Mfon Akpan is an assistant professor of accounting at Methodist University. He is also an expert on ChatGPT and the host of the Understanding Accounting YouTube channel. We discuss using AI language models in business, how to ask smart questions on ChatGPT, and ways ChatGPT can supercharge your small business growth.
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Supercharge Your Expertise Using ChatGPT with Mfon Akpan
Our guest is Mfon Akpan, who is an Assistant Professor of Accounting at Methodist University in North Carolina, and he is also most recently an expert on ChatGPT. Mfon, welcome to the show.
Thank you, Steve. It’s my pleasure. I’m really excited to be here.
So I don’t know if you’re the first guest who is returning to the show or maybe one of two guests. I think you may be the first one, actually, to return to the show. So that’s pretty special. I don’t do that all the time, but because you are into ChatGPT so much, which is such a hot topic, plus your YouTube channel is exploding, I thought I’d bring you on and kind of pick your brains again.
Oh, well, thank you. I’m glad to be here.
I think you were with us a couple of years ago when the show was still relatively, maybe more than two years, maybe two and a half years ago. So anyway, so the last time we spoke since the last time your YouTube channel has been taking off in a big way. So tell me how did you get to start the YouTube channel and how have you made it a success?
Well, I initially started the YouTube channel, wow, way back. I can’t even tell you when, but it was initially started to provide videos for my classes. And that’s really the main purpose of the YouTube channel is to provide content for students and I started out just working out problems. Which you can imagine, not too many people are interested in looking at problems being worked out in Excel spreadsheets. And then really what started getting things going was collaboration. That’s really, really when things started happening, I started collaborating with other YouTube creators. And actually, well, actually, to lead up to it, when I was working at SCAD in Savannah, Georgia, I started around the pandemic.
So I guess this is another pandemic story. pandemic, I had quite a few, well all my courses were online and I would consistently make videos on different topics that were happening in business. And one of those videos where I talked about NFT music being released on as an NFT, and that video did very well and it caught the attention of a crypto youtuber and then he wanted to so that started relationship we started doing a collaboration of videos and that led to more collaborations and then from there it started picking up so I say the big key is collaborating and from that point I started consistently posting. You know, at this point I post twice a week.
I also started podcasting so I do the audio from the from the videos I post that as well. So just really getting the content out there. But I think the big thing is collaboration and consistency with the posting and what happens. And what I’ve seen is the more you do it, the better you get. I think that’s one of the key things. So the more that I’ve been doing it, the better I’ve been getting at it, the more efficient I’ve been getting at it, and the more I’m able to put into it and put out higher quality content.The more you do it, the better you get. Click To Tweet
So it’s over the content and becoming a master of the craft, so to say. And you have been becoming the master of another craft, which is ChatGPT. It is really going mainstream now. This morning I want to ask a question and I didn’t work because there were so many people using it. So for those of you not familiar with ChatGPT, it’s an AI, I don’t know what even to call it, an AI engine that is basically helping people get answers in a human, you know, in a way as if you ask the question to a human. So you get actually full sentences.
You’ve got a contextual answer and you can then ask follow up questions and you get you can get deeper into it. Some people talk about prompt engineering being a thing. So so even since we spoke maybe three or four weeks ago on the pre interview, I read a couple of books on it and I’ve been using it because you encouraged me to to engage with it. And and my view has evolved tremendously since then. So tell us, tell me and our audience a little bit about how ChatGPT works and why it’s important and why it’s going to change things.
Well, yeah, and you really got things started with it. It is a chat bot and it’s derived from a large language model or LLM. So it’s got all of this information that’s fed into it that allows it to really answer your questions or create, produce, it can write poems, it can, if you ask it to write outlines, it can even write a book so it can produce a lot of text material. I think the important thing to think about, well, really it’s twofold. Number one, because I know you’re listening to business perspectives, at this point it can help with productivity.
So the more that you learn how to use it and you figure out use cases tailored to your particular field or business, it can definitely help you on the productivity front. Now, what we’ve seen that can be a weakness with it is that if you are not knowledgeable about it, so for example, I’m an accounting professor, I’m knowledgeable about accounting, so it can definitely, I guess, give me superpowers. So, it can amplify what I can do because I know what I’m doing.
