In a previous article, we talked about ChatGPT. It is a prime example of generative AI (artificial intelligence). In this article, we will explore generative ai a bit more in detail. We’ll answer questions like, “What is Generative AI?”, “Why is Generative AI important?”, “What can it do?”, “What are the downsides?”, and “What are the Generative AI applications for lawyers?”.
What is Generative AI?
A website dedicated to generative AI defines it as “the part of Artificial Intelligence that can generate all kinds of data, including audio, code, images, text, simulations, 3D objects, videos, and so forth. It takes inspiration from existing data, but also generates new and unexpected outputs, breaking new ground in the world of product design, art, and many more.” (generativeai.net)
The definition Sabrina Ortiz gives on ZDNet is complementary: “All it refers to is AI algorithms that generate or create an output, such as text, photo, video, code, data, and 3D renderings, from data they are trained on. The premise of generative AI is to create content, as opposed to other forms of AI, which might be used for other purposes, such as analysing data or helping to control a self-driving car.” As such, Generative AI is a type of machine learning that is specifically designed to create (generate) content.
Two types of generative AI have been making headlines. There are programs that can create visual art, like Midjourney or DALL-E2. And there are applications like ChatGPT that can generate almost any desired text output and excels in conversation in natural language.
Why is Generative AI important?
Generative AI is still in its early stages and already it can perform impressive tasks. As it grows and becomes more powerful, it will fundamentally change the way we operate and live. Many experts agree it will have an impact that is at least as big as the introduction of the Internet. Just think of how much the Internet has become of our daily lives. Generative AI, too, is expected to become fully integrated into our lives. And it is expected to do so quickly. One expert predicts that on average we will have new and twice as powerful generative AI systems every 18 months. Only four months after ChatGPT 3.5 was released, on 14 March 2023, a new, more powerful, more accurate, and more sophisticated version 4.0 was released. The new version is a first step towards a multimodal generative AI, i.e., one that can work with several media simultaneously: text, graphics, video, audio. It can create output of over 25 000 words of text, which allows it to be more creative and collaborative. And it’s safer and faster.
Let us next have a look at what generative AI can already do, and what it will be able to do soon.
What can it do?
One of the first areas where generative AI was making major breakthroughs was to create visual art. Sabrina Ortiz explains, “Generative AI art is created by AI models that are trained on existing art. The model is trained on billions of images found across the internet. The model uses this data to learn styles of pictures and then uses this insight to generate new art when prompted by an individual through text.” These are five free AI art generators that you can try out for yourself:
We already know from our previous article that ChatGPT can create virtually any text output. It can write emails and other correspondence, papers, a range of legal documents including contracts, programming code, episodes of TV series, etc. It can assist in research, make summaries of text, describe artwork, etc.
More and more search engines are starting to use generative AI as well. Bing, DuckDuckGo, and You.com, e.g., all already have a chat interface. When you ask a question, you get an answer in natural language, instead of a list of URLs. Bing even gives the references that it based its feedback on. Google is expected to launch its own generative AI enabled search engine soon.
More specifically to programming, one of the major platforms for developers (GitHub) announced it now has an AI Copilot for Business which is an AI-powered developer tool that can write code, debug and give feedback on existing code. It can solve any issues it may detect in the code.
Google’s MusicLM already can write music upon request, and the new ChatGPT version 4 announced a similar offering, too. YouTube also has announced that it will start offering generative AI assistance for video creation.
Generative AI tools can be useful writing assistants. The article on g2.com, mentioned in the sources, lists 48 free writing assistants, though many of them use a freemium model. Writer’s block may soon be a thing of the past, as several of these writing assistants only need a key word to start producing a first draft. You even get to choose the writing style.
Generative AI can also accelerate scientific research and increase our knowledge. It can, e.g., lower healthcare costs and speed up drug development.
In Britain, a nightclub successfully organized a dance event where the DJ was an AI bot.
All existing chatbots can get an upgrade where they will become far better at natural language conversations. And generative AI integrated with the right customer processes will improve customer experience.
As you can see, even though we’re only at the beginning of the generative AI revolution, the possibilities are endless.
What are the downsides?
At present, generative AI tools are mostly tools that assist. The output needs to be supervised. Sometimes, ChatGPT, e.g., gives incorrect answers. Worse, it can just make things up, and an experiment with a legal chatbot discovered that the bot just started lying because it had concluded that that was the most effective way to get the desired end result. So, there are no guarantees that the produced output is correct. And the AI system does not care whether what it does is morally or legally acceptable. Extra safeguards will have to be built in, which is why there are several calls to regulate AI.
There also is an ongoing debate about intellectual property rights. If a program takes an existing image and merely applies one or more filters, does this infringe on the intellectual property of the original artist? Where do you draw the line? And who owns the copyright on what generative AI creates? If, e.g., a pharmaceutical company uses an AI tool to create a new drug, who can take a patent? Is it the pharmaceutical company, the company that created the AI tool, or the AI tool itself?
And as generative AI becomes better, it will transform the knowledge and creative marketplaces, which will inevitably lead to the loss of jobs.
Generative AI applications for lawyers
As a result of the quick progress in generative AI, existing legal chatbots are already being upgraded. A first improvement has to do with user convenience and user-friendliness because users can now interact with the bots through a natural language interface. The new generation of bots understand more and are also expected to become faster, safer, and more accurate. The new ChatGPT 4 scored in the 90th percentile for the bar exams, where ChatGPT 3 – only a few months earlier – barely passed some exams.
Virtual Legal Assistants (VLA) are getting more and more effective in:
- Legal research
- Drafting, reviewing, and summarizing legal documents: contracts, demand letters, discovery demands, nondisclosure agreements, employment agreements, etc.
- Creative collaboration
- Brainstorming, etc.
As mentioned before, at present these AI assistants are just that, i.e., assistants. They can create draft versions of legal documents, but those still need revision by an actual human lawyer. These VLAs still make errors. But at the same time, they can already considerably enhance productivity by saving you a lot of time. And they are getting better and better fast, as the example of the bar exams confirms.