DefCon Chronicles: Hackers Response to President Biden’s Unprecedented Request to Come to DefCon to Hack the World for Fun and Profit

September 3, 2023

Hackers responded to the White House call by the thousands, including reporter-AI-hacker Ralph Losey, to try to break existing software in open contests. Ralph joined in the AI hack attack, but there were many other competitions to hack different systems. In this second in the Chronicle series we describe more of the details of the President’s policy, share some of the celebrity feds who came in person to make the President’s case and analyze the hackers’ response. In upcoming articles Ralph will report on the AI and other attacks at DefCon to find and kill computer bugs.

Computer AI Robo Bug image by Ralph Losey using Midjourney

The cybersecurity leadership of the White House and Department of Homeland Security personally attended DefCon 31. That includes the Homeland Security Department Secretary himself, Alejandro Mayorkas. The feds came to help officially open the conference, and then, with black hats in hand, to ask for help from DefCon hackers, answer their questions, offer employment to some, and make several new policy statements on consumer protection and national defense.

It looks like DefCon 31 was a breakthrough political event for hackers and DefCon. Never before had a government leader, especially the President of the United States, made a public call for hackers to help the country. Never before had White House experts, along with the dreaded Department of Homeland Security, asked hackers to go to Vegas to hack software. They even promised big cash awards in future DefCons. In Def Con 32 and 33, in 2024 and 2025, they promise to conclude a series of ongoing competitions that will go one throughout the years, leading to semi-finals and finals at DefCon 32 and 33. They promised awards of millions to winning teams, including a top prize of $4 million for the team that “best secures vital software.” See, Hackers to compete for nearly $20 million in prizes by using A.I. for cybersecurity, Biden administration announces. I already know the answer – unplug it! – but I don’t suppose they will accept that as correct. After all, its vital. So hack we must.

Hacker Girl by Ralph Losey

President Biden on AI and Cyber Policy

On July 21, 2023, the day of a big meeting with the White House and leading companies in AI, President Biden delivered a short speech reproduced here on artificial intelligence. Surprisingly, I agree with most everything he says in this excerpt. For more details on the meeting itself and the commitment to regulation the White House managed to obtain, see White House Obtains Commitments to Regulation of Generative AI from OpenAI, Amazon, Anthropic, Google, Inflection, Meta and Microsoft (August 1, 2023, e-Discovery Team).

President reading prepared statement on AI, 7/21/23

For more background on President Biden’s call for AI black hats to pen-test AI, see VEGAS BABY! The AI Village at DEFCON Sponsors Red Team Hacking to Improve Ethics Protocols of Generative AI.

The government leaders in attendance of DefCon 31 pleaded for hackers in many different seminars to try to break the alignment protections that AI software companies have created. This is a relatively new, and a very concerning problem that surprised people with the release of ChatGPT-3.5 then 4.0. The top feds also asked for hackers help to find and fix vulnerabilities and bugs in all types of software. They have done this in the past, but in very low key manner.

Fake Photo of Joe Biden wearing a black hat using Midjourney

Top feds leaders attending DefCon 31 spoke openly of the government’s work in cybersecurity defense and regulatory policy, but at the same time, were careful not to reveal classified secrets. I could see them struggling with this tension at times. The feds of all agencies were also blatant in their recruiting efforts, to try to get in the DefCon community to work for them. The feds, including especially the many DOD related agencies, understand the urgency of the need for skilled Hacker experts to protect the free world from constant, ongoing cyber attacks.

If hackers find and report these bugs, the software can be fixed before criminals and foreign governments use the vulnerabilities against us. These hacker investigations are needed to find and fix the flaws. It is hard, distasteful work, but needs to be done.

AI Bug Catching Hacker Finds a Big One, by Ralph using Midjourney

Federal Government Leaders at DefCon Policy Events

President Biden’s invite to hackers was echoed in the opening ceremonies in a low key way by DefCon’s founder, Jeff Moss, aka Dark Tangent (much more on Jeff later) and with more enthusiasm by the Secretary of Department of Homeland Security, who joined Jeff on stage to kick things off. Secretary Mayorkas, a Cuban refugee, has had a distinguished career as a criminal prosecutor and U.S. attorney in Los Angeles. He moved to Washington D.C. to take on a number of roles in the Obama administration, ending with Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security. He is not a cyber expert, and seemed a little uncomfortable at DefCon, but he knows the tremendous dangers of America’s extensive cyber vulnerabilities. He too asked for help from the black hats.

