TL;DR: I used chatGPT in some form of Socratic dialogue to aid in understanding a text I was reading. Transcript
Yes, AI is over-hyped and not actually (yet) capable of what many people claim it can do—or what people are already using it for. The best advice I've heard goes “Treat it like a younger version of yourself or an assistant. Let it do busy-work which you could also do yourself and don't trust it blindly.”
Today I was reading this text about “Hyperrealism” for fun and—with no formal background in philosophy—I was having real trouble understanding it. So I turned to chatGPT. I had previously asked chatGPT and Perplexity to explain Hyperrealism and give examples with limited success (especially since I couldn't really verify what they were coming up with).
Instead I wanted to work on the basis of the text I had trouble with. Here's the full transcript if you want to read it yourself.
I start by pasting the full section that contained the part that gave me trouble. I lay out what specifically I'm having trouble with and make an attempt at answering my own question.1 I then explicitly ask for feedback. After chatGPT's answer I again take great effort to put it into my own words and come up with examples. When I feel like I've finally grasped it I again quote the relevant part of the original text (to refresh chatGPT's memory) and give my full understanding. I then ask for a rating 1-5 and feedback. After chatGPT reiterates a point that I had already found suspicious earlier, I explain my different understanding and ask chatGPT “Do you not agree?”. I think I should've gone with “Why do you think differently?” instead to not prime the answer too much. After having worked through all my issues to my satisfaction I give a creative prompt “Can you give me 5 bullet pointed questions that could broaden my understanding?” They weren't all great, but that's why I asked for five. I gave them some thought and got some quick feedback, again asking for a 1-5 rating and some feedback.
I'd recommend using chatGPT to aid understanding texts that are slightly above your reading level. And here's what works for me:
- Provide the original text
- Start off with your own understanding
- Make gaps in your understanding explicit and ask questions
- Ask for 1-5 ratings in specific categories (accuracy, completeness)
- Ask to have these ratings followed up by reasons (flaws, missing information)
- Do all of the above in one message. Few longer prompts work better than many short ones
- Based on the feedback (and your own thinking!!) revise your summary/example
- OR: Explain why you disagree and ask chatGPT how it came to its conclusion
- Do this until you feel like you grasp the original text (re-read it, don't follow chatGPT too far off the beaten path)
- Longer conversations make chatGPT more prone to hallucinations, so start a new conversation if the current one is getting too long