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ChatGPT is getting ‘memory’ to remember who you are and what you like

Talking to an AI chatbot can feel a bit like Groundhog Day after a while, as you tell it for the umpteenth time how you like your emails formatted and which of those “fun things to do this weekend” you’ve already done six times. OpenAI is trying to fix that and personalize its own bot in a big way. It’s rolling out “memory” for ChatGPT, which will allow the bot to remember information about you and your conversations over time.

Memory works in one of two ways. You can tell ChatGPT to remember something specific about you: you always write code in Javascript, your boss’s name is Anna, your kid is allergic to sweet potatoes. Or ChatGPT can simply try to pick up those details over time, storing information about you as you ask questions and get answers. In either case, the goal is for ChatGPT to feel a little more personal and a little smarter, without needing to be reminded every time.

Each custom GPT you use will have its own memory, too. OpenAI uses the Books GPT as an example: with memory turned on, it can automatically remember which books you’ve already read and which genres you like best. There are lots of places in the GPT Store you can imagine memory might be useful, for that matter. The Tutor Me could offer a much better long-term course load once it knows what you know; Kayak could go straight to your favorite airlines and hotels; GymStreak could track your progress over time.

Memory is a feature ChatGPT desperately needs — and a total minefield

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In many ways, memory is a feature ChatGPT desperately needs. It’s also a total minefield. OpenAI’s strategy here sounds a lot like the way other internet services learn about you — they watch you operate their services, learn about what you search for or click on or like or whatever else, and develop a profile of you over time.

A screenshot of ChatGPT’s memory feature.
Memory is full of tidbits about you, and your life.
Image: OpenAI

But that approach, of course, makes a lot of people feel uncomfortable! Many users are already wary of having their questions and missives hoovered up by OpenAI and fed back into the system as training data to help personalize the bot even further; the idea of ChatGPT “knowing” users is both cool and creepy.

OpenAI says it’s keeping users in control of ChatGPT’s memory and has trained the system to not remember sensitive things like information about your health. You can always ask ChatGPT what it knows about you, and either tell the bot to forget something or remove it in the new Manage Memory section of settings. OpenAI is also pitching Temporary Chat as a sort of incognito mode: a way to have a quick conversation without affecting ChatGPT’s memories of you. You can also just turn it off entirely across your entire account.

By default, memory will be turned on, and OpenAI says memories will be used to train its models going forward. (Companies using ChatGPT Enterprise and Teams won’t have their data sent back to the models.)

For now, memory is just a test, open to a “small portion” of users, the company said in its blog post announcing the feature. But it’s easy to imagine how quickly this might become a core part of the way we interact with ChatGPT, for better or for worse. The bots are getting smarter, and they’re getting to know us really fast.

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