Alejandro Mayorkas, official portrait with Ralph’s photoshop Ai of flag and black hat

The two seeming polar opposites, Jeff Moss and Alejandro Mayorkas, opened DefCon 31 by announcing that the Fed’s existing “Hack DHS” bug bounty program would not only continue, but would expand its focus to include artificial intelligence. Mayorkas went on to say he was “very concerned” about potential cybersecurity, civil rights and privacy issues related to generative AI. “You see things we do not see, you discover things, and we need your help.” A lot of truth there. The DefCon hackers are among the best in the world at finding software vulnerabilities.

The DHA and DOD agencies, just like most large corporations, have an obvious recruiting problem with cyber experts. There are now thousands of unfilled vacancies. See eg., How DoD is thinking ‘outside the box’ to solve its cyber workforce challenges (Breaking Defense, 8/22/23). Sending the top brass to recruit at DefCon is about as far outside of the box as you can get for federal recruiting, although it has been going on for years in quiet mode, with some small success. DefCon hackers are, after all, a largely crazy, punkish counter-culture group.

Photo by Ralph using Midjourney “camera” at DefCon of typical hackers

I have talked to ethical hackers who look for vulnerabilities for a living, red hats doing penetrating testing. Many think the red team community should not be asked to help the government find bugs without getting fair payment for their work. To make this new government pitch work, the bug bounty cash awards and conditions need to be real and doled out to all the little guys as well, not just the big corporate teams. Although the government talks a big game now, in fact, in the first year of the Hack DHS bug bounty program the DHS only paid out $125,600 total. Whoopie Doo! The U.S. spends about a Trillion Dollars on defense and security every year. The $125,660 spend for bug bounties is just a little over $1,000 per vulnerability found, substantiated, and reported for errors. This is a pittance considering the skilled time required, and the fact a red teamer only gets paid if something that qualifies as a covered error is found. They deserve better pay. No one wants the red hats to go to the dark side and sell the bugs they find to the evil back hats. The money and glamour can be alluring.

Fantasy Black Hat Girl Photo image by Ralph using Midjourney

The corporations who make all of the defective software tested should pitch in and pay big supplements to the government program and add many more private bounty programs. Many corporations already have such programs, and they should be greatly increased. Let’s make the total public and private bug bounty program actual rewards at least $125 Million a year, not thousand, then we will see better results. The security of the free world will improve.

I heard grumbling from the hacker ranks about unfair exploitation of their time and skills. We really do not want these skilled workers selling out to true black hat criminals and terrorists, including foreign adversaries. Remember Vladimir Putin’s famous victory statement in 2017: “Artificial intelligence is the future not only for Russia, but for all humankind. Whoever becomes the leader in this sphere will become the ruler of the world.”  Artificial Intelligence and Great Power Competition, With Paul Scharre, (Council on Foreign Relation), 3/28/23 . Putin has already hacked one election, don’t let him hack another. Unethical AI bots and social media easily combine to make powerful propaganda.

Putin wants to steal our AI, then hack and use it to conquer the world. Ralph’s Midjourney photo image,

Insecure by Negligent Design

Another important policy seminar to mention was called CISA/ONCD Secure by Design. It was led by Jen Easterly, who is known as CISAJen on Twitter (aka X). She was also part of the opening remarks with her boss, Alejandro Mayorkas. Jen gets high points from us for her talks and for her cyber cool look. Jen, in addition to being a hands-on and policy cyber expert, is also a big proponent of mental health. That is one reason she went public on Twitter recently regarding her brother’s recent suicide. Very sad and compelling motivation for her charity work in this field.

Jen Easterly, Photoshopped image by Ralph using AI

On that side-point, note that throughout DefCon 31 there were signs with a phone number for help and support of any kind, including twice a day Friends of Bill meetings. The hacker community was well protected by the hundreds of friendly, albeit sometimes crazy looking, men and women, called “Goons.” They provided security and host services, answering all questions with a caring smile. There was no violence at this 24,000 plus event. All was peace and calm at Caesar’s Convention Forum, far safer than the Caesar’s Palace Hotel itself where some of us had coughed up big bucks to stay. The Casino was loud, smoke filled, over priced with big gamblers and a few scantily dressed women. Typical Vegas. Not many DefCon type punk nerds hung out at Caesar’s Hotel. They mostly stayed in the convention area or cheaper nearby hotels. Next time I’ll do that too, as I’d rather just hang out with them and avoid the gambling fools.

