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Microsoft could bring Clippy back, but they make it smart

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Microsoft confirmed this week that it plans to invest billions in OpenAI, the company behind the viral new chatbot tool ChatGPT.

The prospect of Microsoft, which makes software that people mostly hate, getting involved with ChatGPT, a product that people generally love, raises a lot of eyebrows.

Almost immediately, people started joking on social media that ChatGPT could be used to resurrect the wide-eyed idiot known as Clippy.

In case anyone forgot, Clippy was Microsoft’s stupid little virtual assistant that used to pop up to help you format your article in English. Klipe was cute, like a cartoon dog, and had an intelligence to match.

Perhaps the really impressive technology underlying ChatGPT can do what Clippy never could, like actually help, rather than just popping up without warning with that mysterious half-surprised look on its face.

My colleague Samantha Murphy-Kelly spoke to AI experts about a potential Microsoft-ChatGPT partnership.

“There is a kernel of truth in the Clippy comparison,” David Lubina, an AI analyst at ABI Research, told Sam. “ChatGPT is a fairly advanced autocomplete tool, and in that sense it’s a much better version of Clippy.”

ICYMI: Since November, ChatGPT has aroused both admiration and awe in pretty much everyone whose work is focused on creating or evaluating content—journalists, academics, educators, publishers, artists, and anyone who composes emails or provides information.

This bot does it all – songs, poems, essays, news stories, 1920s style news stories, Virginia Woolf stream-of-consciousness style news stories, whatever your heart desires. He can write stupid emails for you. He can craft a letter. your wedding vows. Cover letter for a job application.

This power of artificial intelligence is, understandably, an interesting proposition for Microsoft, which makes some of the most despised and widespread programs in the world like Outlook, Word, and Excel.

Per Sam:

Some potential use cases include writing lines of text for a PowerPoint presentation, writing a draft of an article in Word or doing automatic data entry in Excel spreadsheets. For Microsoft’s Bing search engine, ChatGPT can provide more personalized search results and better summarization of web pages.

All of the above suggestions were generated by asking various ChatGPT questions, “How can Microsoft integrate ChatGPT into their products?”

Argh, Samantha, you idiots!

In any case, Microsoft has not publicly provided any clues about its plans other than saying that it will integrate ChatGPT features into its cloud computing service.

Even without the details, it’s interesting that Microsoft, Silicon Valley’s equivalent of a boomerang, is suddenly leading the Big Tech AI race. Google is said to have been surprised by, and excited by, the Microsoft-OpenAI partnership some frustration To head meta for artificial intelligence.

Of course, AI technology is still young, unreliable, and riddled with ethical quandaries.

“Systems like ChatGPT can be a bit unreliable, making things up as they go and giving different answers to the same questions — not to mention sexist and racist biases,” says Lupina.

Which raises the possibility that there is an anthropomorphic paperclip assistant who can really help you but is also as problematic and biased as the internet stuff their brain is built from.

Amazon is creeping deeper into our personal lives, for better or worse.

The company—already keeping up with the constant demand for dog toys, refreshments, running socks, and even forcing you semi-annual to re-watch every episode of Fleabag in one sitting—just got even more special with its latest offering.

See here: Amazon just launched a $5-a-month subscription service that offers 60 generic prescriptions for dozens of common conditions, including high blood pressure, anxiety, depression, and hair loss.

The new delivery service, RxPass, launched this week across much of the US (a few states, including California and Texas, were left out because they have unique prescription delivery requirements).

For people on many medications, this could be a game-changer. The idea is that for just five bucks a month, you can get all the drugs you need (the generic versions, anyway). That’s five dollars total, not the five dollars plus cost of the drug. It’s a flat rate, no matter how many prescriptions you have.

catch? RxPass is an add-on to Amazon Prime membership, which costs $139 per year. So, if you’re not already on the Prime train, this might seem a little steep. Also, people on state health plans such as Medicare and Medicaid are not eligible.

Amazon has been moving steadily in healthcare, minus a few missteps (we’re looking at you, Amazon Care), for years. It launched an online pharmacy in 2020 and is in the process of being acquired by One Medical, a primary care provider.

Bottom line: For Amazon, this program is almost certainly a hit, analysts say. But it’s a smart idea for a company whose value lies in the fact that consumers are hooked on it. If RxPass works, and we all start getting our dog food and antidepressants in the same box every month, it will be right, both literally and figuratively.

My colleague Nathaniel Myerson has more.

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