OpenAI Gives ChatGPT a Memory

The promise and peril of the internet has always been a memory greater than our own, a permanent recall of information and events that our brains can’t store. More recently, tech companies have promised that virtual assistants and chatbots could handle some of the mnemonic load by both remembering and reminding. It’s a vision of the internet as a conversation layer rather than a repository.

That’s what OpenAI’s latest release is supposed to provide. The company is starting to roll out long-term memory in ChatGPT—a function that maintains a memory of who you are, how you work, and what you like to chat about. Called simply Memory, it’s an AI personalization feature that turbocharges the “custom instructions” tool OpenAI released last July. Using ChatGPT custom instructions, a person could tell the chatbot that they’re a technology journalist based in the Bay Area who enjoys surfing, and the chatbot would consider that information in future responses within that conversation, like a first date who never forgets the details.

Now, ChatGPT’s memory persists across multiple chats. The service will also remember personal details about a ChatGPT user even if they don’t make a custom instruction or tell the chatbot directly to remember something; it just picks up and stores details as conversations roll on. This will work across both the free (ChatGPT 3.5) and paid (ChatGPT 4) version.

In a demo with WIRED ahead of the feature’s release, Joanne Jang, the company’s product lead on model behavior, typed in a few sample queries. In one, Jang asked ChatGPT to write up a social media post for the opening of a café called Catio on Valentine’s Day; the bot performed the task. In another post, Jang indicated that she was opening a cafe called Catio on Valentine’s Day. She then navigated to Memory in ChatGPT’s settings; the bot had stored this piece of information about her. Similarly, when Jang asked for a coding tip, then indicated that she uses Python, ChatGPT recorded in Memory that Jang uses Python exclusively.

These bits of data will be referenced in all of Jang’s future conversations with ChatGPT. Even if she doesn’t reference Catio directly in another chat, ChatGPT will bring it up when relevant.

Screenshot of ChatGPT Manage Memory settings menu
Courtesy of OpenAI

OpenAI says ChatGPT’s Memory is opt-in by default, which means a user has to actively turn it off. The Memory can be wiped at any point, either in settings or by simply instructing the bot to wipe it. Once the Memory setting is cleared, that information won’t be used to train its AI model. It’s unclear exactly how much of that personal data is used to train the AI while someone is chatting with the chatbot. And toggling off Memory does not mean you’ve totally opted out of having your chats train OpenAI’s model; that’s a separate opt-out.

The company also claims that it won’t store certain sensitive information in Memory. If you tell ChatGPT your password (don’t do this) or Social Security number (or this), the app’s Memory is thankfully forgetful. Jang also says OpenAI is still soliciting feedback on whether other personally identifiable information, like a user’s ethnicity, is too sensitive for the company to auto-capture.

Source : Wired