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OpenAI first announced third-party software application plug-ins for its hit service ChatGPT back in March, allowing users to extend its functionality to doing things like reading full PDFs. This week, the company said that it is taking one of its own in-house plug-ins, Code Interpreter, and making it available to all of its ChatGPT Plus subscribers.
Code Interpreter “lets ChatGPT run code, optionally with access to files you’ve uploaded,” an OpenAI spokesperson wrote on the company’s continuously updated ChatGPT release notes blog. “You can ask ChatGPT to analyze data, create charts, edit files, perform math, etc.”
With a wide-ranging toolbox and a large memory, the AI can write code in Python and manipulate files up to 100MB in size.
Code Interpreter allows ChatGPT Plus users to generate charts, maps, data visualizations and graphics, analyze music playlists, create interactive HTML files, clean datasets and extract color palettes from images. The interpreter unlocks a myriad of capabilities, making it a powerful tool for data visualization, analysis and manipulation.
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Little wonder, then, that the early reactions from ChatGPT power users and tech influencers are resoundingly positive.
New powers, unlocked
Linas Beliūnas, Europe country manager and Lithuania GM of Flutterwave wrote a review on his LinkedIn: “OpenAI is unlocking their most powerful feature since GPT-4 to everyone. Anyone can be a data analyst now.”
Beliūnas helpfully included a slideshow on his post showing 10 examples of new data visualization and analysis tasks he was able to produce with ChatGPT using Code Interpreter, including creating an interactive HTML “heatmap” of UFO sightings from around the U.S. using only an “unpolished dataset.”
Ethan Mollick, an associate professor at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and prominent AI influencer, wrote on his Substack newsletter “One Useful Thing,” that ChatGPT with Code Interpreter is “the single most useful, interesting mode of AI I have used.”
Mollick wrote that Code Interpreter “makes the AI much more versatile,” and can provide structured data to back up points a user might wish to make: “For example, I asked it to prove to a doubter that the Earth is round with code, and it provided multiple arguments, integrating the text with code and images.”
Countering user grumblings
Another example Mollick showed off was in downloading a public list of superheroes and their powers and asking ChatGPT with Code Interpreter on to analyze them.
“When asked about the results of the network analysis, it came to interesting conclusions: The set of powers that heroes commonly had were visual in nature (because they were from comic books), fit certain archetypes and were best suited to building continuing adventures,” Mollick wrote.
The new use cases should also help OpenAI to counter the growing rumblings from some users, particularly those who participate in the ChatGPT and AI Reddit subreddits, who have observed that ChatGPT is becoming more restricted and less capable over time, prohibiting certain conversation topics and lines of inquiry.
Safety first (and continuously)
Safety remains the focal point of Code Interpreter’s design. The primary aim is to ensure that AI-generated code does not lead to any unforeseen repercussions in the real world. As users explore and discover novel applications, OpenAI plans to continue refining safety protocols based on the knowledge gained from this beta version.
One of the most intriguing applications of Code Interpreter is in data science, where it has been described as operating at an “advanced level.” It can automate complex quantitative analyses, merge and clean data and even reason about data in a human-like manner. The AI can produce visualizations and dashboards, which users can then refine and customize simply by conversing with the AI. Its ability to create downloadable outputs adds another layer of usability to Code Interpreter.
Mollick said the tool offers the strongest case yet for AI as a valuable companion in sophisticated knowledge work. While human oversight remains crucial, the new feature reduces the rote work, enabling more meaningful, in-depth work.
“Code Interpreter represents the clearest positive vision so far of what AIs can mean for work: Disruption, yes, but disruption that leads to better, more meaningful work,” said Mollick.
Code Interpreter is clearly setting a new standard for the future of AI and data science. With this tool, OpenAI is pushing the boundaries of ChatGPT and large language models (LLMs) generally yet again.
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