I run a dev agency and we’ve done a lot of work with integrating and building apps that use this AI technology for practical applications. Since it’s my job to know the ins and outs of what this tech can and can’t do, I’ve tried to use it for pretty much everything in my life - to the point ChatGPT and Bing Chat have largely replaced Google for me.
So I figure I’d do some testing on the practical uses of large language models (LLMs) to help you manage your home orchard and grow better fruit. For example, if you want to see them help me pick the next pear I should grow you can see how each one does here: Language Model Comparison - Google Slides
How to ask questions
To start off with its important to understand how to ask your questions. I’m not going to get into how ChatGPT works, but whenever writing a question I found it really helpful to pretend you are asking the entire internet and all its content a question and the answer will a distillation of the content that was most relevant to the entirety your question.
Which is why if you ask “What’s the best apple?” you will get generic answers like “Honeycrisp, Fuji, Granny Smith” similar to what you would find Googling that question. But if you ask:
What are the best apple to grow in zone 7a, Pennsylvania? I want something that’s disease and pest resistant. Give me options that ripen early, mid and late season.
Early Season: Pristine, Williams’ Pride
Mid-Season: Liberty, Freedom
Late Season: GoldRush, Enterprise
1) Be specific
Make your question as clear and concise as possible, focusing on one issue or aspect of your home orchard.
2) Provide context
Think about how posting forum questions works, the more detailed your question and the more context you provide the better the answers will generally be. Now imagine that you have a very eager to please audience that will eagerly read 6 pages of context and answer your question in any format you want.
I would strongly suggest starting off by providing an excessive amount of context and then dialing it back as you start to get a feel for how it impacts the quality of the answers you get. Include relevant details such as the location, climate, and soil type of your orchard. This can help the model provide suggestions tailored to your specific conditions.
3) Specify answer type
These models (ChatGPT, Bing Chat, Bard, etc.) will lean towards providing a general
INTRO -> DETAILS -> SUMMARY response that may not answer the question in the way you wanted it to. You can always ask follow up questions to get what you want but if you are looking for a specific type of response its helpful to mention that. Some examples:
- “I already know the basics, I want to know the more technical details”
- “Make sure to describe the flavor in detail.”
- “Provide the pros and cons for each one”
- “Write your answer in the form of a table”
Putting it all together
So, taking these considerations an example of a well-structured prompt/question could be:
I lose my most of my plums to plum curculio every year, what should I spray and when?
I have a home orchard in eastern Pennsylvania zone 7a.
What are the considerations for growing columnar apples?
I have a home orchard in eastern Pennsylvania zone 7a, well draining soil and full sun.
You can skip the basics, I want to know the more technical details.
I grow the following pear varieties, what should I try next?
I’m looking for something more unique and modern with high disease and pest resistance.
Where to ask questions
There are currently several options, and many more likely to pop up in the coming months but here are the ones I am currently using. I would suggest asking the same question in at least two so you get a feeling for how they compare.
I created a slideshow that compares the responses of the services below to the same question, which you can view here: Language Model Comparison - Google Slides
Note: Things are developing very quickly in this area so what’s described below may not be accurate in a few months, for example ChatGPT will have access to plugins soon that let you search the web and connect to other services.
ChatGPT (aka GPT-3.5)
I believe this is free with some usage limitations and generally works okay if you aren’t asking it anything complicated, because when you do it tends to just make stuff up. I really don’t use this any more as the options below are much better, but its worth mentioning because this is what people mean when they say “ChatGPT”. For reference, it scored in the 10th percentile of the bar exam. Its also trained on information available up to September 2021, so it wont know about anything that happened after that date.
ChatGPT Plus (aka GPT-4)
This is currently only available with the $20/mon ChatGPT Plus subscription but is extremely powerful with very good reasoning skills - scoring in the 90th percentile in the bar exam. The answers it gives are pretty accurate, even on highly specialized questions. If you know how to ask good questions, its almost like having access to an expert in any field. Unfortunately, like GPT-3.5 it also for now has no knowledge of current events.
Is free if you use the Edge browser. Depending on the conversation style you select it might be using GPT-3.5 or GPT-4 under the hood. There are two major benefits to Bing Chat: 1) It pulls additional information from web searches results to give you more factual and up to date information and 2) You can give it a URL and then ask questions about it, for example to summarize an article, to provide a different perspective, expand on a subject, etc. One downside is that its more so intended for shorter questions and shorter answers, but you can always ask it for more details.
Bard by Google
Is fairly new and still in beta but free to use. It doesn’t really get as much attention but I would say its pretty good, comparable to ChatGPT + Bing Chat combined. The way it answers questions is a bit “robotic” but Google did say its intentionally using a smaller model for now so this is likely to improve in the coming months.
I shared a few examples above but there are many very interesting things you can do with this AI tech that go far beyond simple question and answering. I’ll share these in my next post because this one is already a bit long.