But if it’s someone who’s a novice and doesn’t know exactly, let’s say accounting, and they try to get it to do accounting for them, then you can have issues. That’s because one of the flaws, they call it hallucinating, meaning it can give you incorrect information or it may produce, it’ll just make things up. So incorrect information, or it’ll just write things or create things or put things together that does not exist.
Yeah, well, I had the experience with this hallucination impact. So I asked, one of the first times I was using it, I asked it to summarize one of my books, Buyable. Immediately within half a minute, it spit out a 1,000-word summary. Initially, I was very impressed. “Wow, this is amazing. How can this do that?” Then I started wondering, how does GhatGPT know what’s in my book when it’s not in the public domain? I asked it, “Is this in the public domain?” I thought maybe someone stole it and put it on the internet and it said “No, no, it’s not in the public domain.”
Okay, then how can you summarize it? How do you know what’s in it? And it says, “Well, actually, I don’t know what’s in it, but I was reading other sources that talk about the book, which is in the public domain, and I put it together from that.” And and kind of it followed the concept of the title and the subtitle, but it wasn’t exactly my book. And I realized that that this was something was going amiss with it.
And the other experience I had when I saw it hallucinate was I asked it to give me the 10 most number, the best selling nonfiction books of all time. And he gave me a list of 10 and says, wow, I would have thought that Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People was one of those 10 and it’s not a list. So I asked, okay, “So where is this book?” I said, “Oh, I’m sorry, I made a mistake.” And then he replaced one of the titles in the list with this, with How to Win Friends.
And he says, that there is this cookbook there and I think that Think and Grow Rich from Napoleon Hill is going to be a higher rank than this book and says, “Oh sorry you’re right.”And then it’s replaced that title with Think and Grow Rich and says well I think ChatGPT are full of shit. It start apologizing, “Ah I apologize. I’m just a language model” or whatever and “There’s so much information there’s so much ranking and I can’t exactly know.”So I said, “Wow, okay, I have to be really careful here because sometimes it just makes things up.”
Yeah, that’s true, but you made a good point. So you think about it, you asked it to write that 1000-word summary. How long did it take to do that?
30 seconds, 20 seconds?
30 seconds. So let’s say you needed to write a summary for your book 30 seconds. You’ve got a thousand words now you can go in and edit it You see you see what I mean? So it gives you some some I guess superpowers in that sense you ask it to write a list So so the top ten list for example books, it’ll come up with something it may not be exactly correct, but you can go in and edit it. And within seconds, you’ve got that book list. So when you look at it from that point of view, being someone who’s knowledgeable about what you’re asking it about, it can help you on the productivity side. If you don’t know anything about the best nonfiction books, you don’t know anything about your book, you’re in trouble. So it’s not going to really help you. So it’s going to cause issues on that end.
So that’s interesting. So I also asked it, what would it take for me to remodel my my bathroom? Give me a 10 point list. So should I ignore it because it’s probably wrong? Or is it certain topics that are kind of more difficult for it not to hallucinate about than others?
That’s a good question. And that’s so. So that comes to the other observation. We don’t know. We don’t really know. And what I think is really. Well, we do know in a broad sense, some things is better than others. So with the very first version and was in November 30th, 2022, when it first released it, it was not very good in math. It’s not very good in math. But is that the case today? No, it’s a lot better than it was before, just in November.
So when I say, well, we know from a broad sense, it can be better in math. Has it gotten better in math? Yes. So it’s kind of hard to to say part of that has to do with how fast this technology is being developed and and how fast they’re they’re rolling it out and how fast is actually gaining traction. I think that’s amazing and I think you know from the business side I think that’s an amazing stress, something to be analyzed, I think.
And just an example of how fast this is evolving. So just as I started experimenting with it, I got an email from a company called Podsqueeze, and they put out an application which basically transcribes all your episodes and creates articles, creates blogs, creates tweets out of the transcription. And it’s very affordable. It’s like $12 a month. So we immediately implemented it and we streamlined things. Transcription was a very expensive part of the podcast, running the podcast, and now it’s all done by Podsqueeze and my assistant only reviews it to make sure that it’s not hallucinating. It makes sense. And then we post it right away. So this is how fast this is growing.
