6 ways ChatGPT is actually useful right now

Cheating on your essays isn't one of them.
Close up to a screen showing the home page of ChatGPT
Yes, ChatGPT is fun, but it can also be incredibly useful. Jonathan Kemper / Unsplash

It’s been difficult to get away from ChatGPT lately. The advanced artificial intelligence chatbot has been trying its hand at writing emails and even books, and Microsoft has added a customized (and rather controversial) version of it to its Bing search engine.

It’s not difficult to see what all the fuss is about if you try it out for yourself. You can engage the bot in conversation on just about any topic, and it will respond with coherent, human-like answers by using its text prediction technology.

Once you’ve played around with it, you might wonder if there’s actually any real use to ChatGPT—other than ethically dubious purposes, like cheating on essays. But there are already a lot of ways it can help you day to day.

1. Learn to code

ChatGPT is an impressive coder, no doubt thanks to the reams of code that it’s sucked up during training. While human programmers still have the edge, ChatGPT can be really handy if you want to learn languages such as HTML, CSS, Python, JavaScript, or Swift.

[Related: No, the AI chatbots (still) aren’t sentient]

Just ask ChatGPT to give you the code for a specific functionality, like “write the HTML to center an image,” and that’s what you’ll get back. It’s that simple. You can also use the bot as a debugging tool by copying and pasting lines of code into it and asking it why they’re not working. If you need clarification on anything, just ask.

2. Find ideas for activities

One way to sidestep any ChatGPT inaccuracies is to ask it for suggestions rather than hard facts. For example, you could request ideas for games for toddlers, outdoor activities for adults, or fun ways to pass the time on a long car journey.

If ChatGPT’s suggestions aren’t suitable, you can get the bot to refine them. Ask for games that need less preparation or don’t take as long to play. You can also request ideas for activities you can do in any kind of weather or that people of any age can enjoy. The bot won’t get tired of throwing out more recommendations.

3. Prepare for an interview

ChatGPT doesn’t know for sure what questions might come your way at your next job interview, but it can give you some kind of idea of what to expect and help you prepare. We wouldn’t rely on it entirely for interview prep, but it can certainly help.

The more specific you can be about the type of job you’re going for and the format of the interview, the better. Type in something like “questions asked at face-to-face customer service jobs,” for example. While there’s no guarantee that ChatGPT will get it exactly right, it will be able to draw on its training to make some decent guesses.

4. Generate writing prompts

As you would expect from publications like Popular Science, we think there’s plenty of life left in human authors before AI takes over. The text that ChatGPT produces is no doubt groundbreaking, but also tends to be rather generic and repetitive, as you would expect from a large-scale autocorrect machine.

However, the bot can be great at giving you prompts for writing ideas, which you can then work on yourself. Ask it about character or scenario prompts, for example, or get its thoughts on what might happen next in a certain situation. This can work for any kind of writing, from a novel to a wedding speech. It may not be able to write as well as you, but it can help you brainstorm

5. Get music, TV, and movie recommendations

The version of ChatGPT that’s available to the public only has information up to 2021, but with that limitation in mind you can ask it about movies, TV shows, and music that’s similar to stuff you already like. The answers can be hit or miss, but they might be good options to explore.

You can also ask ChatGPT about obscure and little-known songs by your favorite bands that are worth discovering. We tested the platform by asking about the works of R.E.M. and it came up with a really good and appropriate answer (the song “Camera”), before proceeding to give us incorrect information about the track length and style. That’s ChatGPT in a nutshell.

6. Ask for advice

ChatGPT doesn’t know or think anything, really, but it has absorbed a vast trove of information from human writers (some say in violation of copyright law). That means you can ask it for advice on anything from long-distance relationships, to moving houses, to starting a business.

[Related: Building ChatGPT’s AI content filters devastated workers’ mental health, according to new report]

Obviously, ChatGPT won’t know the intricacies of your own situation, but it can generate a list of considerations to weigh up, some of which you might not otherwise have thought about. We wouldn’t recommend living your life entirely based on ChatGPT’s opinions, but it can still be helpful if you don’t know where to start tackling a particular problem.