How good is ChatGPT? Does it threaten the existence of journalists worldwide, or is it merely a slightly smarter version of Google?
When ChatGPT started to gain traction in the news, my colleague asked me, albeit tongue-in-cheek, if I was concerned about my future as a financial journalist.
Afterall, ChatGPT was gaining renown for assisting high school students in cheating on exam papers and essays. It was fabled to produce wholesome written articles out of minimal prompts.
To be honest, I was initially rather blasé about the whole thing. Since I started working professionally as a journalist in 2001, I’ve heard nothing but doom and gloom about the profession.
Media has been predicted to die over and over again. Yet, the demand for content has only increased since I started working.
But as a journalist, I’m also aware of my professional deficiency: a tendency to resort to cynicism as a first response to new information. And so I decided to play around with ChatGPT and see how it would deal with industry-related queries.
First I asked: ‘Write an 800 essay on superannuation funds in Australia’.
Note that in my haste I forgot to write the ‘word’, so it gave me 450 words instead of 800.
This is what Chat GPT wrote:
Superannuation is the Australian term for retirement savings. It refers to a system of mandatory contributions from employers and employees, which is invested to provide a retirement income for individuals. In Australia, superannuation funds play a crucial role in ensuring that individuals have sufficient savings for their retirement.
Superannuation was introduced in Australia in the early 1990s and has since become a cornerstone of the country’s retirement income system. All employers are required to contribute 9.5 per cent of their employees’ salaries into a superannuation fund on their behalf, and employees may also choose to make additional contributions. This money is invested and managed by a variety of superannuation funds, which are regulated by the Australian government.
There are several types of superannuation funds in Australia, including industry funds, retail funds, and self-managed super funds (SMSFs). Industry funds are established by particular industries and are designed to provide benefits to employees working within those industries. Retail funds, on the other hand, are run by financial institutions and are available to all employees. SMSFs are funds that are managed by individuals for their own benefit, and are subject to strict regulations.
One of the key advantages of superannuation funds in Australia is that they offer tax benefits to both employers and employees. Contributions made to superannuation funds are taxed at a lower rate than other forms of income, and the earnings generated by the funds are also taxed at a lower rate. This makes superannuation an attractive option for retirement savings, as it allows individuals to build up their retirement nest egg more quickly.
Superannuation funds in Australia also provide a wide range of investment options, including shares, bonds, property, and cash. This allows individuals to diversify their retirement savings and reduce the risk of their investments. The fund management also means that individuals do not have to be experts in investment to ensure their savings grow.
However, it is important for individuals to choose the right superannuation fund for their needs. This means considering factors such as fees, performance, investment options, and insurance cover. Individuals should also regularly review their superannuation to ensure that it remains appropriate for their needs, especially if their circumstances change.
In conclusion, superannuation funds in Australia play a crucial role in ensuring that individuals have sufficient savings for their retirement. The system of mandatory contributions and the tax benefits offered by superannuation funds make it an attractive option for retirement savings. It is important for individuals to choose the right superannuation fund for their needs and to regularly review their savings to ensure that they are on track for a comfortable retirement.
Note that it has the contribution rate wrong. The 9.5 per cent was the rate until 30 June 2021. It has since increased twice to 10.5 per cent. To be fair, ChatGPT does state that one of its limitations is that it has limited knowledge of events after 2021, so you can make the case that you need to update the numbers for any changes since then.
After correcting my query to write an 800 word article, I got slightly more, but at 641 words still not what I asked for. It also stopped mid-sentence. Weird.
What about the content? It is largely high-school level English and is rather broad in nature. “Superannuation was introduced in the early 1990s.” When exactly? My first lesson as a journalist was to always be specific.
It is also boring. Not only because it is not specific, but also because it lacks examples. A key technique of journalists is to start with anecdotes, or real-life examples to engage the reader and make a story come to life. There is nothing in this text that engages the reader.
I mentioned my findings to Micheal Kollo, an investment professional and artificial intelligence enthusiast, who has been conducting his own research into ChatGPT. He suggested taking a dose of my own medicine and be more specific in my query to the program.
If I wanted a journalistic style article with examples, then ask for that.
So I did just that.
The generated article was definitely better, but more akin to an explanation of the superannuation system that you would find on ASIC’s Money Smart website, rather than a feature article in the Sydney Morning Herald.
But let’s delve a little deeper into this AI engine. What if we asked it to explain the investment strategy of a super fund such as CBus? We then get the following text:
CBus is an Australian superannuation fund that provides investment options for people working in the building and construction industry. CBus operates as an industry superannuation fund, which means that it is designed specifically for people working in the building and construction industry.
The investment strategy of CBus is focused on delivering long-term investment returns for members. CBus aims to achieve this through a combination of investment in growth assets such as shares and property, as well as income-producing assets such as bonds and cash. The fund also invests in a range of alternative investments, such as infrastructure and private equity, which can help to diversify the investment portfolio and reduce the overall risk of the fund.
