong it was in this instance. Now imagine what might happen if you tried to pass off its incorrect statements as facts.
If you are going to use ChatGPT for research or writing, I would urge that you use it as a starting point only, again, not blindly allowing it to write or make decisions for you. Yes, ChatGPT can provide a lot of information, but as I have demonstrated, you must remember that it’s not always accurate or complete, and you need to know about the topics you are asking it to help with. Be sure to personally edit and revise the text to ensure that it’s accurate and coherent.
Ultimately, using ChatGPT effectively requires some critical thinking and discernment. You should always consider the source of the information and evaluate it for accuracy and relevance. Double-check the work and see if it aligns with what you know or what your trusted experts suggest. Similarly, if you’re using ChatGPT to generate ideas or to provide basic information, be sure to consult other sources to verify and expand upon that information.
You might also like my article titled ChatGPT Just Changed Education