Renowned actor, director, and lifelong literacy advocate LeVar Burton delivered an opening keynote at Legalweek 2023 that provided a reflective and poignant respite from the impending onslaught of generative AI buzz at Legalweek 2023. His message was simple yet compelling: storytelling is the glue that binds humanity, and authenticity is its most essential component.
It was an inspirational message, and his delivery was masterful and impeccable. According to Burton, storytelling is a unifying force connecting people across ethnicities, cultures, time, and experiences. It is an art grounded in authenticity and connects people through the genuine representation of emotions, experiences, and characters, enabling them to empathize with and understand each other.
In other words, what makes storytelling so powerful is its humanity. When stories are missing the human element, they lack authenticity and purpose, and the common threads that bind humanity begin to unravel.
This begs the question: If the human experience drives authentic narratives, does generative artificial intelligence (AI) that includes sophisticated content-creating capabilities pose an existential threat to humanity?
While that may sound a bit dramatic, it’s a valid question for several reasons.
First, consider a recent paper published by a team of researchers from OpenAI, OpenResearch, and the University of Pennsylvania, which predicts that poets, lyricists, and creative writers are three occupations that will be strongly “influenced and augmented” by AI-based tools.
Also notable was news of a letter signed by over 1,000 people, including many renowned AI researchers and academics, calling for all training of AI systems more powerful than GPT-4 to be paused for six months due to concerns that “AI systems with human-competitive intelligence can pose profound risks to society and humanity … (and) recent months have seen AI labs locked in an out-of-control race to develop and deploy ever more powerful digital minds that no one — not even their creators — can understand, predict, or reliably control.”
They aren’t the first ones to raise these issues and won’t be the last. The exponential rate at which generative AI is being developed is mind-boggling and somewhat terrifying. If we aren’t careful, we may not live to regret it.
Sci-fi fan that I am, I’ve been worried about that possibility for some time now, and I’m all about hedging my bets in case the machines take over. That’s why I make it a habit to regularly welcome our robot overlords on Twitter. If they do take over, my hope is I’ll be in their good graces.
After all, the dystopian fictional nightmare envisioned in shows like “Battlestar Galactica” is no longer as far-fetched as it once seemed.
Think about it. ChatGPT 3.5 was released just last November, and only a few months later, it is impossible to ignore the growing presence of AI-generated content in today’s digital landscape. Slowly but surely, the authenticity behind the content that we consume is disappearing, and I’m not sure what that means for humanity.
Navigating the complexities of this AI-driven era won’t be easy. In order to emerge unscathed, we must maintain the essence of authentic stories and keep the spirit of creativity alive. By embracing the power of genuine storytelling and placing a premium value on the personal connection it fosters, we can preserve the very essence of what makes us human.
How we’ll do that and whether our efforts will be successful remains to be seen. While we can’t predict the future, we can look to the minds of storytellers of the past to predict it. One source that I often turn to, diehard Trekkie that I am, is “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” a show that kept me sane while in law school.
Throughout the series, the complexity of the interplay between technology and the essence of humanity is examined time and time again.
In light of Burton’s keynote, it only seems fitting to turn to the immortal words of Geordi LaForge, from the episode “The Booby Trap,” for guidance as we plot a course through the rough waters ahead: “You know, I’ve always thought technology could solve almost any problem. It enhances the quality of our lives, lets us travel across the galaxy, even gave me my vision. But sometimes you just have to turn it all off.”
That’s certainly one way to solve this problem.
Nicole Black is a Rochester, New York attorney and Head of SME and External Education at MyCase law practice management software. She’s been blogging since 2005, has written a weekly column for the Daily Record since 2007, is the author of Cloud Computing for Lawyers, co-authors Social Media for Lawyers: the Next Frontier, and co-authored Criminal Law in New York. She’s easily distracted by the potential of bright and shiny tech gadgets, along with good food and wine. You can follow her on Twitter at @nikiblack and she can be reached at [email protected].