That is good. And that’s true. I think we talked about this before. Research I was a part of. It’s three hundred and twenty eight accounting professors across the U.S. and we put a ChatGPT to the test when it first came out. And the research started sometime in December. By the time we got to January, they’d already updated the software.
So in what that means in a plain sense is really our research was outdated because when they did the update, so now whatever we did before with that first version, we don’t know if it’s valid because we don’t know what changes they did in the update in January. Then in February, they announced the plus. Then in March, ChatGPT-4. think about in the span of let’s call it December to now, and we’ve done research a few months ago, it’s technically, it’s no good. I hate to say that.
Yes. So should you have used the ChatGPT to write your research on ChatGPT?
That would have been a good thing, to have ChatGPT write the research on it. I’d be curious to see what it says. But what was done was taking about 28,000, close to 30,000 accounting questions and feeding it into ChatGPT, and then comparing ChatGPT to the actual student performance. So with that first version, the students did better than ChatGPT.
I recently learned that ChatGPT is already taking the SAT and getting something like 1450 on it or 1500, which is pretty good. It’s also taking the LSAT, it’s taking the MCAT, professional exams, and it would get into a top 30 school in both disciplines. So it’s already catching up fast.
Yeah, and so, you know, we don’t know how fast they’re going to develop it and make it even better. So, and you got to remember, November 30th of last year. And we’re not even six months in 2023.
So that’s a great segue because I want to ask you about this concept you mentioned to me the other day, this 10 by 10, so that the rule of the 10 by 10, which you said that it was about new technologies being adopted, takes 10 years and then being or being perfected is 10 years and being completely adopted another 10 years and you said that this rule is no longer no longer applied so what what does that mean to us?
Yes so when you think about it it is I think the author his name is Stephen Johnson if I’m not mistaken in one of his books he talks about the 10-10 rule, where when you think about technology development, particularly in the 20th century, so you think about it took 10 years for a color TV to be developed, and then 10 years, about 10 years for it to be adopted. So if you think about it, and you consider a generation 20 years, so you think about we’ll watch black and white TV and then maybe our kids will use something else. And that was kind of the development path of technology.
Or you think about CDs. So you think it took a certain amount of time for them to be developed. It was in 1980. And then by another period to be fully adopted, right? To displace the cassette tape and then the same thing with DVD and then streaming. So what started to happen was this whole cycle started to shorten. So it started to get a lot shorter, right? And what you’re seeing now in this example, we’ve got something that launched in, what, November 30th of 2022, and within two months, it’s got 100 million monthly active users, which has not happened before, right? Now, you may say, “Well, okay, compared to Facebook having, what, 2 billion monthly active users, something like that.
That’s not that, you know, okay, it’s small,” but the speed to get to that 100 million is a, you know, it’s never been seen before, right? So and then what will that look like moving forward? Another way to put it in perspective, if we go back, because we’re talking about social think about MySpace, which was huge in 2005, and it was the biggest thing with 20 million monthly active users. And that was considered just amazing. So when we think about this pace of development, I think it can be kind of scary from one point, but I think it’s also from a business standpoint, I think it’s amazing the way things are rolling out.
And then one more point, because you asked a really good question, like what, you know, you talked about this development. Can we do something? How do we, we don’t know, because you think about it, they’ve updated, check, GPT, the latest update was March 23rd. What exactly has changed? How does that impact my area, your area? Don’t know. I know it’s better. You know, I can’t exactly say how it’s impacting what I do. And then moving forward, we don’t really know. Sam Altman has said that there’s no plans to release the ChatGPT-5 any time soon. However, we don’t know what their updates are going to be and how dramatic the updates will be and how that will impact the platform today. So it’s very interesting.