Hacker girl standing out at DefCon crowds. Photo by Ralph using Midjourney camera

Back to the CISA/ONCD Secure by Design policy seminar. First, here is a translation of the acronyms and explanation of the title. The acronym ONCD stands for the Office of the National Cyber Director. This is the White House Office that advises the President on cybersecurity policy and strategy. Kemba Walden is the Acting National Cyber Director of the ONCD.

Photoshopped beta AI version of Kemba Walden

Acting ONCD Director Kemba Walden is a lawyer, formerly with Microsoft, digital crimes unit, so I bet she is good at recruiting all the hackers who got away. Here are a few video takes of her interview by the Dark Tangent himself, Jeff Moss, in another seminar, where, not surprisingly, Kemba distinguished herself well.

Kemba Walden interview by Jeff Moss at DefCon 31, video by Ralph Losey

Back again to never ending fed acronyms, CISA stands for the federal Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, the group at Homeland Security that Jenn Easterly leads. Secure By Design is a key program of the CISA, which is more fully described by a series of government articles here. The policy discussion concerned possible regulation of software design to require companies, like Microsoft, just for instance (but really they are all insecure), to design their technology so that it is more secure. The same design problems also apply to hardware, and to Internet providers and the internet infrastructure itself. We are in a real cybersecurity mess right now. Everyone is getting hacked and put to significant extra security expenses. Hackers and cyber lawyers at DefCon probably know more about this than anyone.

Hacker lawyer at DefCon, Ralph Photo using Midjourney

It may seem incredible, but this design imperative for the security of computer products, is not, like cars, legally required by manufacturers. Profit motivates tech companies, not your safety. The only exceptions are companies who sell add-on security software and services. Cyber security is not part of the tech bro culture, the make it and sell it fast, get rick quick kids. Big tech is able to maximize profits by not designing everything from the ground up for security. Instead, they do what shareholders and consumers both want, they design tech for consumer convenience. There are many reasons security is not as high a priority as it should be, including tech’s near immunity from liability for damages caused by its defects. The clickthrough license agreements and laissez-faire laws have over-protected them for decades.

This explains why the proposed safety regulations in Security By Design are controversial in Big Tech. Still, individual hackers at DefCon seemed open to the idea of putting it to the Man. You might wonder why, since in the long run safe by design, might cut into their income. They earn a living by fixing the never ending spew of bad code that tech bros make. But, that’s a speculative long term consequence. In the here and now there is plenty of work for them to do. Sure, they want greater pay, especially for volunteer find a bug work, but the job market now is good for employees. The job shortage in cybersecurity is real. Plus, hackers are a skeptical bunch. They doubt the new government’s algorithmic safety policies will create real results. Just government talk, they think. I hope they are wrong.

Ralph photo using Midjourney of typical hackers in crowd at DefCon

The policy discussions in CISA/ONCD Secure by Design pertained to these issues, but not for long. Most of the time was devoted to providing attendees an opportunity to make written comments to the draft regulations CISA is now working on. This seminar was swamped, with insufficient seats and pens. Revisions had to be made old school, on paper. I can only imagine how many of the hackers in the policy village were actually lobbyists scribbling away, not real hackers at all. We did not attend this event, but could watch it later.

We missed it primarily for scheduling reasons, not to avoid the funny use of dead trees at DefCon. We wanted to AI compete, not meet, and these many seminars overlapped. Typically DefCon would have five or six seminars and classes going on at the same time, not to mention the hundreds of competitions and demonstrations, etc. There were many complaints about that. More logistics criticisms at the conclusion of the DefCon Chronicle series.


Bottom line, security for many software and hardware manufacturers is an afterthought. All too often when software safety is mentioned – “bug-free, safe software” – it is just a bogus marketing claim, a big lie. The inherent flaws in software code are well known in the hacker community, and are, in fact, the basis for the whole thriving cybersecurity industry. (In fairness, user errors and vulnerability to social engineering are also a leading cause of cyber vulnerabilities.) The government needs hacker help to alert the fixers of these problems.

Guessing this Hacker at DefCon is a fed, maybe NSA’s top recruiter? Midjourney photo.

