… Ask what (AI) can do for Your Country

At President John F. Kennedy’s inauguration, he famously stated “Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country.”  President John F. Kennedy’s Inaugural Address (1961) | National Archives.   While this seems like just yesterday this call to action encourages citizens as well as government professionals to look at opportunities to do things better for the Nation.

While it may seem like this speech was made yesterday.  It is now 2024.  How things have changed and evolved. There has been a lot of excitement with artificial intelligence over the past two years due in large part to generative AI. However, AI is over 70 years old, a few years older than President Kennedy’s inauguration speech. There has been a lot of excitement out of the White House including the Executive Order on AI Executive Order on the Safe, Secure, and Trustworthy Development and Use of Artificial Intelligence | The White House, OMB’s Memo Implementation Guidance Following President Biden’s Executive Order on Artificial Intelligence OMB Releases Implementation Guidance Following President Biden’s Executive Order on Artificial Intelligence | OMB | The White House, as well as on the AI Bill of Rights, Blueprint for an AI Bill of Rights | OSTP | The White House. Furthermore, there’s been a number of interesting hearings from the Hill, including a number of technology hearings from the Senate Judiciary Committee, Oversight of A.I.: Legislating on Artifi… | United States Senate Committee on the Judiciary, AI, Privacy to Dominate Tech Policy Debate in Washington in 2024 (bloomberglaw.com).  These hearings have truly been partisan. There are a lot of unknowns out there, but members on both sides of the aisle want to get this right with policy and laws to protection our nation as well to be careful to not stifle innovation.

A central concern in the discourse around AI involves regulatory oversight. Questions abound regarding which agencies should oversee AI and whether a new agency might be necessary. The debate extends to the requirements for manufacturing or selling AI solutions, including licensure and the safeguarding of privacy to prevent the exploitation of personal information, while also leveraging AI’s efficiencies. Another significant concern is the potential for bias in AI applications, which could impact individuals’ opportunities and rights in areas such as employment, housing, and beyond.

The evolution of research and information retrieval, accelerated by AI, underscores the transformational power of technology. What once took hours in a library, then took about 40 minutes on legal research tools, yet to be updated by seamlessly searching the web which may take 4 minutes.  However, research and action can now be accomplished in seconds with tools like ChatGPT, revolutionizing how professionals, including attorneys, conduct research and draft documents. However, this ease comes with challenges, such as the reliance on AI-produced legal research without sufficient oversight, highlighting the enduring need for human judgment and intervention, especially in critical legal processes.  Fake ChatGPT Cases Cost Lawyers $5,000 Plus Embarrassment (bloomberglaw.com).  Even before generative AI senior attorneys had to oversee work done by junior associates under the ethical management rules as these lawyers were putting their ticket on the line.  Rule 5.1 Responsibilities Of Partners, Managers, And Supervisory Lawyers – Comment (americanbar.org). Therefore, we still need human intervention to ensure the technologies are working correctly, regardless of if the technology used to be letter sent by mail, a fax, a phone call, an email, or even now a test message. Furthermore, humans still need to sign very important documents, even those that are signed under penalty of perjury, a machine cannot do this, including tax documents, motions and memorandums filed in courts, routine submissions to government by the regulated community, certain documents for background checks, and numerous other pieces of information.

Societal fears about the dominance of machines, often dramatized in science fiction, reflect underlying anxieties about AI’s role in our future.  The man versus machine fear is not new. Yet, the practical approach to AI’s adoption in the legal and governmental spheres emphasizes the importance of evolution rather than resistance. There must be a proactive stance toward AI, advocating for its potential to enhance service delivery in mission-critical arenas.  Even in the movie The Terminator, the humans win. Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991) – IMDb.  Therefore, lawyers as well as government professionals should look at the utilization of AI. Government leaders do not want to be another beltway sandwich where The White House is championing exciting technology and Congress is asking why it has not yet been deployed which risks government agencies from having the meat eaten off their agencies efficacy and potentially budget.

Government resources are limited, and agencies cannot hire or deploy technology quick enough.  However, there is a hope that the utilization of AI will allow for more efficient and accurate services to be delivered for mission critical systems such as national security or providing key services for our citizens. Whether practicing on the private side, in the government, or for organizations attorneys should carefully monitor the use of AI. It has been stated, “AI won’t replace lawyers, but lawyers who use AI will replace lawyers who don’t.”  AI in Law: A Game-Changer for Legal Professionals | by Mobiloitte Technologies | Feb, 2024 | Medium.  As leading technology jurist, Judge Scott Schlegel, notes, in his open letter to his colleagues, he calls for education over regulation, even in the drafting of this letter he notes that he used ChatGPT.  A Call for Education Over Regulation: An Open Letter — Judge Scott Schlegel (judgeschlegel.com).

Ethical rules provide the foundation for competency including the use of technology.  Rule 1.1: Competence (americanbar.org). This is becoming more apparent in the technology realization in the legal profession when AI first came out decades ago, it was very expensive and rarely used, except for large organizations and leading academic institutions for research and the potential deployment of its use.  Nowadays, artificial intelligence, including generative AI is used routinely whether it is in navigation programs, music or video selection, online purchasing platforms, and a whole host of routine activities throughout one’s day, AI can seamlessly be utilized with a human making the final decision.

Therefore, the time is now for attorneys and government professionals to Ask what (AI) can do for Your Country. Individuals can look at what their colleagues are doing, and work with organizations to examine how AI is being used, review how courts are reviewing the uses of AI, be mindful of pitfalls to avoid, and look at the potential benefits of how numerous operations can be delivered much more efficiently and accurately. There are a number of unknowns that exist with AI.  However, legislative hearings, regulatory oversight, and litigation with court rulings will help provide the framework in the ever-evolving use of the exploding technology.  In our democratic experience, where are constantly refining opportunities so that stagnation won’t be the standard. While 2023 seemed to move with lightning speed as generative AI quickly dominate many conversations in the halls of Congress and Courtrooms throughout the Nation, it will be (AI)exciting to see what 2024 has in store.

This article was written by Nicholas Wittenberg; Corporate Counsel and Senior Advisor for Legal Technology and Innovation at Armedia| former White House Office of Science and Technology Policy Counsel.

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