ChatGPT's New Custom Instructions Let It Remember Things About You Between Chats

OpenAI is making it noticeably easier for users to get responses from ChatGPT that are relevant to their fields of work and areas of interest. Called custom instructions, these are essentially bits of personal information and specific scenarios that influence the types of responses you get from the chatbot. "ChatGPT will consider your custom instructions for every conversation going forward," OpenAI explains in a blog post. For example, if your custom instructions inform ChatGPT that you are a ninth-grade student, it will answer questions in a way that is appropriate for that grade level. 

There are two benefits here. First, you don't have to specify that you're a ninth-grader every time you enter a prompt — the AI already knows and will answer accordingly. This is somewhat like the conversation feature on Google Assistant, which no longer asks you to say "Hey Google" before every subsequent query. Second, custom instructions dramatically narrow things down for the chatbot, helping it find the right answer. That ability will come in handy for people across all educational levels and those seeking answers tailored to a specific role or task instead of generic responses. ChatGPT essentially remembers you and your requirements, and will accordingly surface the answers you seek.

Still needs some polish

Custom instructions are now available in the beta phase, but the feature is limited to the ChatGPT Plus subscription priced at $20 per month. It is accessible across the mobile app, desktop interface, and even with third-party plug-ins. You can access it by tapping Settings, followed by Beta Features / New Features, and then Custom Instructions. However, it is not available to users in the U.K. and European Union.

Because the ChatGPT feature is still in beta, there might be a few performance issues. For example, in an example given to The Verge, if your custom instructions tell the chatbot that you're a coder who works in a particular language, you may be given food recipes written in that code instead of the more traditional, expected format. "ChatGPT won't always interpret custom instructions perfectly — at times it might overlook instructions, or apply them when not intended," the company warns on its website. 

As convenient as they sound, custom instructions might also pose privacy risks, as you are essentially telling an AI bot about your profession, areas of expertise, and/or academic standing. The company advises that you only deploy custom instructions for plug-ins that you trust. However, OpenAI promises that it will remove "personal identifiers" that it comes across in custom instructions. And just like standard ChatGPT conversations, custom interactions won't respond if they violate safety policies. You can also choose to edit or delete them at your convenience, but they will appear as such in your chat history unless you wipe that, too.