Time will tell if this new White House effort to make cyber safe will succeed. If not, you can count on the attacks to continue. The bad guys like Putin and his puppets will continue to use our own stupidity and greed against us. I for one hope that idealism wins out before we start having more planes mysteriously fall from the sky and other engineered disasters.

Dictators Cyber Attack Us Daily, Image by Ralph using AIs

For background on the cyber war underway and the rush for Ai code superiority, see Ben Buchanan  and Andrew Imbrie‘s new book, The New Fire: War, Peace and Democracy in the Age of AI. These are Georgetown scholars now helping the White House as advisors. I highly recommend their book and hope to do a more detailed review of it later. It is a must read to understand the global politics of AI and cyber. I particularly like the general analysis of the three groups in AI tech, the Evangelists, the Cassandras and the Warriors, as well as the explanation of AI as the new Fire having three sparks: data, algorithms and computing power. It is a good framework to help anyone understand the fast changes now underway and the opportunities, dangers and politics involved.

Cover of Buchanan & Imbrie’s Book

For good background reading on hackers and the inherent insecurity of code and the internet today, see Fancy Bear Goes Phishing (5/23/23, Farrar, Straus and Giroux) by Scott Shapiro. This is another great book, which I highly recommend. I especially liked his carefully researched, beautifully written re-telling of five of the most famous hacks in history. Scott is a Professor of Law and Philosophy at Yale and was a presenter with Jenn Easterly at another DefCon Policy seminar called Lions and Tigers and Fancy Bears, Oh My!: A Cautionary Tale for our Cyber Future. This is another seminar that I wanted to attend, but could not due to logistics. DefCon31 described the seminar as a discussion on “how best to understand the challenge of information security; what we can learn from looking back; and how the decisions we make today to prioritize security by design will shape our future.” I hope to do a more in-depth book review soon.

Cover of Scott Shapiro’s Book

Stay tuned for the next episode of the DefCon Chronicles, coming soon!

Ralph Losey Copyright 2023. — All Rights reserved

DefCon Chronicles: Where Tech Elites, Aliens and Dogs Collide – Series Opener

August 21, 2023

From Boris to Bots: Our First Dive into the DefCon Universe. This begins a series of blogs chronicling the infamous DefCon event in Las Vegas. The next installment will cover President Biden’s unprecedented request for hackers to attend DefCon to hack AI, and the hackers enthusiastic response, including reporter-AI-hacker Ralph Losey, to break existing AI software in an open contest. In addition, nearly all of the top cybersecurity leadership of the White House and Department of Homeland Security personally attended DefCon, including the Homeland Security Department Secretary himself, Alejandro Mayorkas. They came to help officially open the conference and stayed to give multiple policy statements and answer all hacker questions. It was a true breakthrough moment in cyber history.

Boris seems unimpressed by his official DefCon Dog award

I attended DefCon 31, on August 10-15, 2023, as independent Press, accompanied by my co-reporter daughter, a former lobbyist with an English Lit background, and her dog, Boris. Our press status with special green badge had a high price tag, but it gave us priority access to everything. It also facilitated our interaction with notable figures, from the White House Science Advisor, Arati Prabhakar, to DefCon’s enigmatic founder, Dark Tangent.

DefCon is the world’s largest tech hacker “conference” – more like a inter-dimensional portal at the Caesars Forum. When we first checked in, we happened to meet the leader of DefCon Press and P.R. She fell for little Boris in a handbag, and declared him the official DefCon 31 dog! What an honor. Way to go Boris, who everyone thinks is a Chihuahua, but is really a Russian Terrier. Nothing is as it seems at DefCon. The guy you see walking around in shorts, who looks like a bearded punk rocker, may actually be a senior NSA fed. We will tell you why the NSA was there later in this series.

At DefCon, we immersed ourselves in a diverse crowd of over 24,000 elite tech experts from across the globe. This included renowned names in Cybersecurity, notably the formidable red team professionals. Most of these hackers are law-abiding entrepreneurs, as well as members of top corporate and federal red and blue teams. Several thousand were there just to answer President Biden’s call for hackers everywhere to come to DefCon to compete to break AI. Such a request had never been made before. Much more on this later, including my joining in the AI competition.