So we don’t know the future, but we know the present, and ChatGPT is already in the present. It’s not a future thing. It’s already happening. A lot of companies are already using it. Microsoft came out with Bing, the new Bing, which is also an AI chatbot. So what can business owners, especially small to medium sized business owners, what can we use ChatGPT for? Other than the examples, you know, writing blogs, tweets, you know, poems, if you’re into it. But what else can we do it for? And then I noticed also that there’s an API wait list on the ChatGPT website, so you can sign up for an API. So what do these APIs do? I know some programmers use ChatGPT to write code. So what are you seeing, the major applications of this that we could practically put into operations right now in the next couple of weeks?
So that’s a twofold question because you asked about the API and you asked about what you can do right now. And right now, if I was a small or medium-sized business owner, I would study this software, pay for the Plus version, start using ChatGPT-4 and look for ways that it can be implemented in my business from an efficiency side. So there’s not, unfortunately, there’s not a manual for this thing. So there’s not a textbook to say, well, hey, this is what you can, you know, there’s the basic things that we all know you can do, but there’s not a textbook for it.
So you have to work with it, dive in, put your foot in the water, and really find the applications and how it will tie into your business. But I would approach it from an efficiency side. From the API side was with the next thing that everyone’s waiting for and signing up for are agents. So you need that API to connect with agents and what these are, you basically will give a task to the agent and it will just keep working at it. So if it’s some sort of problem, for example, if it’s a research to write, let’s say I wanted to write a certain research or solve a research problem it will keep working at it and it will generate its own prompts and questions that that it needs to keep going to solve whatever this problem is.
So if it’s writing a program or finding a more efficient way of doing something. You give it that task in this agent and it will keep working day and night, 24/7 to find a solution. It’ll keep prompting ChatGPT a certain way. So I say that’s the next with that API, whatever was waiting on that wait list is to get that so you can use agents and start setting up agents and basically have it doingsolving problems, doing things for you.
That’s kind of a ChatGPT for a ChatGPT. So you have an agent who will be that prompt engineer, so to say. And there is a program how to ask questions based on the answers that it receives and keeps refining the answers iterate towards something better. Is this what it is?
Yes, so if I were to ask it to so you get yours you’re to write a book and the book needs to have five points. Specifically on these let’s say five theories. It’s going to keep work and it’s got to be let’s say 40,000 words It will keep working. It’ll keep going and asking the prompts and going through until that task is completed. If you have a business problem, if you have some, what is the most cost-effective way to market whatever your product is, like your books, you give it the question, you give it the problem, you give it the information, it’ll just keep going, it’ll keep going until it finds a solution. So you can think of it as an AI.
What this is moving into is where you’ll have an automated AI, call it employee, or you would focus AI on working for you. So right now what’s happening and I think this ties into this sums up both of those questions is that you got to go on a ChatGPT. And you want it to do something you’ve got to figure out these prompts. You’ve got to ask it questions it’s like you mentioned about that top ten list. You’ve got to ask it to refine the list and you’ve got to work with it in a way this automates that process.
So it’ll keep going and going and it’ll keep asking and asking questions until it gets to an end point to the best possible list or the best possible outcome for you. So I think that’s where things are moving with that API and what people on that wait list. I know I’m on the wait list to get my API so I can set up my agents and start having them do things, tasks for me. For example, if I want a lit review with 100 sources on a certain topic, it will go and produce that for me instead of me having to go and do that myself.
That’s amazing. By the way, you said that there’s no manual. So actually, I think there is manual, there are manuals, so I went on Amazon to check whether there are any books and daily there are new books appearing on ChatGPT and some of them have four, six hundred reviews. There’s one author, I can’t remember his name, an Indian author, who came out with two books on ChatGPT, two weeks apart. So my suspicion is that he is using ChatGPT to write the book somehow, and the information is coming out as fast and faster than we can consume it. It’s really interesting. But the prospect of having an agent that will actually come up with the questions and absorb the answers and define it, that is exciting and scary at the same time?
Yeah, I think it’s very exciting. You can see how things are moving. And again, I continue to use the word efficiency. So, you know, you your things are becoming more and more efficient, more productive. So you have more capacity
Okay, does that mean that as we are moving to an age where all the routine tasks, including research, can be automated, then all we have to do is to spend our time thinking about higher level issues, being creative, thinking about strategies on how our agents can work more efficiently for us. Is this the age where we’re going to? And what is it going to feel like? Is it going to be – isn’t it going to be more taxing to our brain if we lose the opportunity to do the routine things where maybe our brain can relax and we just have to do the high-level stuff? Our life seems to be spinning out of control Isn’t that going to be even more demanding for people mentally to engage with these robots?
