Traing Tips for Ships - Tip #45: Is it ‘Real’ or is it … (Part II)

March 13, 2023

Copyright Alexandr Vasilyev/AdobeStock
Copyright Alexandr Vasilyev/AdobeStock

Is the “old” way of generating maritime training content about to be disrupted? Are we witnessing the beginning of a sea change in the creation of training content and potentially in how trainees interact with that content?

In the previous edition of Training Tips for Ships, we introduced ChatGPT and discussed its potential uses and limitations in a maritime training capacity. In fact, as was revealed near the end, most of that article was written by ChatGPT itself - providing evidence of its ability to generate content. In this article, we will use it to provide examples of the kind of training content it could deliver.

As a reminder - what is ChatGPT? If you ask it to describe itself, it might tell you the following (as it told me): ChatGPT is a large language model created by OpenAI. It uses advanced machine learning algorithms to understand natural language and generate human-like responses to text-based input. ChatGPT can be used for a variety of applications, such as answering questions, generating text, and even holding conversations. With its sophisticated language processing capabilities, ChatGPT is a powerful tool for communication and information retrieval.

This last part is important. ChatGPT retrieves information and assembles it into a useful form. It does not create information. It is not intelligent. So, its correctness depends on the correctness and applicable retrieval of the information it has learned from. Since the sources can be flawed as can its choice of material to draw upon, the information it provides can be flawed or incomplete. This brings us to our first point: any information provided by ChatGPT *must* be vetted by a knowledgeable human before it is relied upon. This is critically important in a training context for safety critical operations. Having said that, it is still a very valuable tool. Let’s try a short example.

I have asked ChatGPT the following question: “Briefly list the five most important considerations before entering a confined space”. Its unedited response is as follows:

Sure, here's a brief list of the five most important considerations before entering a confined space:

  1. Evaluate the atmospheric conditions
  2. Identify entry and exit points
  3. Establish communication protocols
  4. Ensure proper personal protective equipment (PPE)
  5. Develop and implement an emergency response plan

I then asked it to elaborate on the requirement to evaluate the atmospheric conditions in 100 words or fewer. It responded:

Before entering a confined space, it is critical to evaluate the atmospheric conditions to ensure that they are safe for personnel to enter. Confined spaces may contain hazardous atmospheres, such as toxic gases, fumes, vapors, or low oxygen levels, which can lead to serious injury or death. To evaluate the atmospheric conditions, a competent person should use appropriate testing equipment to measure the levels of these potential hazards. If any hazardous conditions are detected, they must be addressed and controlled before entry. Only after a proper evaluation and control measures have been implemented can personnel enter the confined space safely. Evaluating the atmospheric conditions is a critical step in ensuring the safety of personnel who are required to work in confined spaces.

Most would agree that these are reasonable responses. Given constraints on space, I am specifically asking ChatGPT for short responses and thus the “training” is superficial. But if you try it yourself and allow it more freedom in the responses, I think you’ll be impressed with the value of what it produces.

So, as a tool to scour the domain of available information and present it in a way that is useful (but requires oversight), it clearly has utility. Now it is up to experts in maritime training to construct novel (yet safe) ways of using it to help build content with far far less effort than before. For that, ChatGPT will be a game changer.

So, is the “old” way of generating maritime training content about to be disrupted? Are we witnessing the beginning of a sea change in the creation of training content and potentially in how trainees interact with that content? I’d say yes. Maybe not overnight, but the tide is coming in. Head over to the ChatGPT website and give it a go. It is fascinating.

Until next time, thank you for reading and sail safely.

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