August 15, 2023

Artificial Intelligence/Artificial Idiocy

AI Chat GPT rwk goodman

There has been quite a lot said and written about Artificial Intelligence recently but it’s actually not at all new. Its genesis could be said to lie in the famous code breaking of WW2. The brilliant mathematician Alan Turing, who worked for the British Intelligence team at Bletchley Park who broke the nazi Enigma Code which considerably assisted in ending the war, designed a machine to do so – effectively the first computer. After the war he continued his ground-breaking work in computer science and cryptography.

From mathematical machines to robots computer science has advanced at a rapid rate. No longer the stuff of horror stories such as Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein the use of robots (machines resembling a human being and able to replicate certain human movements and functions automatically) are standard in the workplace (e.g. factories) and in even the home.

Artificial intelligence is here and it’s here to stay.  Artificial intelligence (AI) is defined as the simulation of human intelligence processes by machines, especially computer systems.  Specific applications of AI include expert systems, natural language processing, speech recognition and machine visions.  AI has become the generic phrase for any applications that perform complex tasks that once required human input.  Examples include playing chess to writing journalistic articles.  AI is in increasing usage without most people being aware of it.  Everyone who has the Amazon Alexa virtual assistant in their home is directly interacting with AI on a daily basis.  AI can “hear” and “speak” to humans, its uses and possible future applications are, if we believe the technicians, endless.  Its use as a research tool is already well established.

Can students use AI for homework, coursework, and assessment?  In theory, yes indeed.  The problem, however, is that AI doesn’t come with common sense, and it has no concept of its own failings.  If AI can’t access real material, then it will make it up, including inventing reference material.  A perfect example of this is the US law case of Mata v Avianca Inc [June 2023].  The US District Court of New York gave a scathing judgment on two lawyers who used AI to prepare submissions to the Court.

The US Court accepted that there was nothing illegal in using technology as well as or in substitution to traditional research and drafting aids, such as junior lawyers, encyclopaedias, and legal data bases, eg, Westlaw and Nexus.  Technical advances being what they are, there was nothing inherently improper about using a reliable AI tool for assistance.  But, held the Court, existing rules impose a gatekeeping role on attorneys to ensure the accuracy of their filings.

In the case, the errant lawyers submitted non-existent judicial opinions with fake quotes and citations created not by them but by the AI tool Chat GPT.  Was this artificial intelligence or was it artificial idiocy? Amazingly, the lawyers didn’t bother to check the “work” produced by Chat GBT but proceeded to stand by the fake opinions even after judicial orders called them into question.  The Court rightly deemed it appropriate to impose sanctions on the respondents requiring them to apologise in writing to the Judges mis-quoted and they were ordered to pay a penalty of US$5,000.  Were they deceitful or just lazy lawyers?

In my opinion, they got off lightly. If such a thing were to happen in the UK, I would expect far harsher penalties for contempt of Court, and disciplinary action by the Bar Council or Law Society as appropriate.

So, students (and lawyers) tempted to use AI as a shortcut be aware.  The use of AI for deceptive, immoral and/or unlawful purposes will carry with it penalties.

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