CBus has a number of different investment options that are designed to suit the needs and preferences of different members. For example, members can choose to invest in a balanced option, which provides a balance between growth and income, or a growth option, which is focused on maximizing returns over the long term. Members can also choose to invest in a sustainable option, which invests in companies that have a positive impact on the environment and society, or a cash option, which provides a low-risk investment option for members who are closer to retirement.
CBus uses a number of different investment techniques to manage its portfolio, including passive and active investment strategies. Passive investment strategies involve investing in index funds, which track a particular market index, while active investment strategies involve actively managing the investment portfolio to achieve better returns. CBus uses both of these techniques to manage its portfolio, depending on the investment goals and risk tolerance of its members.
In addition to its investment options and strategies, CBus also provides a range of benefits and services to its members. For example, members can access financial advice and education services, as well as insurance options, to help them manage their finances and protect their retirement savings. CBus also provides a range of online tools and resources to help members manage their investments and stay informed about their investment portfolio.
In conclusion, the investment strategy of CBus is focused on delivering long-term investment returns for its members, through a combination of growth and income-producing assets. The fund provides a range of investment options and strategies to suit the needs and preferences of different members, and offers a range of benefits and services to help members manage their finances and protect their retirement savings.
Interesting, but what does it do here? The first paragraph is a short description of CBus, it makes the distinction that it is an industry fund and that it is specific to the building and construction industry. So far so good.
Then follows an explanation of the investment strategy that is so generic it could apply to any industry fund in Australia. Just change the first paragraph with a short bio of another fund and you pretty much can substitute the description for any fund.
You can also start to see that the articles are rather formulaic in nature. Every one of them seems to end with ‘In conclusion’.
As a replacement tool for journalists and content providers, I doubt that ChatGPT will be much of a threat. It is boring, sits on the fence most of the time and fails to provide specific answers. The content it produces is pretty much the equivalent to the advice you expect to receive from a not overly talented corporate lawyer.
But maybe I’m looking for the wrong results. ChatGPT might not be much of a writer, but it is rather handy as a provider of elaborate definitions. If we come to think of it as an alternative to Google, it becomes more interesting.
For example, consider this answer to the question of what risk parity is:
Risk parity is an investment strategy that aims to distribute risk equally across different assets in a portfolio. This is done by allocating weights to assets based on their relative riskiness, rather than their expected returns. The goal of risk parity is to achieve a more balanced and diversified portfolio, with lower overall portfolio risk and higher risk-adjusted returns. The strategy involves adjusting portfolio weights to maintain roughly equal contributions to portfolio risk from each asset class, typically through the use of leverage.
Most of the time when we google something, we don’t require an in-depth study of the topic matter. We simply want a quick overview or definition of the relevant subject.
For this it can be really useful.
Let’s take another example. If I’m reading an article that references the book “This Time is Different” by Reinhart & Rogoff, then I don’t necessarily want to read this 461-page tome before continuing the story.
But I can ask ChatGPT to summarise it for me:
“This Time is Different: Eight Centuries of Financial Folly” is a book by economists Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff that provides a comprehensive study of financial crises throughout history. The authors examine over 800 years of financial history and find that despite the unique aspects of each crisis, there are common patterns in their causes, such as excessive borrowing, rising debt, and economic imbalances. The book argues that such financial crises are not a rare phenomenon, but are in fact a recurrent event and highlights the danger of assuming that each crisis is “different” and therefore not susceptible to historical analysis. The book serves as a cautionary tale for policymakers and financial markets, warning that without sufficient preparation and regulation, history is likely to repeat itself.
It won’t give me the insights that reading the book itself will provide, but as a short summary that will place the book in the context of discussions about crises, it will do nicely.
But even when using ChatGPT as a form of encyclopaedia, one needs to be careful not to put too much faith in this tool.
It does get things wrong and, worse, sometimes it just makes things up as it goes along.
Consider the following question: What is the Investment Innovation Institute?
The Investment Innovation Institute (i3) is a non-profit organization that focuses on promoting innovation in the investment industry. It provides research, education, and advocacy for the development and implementation of new investment technologies, products, and practices. The organization works to improve the investment industry by advancing knowledge and understanding of new investment strategies, techniques and methods.
This is complete drivel. The answer seems to be based on the question rather than on a knowledge of the organisation. We are a for-profit, conference and media company with an educational focus.
Yes, we aim to challenge traditional paradigms in institutional investing and inspire new thinking, but claiming to provide research for the implementation of new investment technologies is a few bridges too far.
And I’ve checked whether there are multiple i3s, there are not.
So Chatter beware.
[i3] Insights is the official educational bulletin of the Investment Innovation Institute [i3]. It covers major trends and innovations in institutional investing, providing independent and thought-provoking content about pension funds, insurance companies and sovereign wealth funds across the globe.