🤖The Law Firm of ChatGPT & Associates
The story begins like this: on November 30, OpenAI (an AI research laboratory co-founded by Elon Musk, and supported by a billion-dollar investment from Microsoft) released a public version of an AI program called ChatGPT that uses a large language model (LLM) to generate text responses in a natural dialogue format. That is to say, you can have conversations with ChatGPT and it will talk to you like a person and even explain things to you.
Well, ChatGPT blew up. It reached 1 million users in a matter of days and the internet was awash with people posting their chat texts. One journalist used the program to create imagined taglines in the style of Real Housewives for TV characters. Others used it to write a “brief to the United States Supreme Court on why its decision on same-sex marriage should not be overturned”, reports Reuters. And the results are quite convincing, leading some to ask if ChatGPT—or AI chatbots in general—are coming to a firm near you.
Don't worry, writes The Atlantic. “GPT and other large language models are aesthetic instruments rather than epistemological ones.” In other words, ChatGPT is not exactly performing any creative writing and thinking. Well, at least not any more creative than a room full of monkeys with typewriters is creative enough to eventually write Hamlet. And this is because LLMs are just combing through their data sets for a prediction of what comes next. As Casey Newton describes on the Hardfork podcast, “I were to say to you, 'twinkle, twinkle, little star,' your brain would just say, 'how I wonder where you are.' You’re just predicting that is how that sentence finishes.” Hard to be creative when you're just predicting off data of what we already know. But LLMs do give lawyers and other professions “a new instrument—that’s really the right word for it—with which to play with an unfathomable quantity of textual material,” The Atlantic continues. Reuters adds that law firms could find themselves in malpractice issues should they rely on ChatGPT because, as OpenAI itself warns, the bot “sometimes writes plausible-sounding but incorrect or nonsensical answers.”
So, is ChatGPT the future of anything for the legal world? It's plausible that the program could be used to write drafts of things that require no real creativity, or are heavily templated already. But for more complex and nuanced tasks, it's best to leave it to the humans.
As with the hype over self-driving cars a few years ago, our imaginations may be getting ahead of the actual tech here. ChatGPT is definitely an exciting new toy, but don't expect it to replace your firm's associates tomorrow (or the next day).