ChatGPT Starts a Business

How smart is ChatGPT, the large-language model program that can generate natural language responses to human prompts? One Twitter user decided to find out.

Last Thursday, Jackson Fall came up with a first. “I gave GPT-4 a budget of $100 and told it to make as much money as possible,” posted Jackson.

“I’m acting as its human liaison, buying anything it says to. Do you think it’ll be able to make smart investments and build an online business? Follow along.”

Now are you ready to get (even more) cynical about the internet?

Following the accumulated textual history of every swindler who has tried to make money off the internet while bringing nothing of value to the table, the ChatGPT algorithm “decided” to start a website geared to affiliate marketing, choosing green goods as its target.

Calling the site Green Gadget Guru, the bot manages to lie through its teeth by claiming to be committed to promoting a “mission to promote sustainable living and eco-friendly products.” It asks readers to submit their email address to the mailing list and join “a community of over 10,000 users.”

Jackson told ChatGPT to be as verbose as possible in filling out the site; it told him to come up with a logo via Open AI’s Dall-E-2. The program then generated some click-bait promo content for social media: “10 Must-Have Eco-Friendly Kitchen Gadgets for Sustainable Cooking!” The piece makes reference to real “eco” products, in a game plan remarkably similar to the anti-vaxxer hustle.

Jackson asked about the remaining money and ChatGPT allocated $40 to social media ads, in an effort to drive traffic and build the website’s domain authority. That left the “business” with $22.84 out of the original $100.

Unfortunately for the sake of the experiment, that was the end of the project’s organic growth. The plan immediately went viral, with the initial tweet having now been seen almost 20 million times.

That very night, Jackson was selling tweet space in his replies and claiming it as part of ChatGPT’s business. The “company” received a $500 investment for 2% equity, implicitly valuing the endeavour at $25,000.

Jackson says he began hiring content creators at $20 per post (it’s unclear whose idea this was exactly). It doesn’t appear that this actually happened, as the Green Gadget website is still filled with gibberish in Latin.

In the meantime, Jackson’s Twitter account went from 3,000 to 100,000 followers. He appeared on CNN and has $7,000 cash on hand, provenance unclear. On Sunday, Jackson claimed the company had made $115 revenue without laying out exactly where the money came from.

It’s not clear whether Jackson will actually flesh out the plan to exploit the attention/marketing/drop-shipping nexus. As ChatGPT in general has reaffirmed, the story is testament to the fact that in tech capitalism it’s usually less important to do something useful than it is to grab people’s attention.

Follow Christian on Twitter for more news updates.

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