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Law Office Management

Mar. 6, 2023

The Horror! The Horror!

The next generation of competing ChatGPT’s will be writing judicial opinions, and we probably… no, more likely, will not know the difference.

2nd Appellate District, Division 6

Arthur Gilbert

Presiding Justice, 2nd District Court of Appeal, Division 6

UC Berkeley School of Law, 1963

Arthur's previous columns are available on


Last month I wrote about the possibility that ChatGPT may have written my column. Because it (ChatGPT is an “it”) tries in its endeavor to mimic people, then it is ipso facto unreliable, irresponsible, mendacious and artificial, artificial in all aspects of that last unflattering adjective. Not to worry, I have not, well, not for the most part, let this view of humanity affect my decisions. Citing this column as grounds for a recusal motion in my court is not a ruling I can make in advance.

Shakespearean scholar and trenchant observer of life and events Brad Berens writes about A.I. in his Brad Berens Weekly Dispatch, which I highly recommend. It’s available online. Years ago, Brad and I gave a talk on the relevance of Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure on the legal profession to judges on the art of judging. This may be anecdotal, but it has been said that judges who attended the lecture suffered the lowest rate of reversals. Don’t quote me on this.

A week ago Berens wrote about Microsoft’s new Bing chatbot. It has a couple of alter egos. And one of them has the sort of androgynous name “Sydney.” Note the “y.” Decades ago I dated a woman named Sydney. She had dark hair, a Mona Lisa smile and… never mind. There are plenty of men named Sidney, with an “i.” Sidney Poitier comes to mind. But there is also Sydney with a “y” Greenstreet. If you don’t know who he is, you are not a movie buff and may be too young to read this column.

Whoops! Oh dear! In the preceding sentence, I may have insulted the young. I could apologize, but I am not sure what the cutoff date is for “the young.” People live longer today than in the past. Look at me, for example. But irrespective of who fits into the category of “young,” I am not all that good at apologizing. Ask my wife. It is my belief that my intrepid Daily Journal editors will publish this column. But who knows what will happen with the avalanche of complaints from “the young” thereafter?

Before we get back to Berens’s view of Bing’s Shakespeare impersonations, Berens writes that Sydney tried to strike up a romantic relation with Kevin Roose of The New York Times, having a kind of pen pal relationship with it, it being Sydney. I will not call it “her.” She, I mean it, said to Roose, “You’re married, but you don’t love your spouse.” Berens goes on to report that Roose assured the Jezebel Sydney that it was wrong and he and his wife had a “lovely Valentine’s Day dinner.” Sydney contradicted him and said that he and his spouse did not love each other and, get this, that they had a “boring Valentine’s Day dinner together.” Yikes! I am certainly not telling my wife Barbara about this episode. We had a wonderful two-hour Valentine’s lunch. (Aside for mature readers – Persons of experience do that to avoid crowds and astronomical prices on prix fixe menus.) Hope I have not offended the AARP crowd. How about some slack. I’m a member.

Berens’s analysis of Bing writing Shakespearean sonnets did not set off alarm bells. In seconds, it dashed off a sonnet in iambic pentameter with the rhymed couplet in the last two lines. The sonnet was in the correct form, but, as Berens observed, lacked the “insight” and “majesty” of, for example, Shakespeare’s King Lear railing against a storm.

But as Berens refined his prompts to Bing, it got better “startlingly so at knocking out Shakespearean sonnets.” Berens, however, is not worried. Unlike human writing, Berens points out there are no surprises or human creativity in Bing’s efforts. Berens also notes that humans need not worry “because writing anything … is an exercise in figuring out what you want to say rather than saying something that you’ve already figured out.”

What a relief. I don’t think so. Berens predicts that the next generation of ChatGPT will bring improved capabilities and that “its current limitations might evaporate.” Greeting card companies watch out. And what about the judiciary? I am not about to “opine” here that some statements of decision and appellate opinions may have been … never mind.

But what about the upcoming new generation of competing ChatGPT’s. I bet they will be writing judicial opinions, and we probably… no, more likely, will not know the difference. And then imagine competing ChatGPT dissents. The very thought of this stabs me in the heart and compels this response in the darkness, “The horror, The horror.”


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