Yes and no. So I think the part you mentioned about the research and the high level ideas and the critical, the thinking part, you have to have that. So it’ll help you. So as far as the research, if you have the ideas, it will help you to put your ideas together and to get them out faster. But if you don’t have the ideas, I don’t see how that’s going to help you. So that’s why I use that word superpowers. So if you have the ideas, if you have the knowledge, you have the competency in certain areas, whether it’s business, academia, research, it’s going to help you because you know what to ask it, you know where to go, you have some sort of direction.If you have the ideas, the knowledge, you have the competency in certain areas, whether it's business, academia, research, ChatGPT is going to help you because you know what to ask it, you know where to go, you have some sort of direction. Click To Tweet
But if you don’t have the ideas at this time, when I say that, at this time with the technology the way it is, because it doesn’t think. So it’s not going to help you as much. It may help you to get started, but it’s not going to have that huge impact. So if you just ask it to write some research, yeah, it’s pulling already existing things from the Internet. Just like you said, you asked it to write a summary of your book, it pulled from other people’s summaries of your book to write that summary. Now, if you have an original idea and now you’re asking it, “Oh, you know, what is some research to support this original idea or this novel idea or this strategy?”That’s a different thing. That’s a completely different thing.
That’s interesting. Well, one thing that I think it can already help anyone, and this is the most useful thing that I have discovered ChatGPT to help with is if I’m stuck in an application, for example, I was sending out some emails on MailChimp and I needed some answers. I, instead of going into the help files of MailChimp and trying to figure out from articles that the chatbot there would give me, I just ask ChatGPT, how do I do this on MailChimp? And it immediately gave me the six-point recipe and it was super easy. And that’s what I’m doing with everything. Instead of going into the details of that particular application, I just ask JGPT and it gives me a much simpler way of achieving those results.
Yeah, and that’s exactly what we’re saying. But you know how to use MailChimp. So if you don’t know how to use MailChimp, you don’t know how that whole marketing, how all of that works, it wouldn’t have been very much help to you.
That’s true. And you know what to ask for. At least I could ask the question. And then I think that takes some knowledge to be able to ask a smart question as well.
And so if you think if you’re a business owner and business owners are experts in their domain, so that’s definitely how this technology can help them because they’re already experts in that particular area of business. So that’s what I mean by superpowers. So it can help you as far as that efficiency, it’s just like you said, instead of going through the help section and kind of sifting through that, you were able to go to ChatGPT, get the information, you knew what to ask it, you got the information, you knew how to utilize it and take it back to MailChimp and keep going.
Yeah, love it. That’s fantastic. So, Anthon, if someone would like to learn more about accounting and what you do and your expertise. You guys wrote a white paper.
No, it’s not white paper, it’s peer-reviewed. Peer-reviewed, it’s just published.
All right. So maybe that’s going to be upgraded or whatever. So if they’d like to learn about your work, your podcast, they want to connect with you, understand what you’re doing more deeply, where should they go, how can they reach you?
You can follow me on YouTube at Mfon Akpan, at YouTube, just type in my name, you’ll find me on YouTube. You can follow me on LinkedIn, and you can type in again, Dr. Mfon Akpan on LinkedIn. Or go to my website, Mfonakpan.com, send me an email. I’m happy to respond, respond to reach out.
Well, thank you. So Mfon Akpan is spelled very simple, M-F-O-N-A-K-P-A-N. So don’t don’t miss the spelling. And, yeah, definitely check out Mfon. He is a treasure trove of ideas and information and his YouTube channel is exploding, so don’t miss the boat. And if you would like to learn about new concepts and tools that can accelerate your business growth, then definitely stay tuned on this channel as well, Management Blueprint, because every week I keep bringing you stuff that’s going to help your business. So thanks for tuning in. Thanks, Mfon, for joining me and have a good day.
Hey, thank you so much for having me, Steve.