The tech experts, hackers all, came together for the thirty-first year of DefCon. We were drawn to participate, and in our case, also report on, the hundreds of large and small lectures and other educational events, demonstrations and vendor exhibitions. In addition, the really big draw was, as usual, the dazzling array of hacker challenges and competitions. Some of these are quiet serious with major prizes and rep at stake, and required pre-qualifications and success in entry rounds. But most were open to all who showed up.

Picture walking into a football stadium, but in place of athletes, you’re surrounded by the world’s tech elite, each donning distinctive hacker attire. As we flooded in by the thousands, it was a blend of seasoned pros and enthusiastic fans. I counted myself among the fans, yet I eagerly took on several challenges, such as the AI red team event. The sheer diversity and expertise of all participants was impressive.

The entrance boasted a towering, thirty-foot neon sparkling mural that caught my eye immediately. I’ve refined the photo to focus on the mural, removing the surrounding crowds. And, just for fun, there’s an alien addition.

Ralph entering Defcon 31

The open competitions came in all shapes and sizes: hacker vs. computers and machines of all types, including voting machines, satellites and cars; hacker vs. hacker contests; and hacker teams against hacker teams in capture the flag type contests. An article will be devoted to these many competitions, not just the hacker vs. AI contest that I entered.

There was even a writing contest before the event to compete for the best hacker-themed short story, with the winner announced at DefCon. I did not win, but had fun trying. My story followed the designated theme, was set in part in Defcon, and was a kind of sci-fi, cyber dystopia involving mass shootings with AI and gun control to the rescue. The DefCon rules did not allow illustrations, just text, but, of course, I later had to add pictures, one of which is shown below. I’ll write another article on that fiction writing contest too. There were many submissions, most were farther-out and better than my humble effort. After submission, I was told that most seemed to involve Ai in some manner. It’s in the air.

Operation Veritas - short story by R. Losey
Illustration by Ralph for his first attempt at writing fiction, submitted for judging in the DefCon 31 writing competition.

So many ideas and writing projects are now in our head from these four days in Vegas. One of my favorite lectures, which I will certainly write about, was by a French hacker, who shared that he is in charge of cybersecurity for a nuclear power plant. He presented in a heavy French accent to a large crowd on a study he led on Science Fiction. It included statistical analysis of genres, and how often sci-fi predictions come true. All of DefCon seemed like a living sci-fi novel to us, and I am pretty sure there were multiple aliens safely mingling with the crowd.

We provide this first Defcon 31 chronicle as an appetizer for many more blogs to come. This opening provides just a glimpse of the total mind-blowing experience. The official DefCon 31 welcome trailer does a good job of setting the tone for the event. Enlarge to full screen and turn up the volume for best affects!

DefCon 31 official welcome video

Next, is a brief teaser description and image of our encounter with the White House Science Advisor, Dr. Arati Prabhakar. She and her government cyber and AI experts convinced President Biden to issue a call for hackers to come to Defcon, to try to break (hack) the new AI products. This kind of red team effort is needed to help keep us all safe. The response from tech experts worldwide was incredible, over a thousand hackers waited in a long line every day for a chance to hack the AI, myself included.

We signed a release form and were then led to one of fifty or more restricted computers. There we read the secret contest instructions, started the timer, and tried to jail break the AI in multiple scenarios. In quiet solo efforts, with no outside tools allowed and constant monitoring to prevent cheating, we tried to prompt ChatGPT4 and other software to say or do something wrong, to make errors and hallucinate. I had one success. The testing of AI vulnerabilities is very helpful to AI companies, including OpenAI. I will write about this is in much greater detail in a later article, as AI and Policy were my favorite of the dozens of tracks at DefCon.

A lot of walking was required to attend the event and a large chill-out room provided a welcome reprieve. They played music there with DJs, usually as a quiet background. There were a hundred decorated tables to sit down, relax, and if you felt like it, chat, eat and drink. The company was good, everyone was courteous to me, even though I was press. The food was pretty good too. I also had the joy of someone “paying it forward” in the food line, which was a first for me. Here is a glimpse of the chill out scene from the official video by Defcon Arts and Entertainment. Feel it. As the song says, “no one wants laws on their body.” Again, go full screen with volume up for this great production,

Defcon 31 Chill Out room, open all day, with video by Defcon Arts and Entertainment,

As a final teaser for our DefCon chronicles, check out my Ai enhanced photo of Arati Prabhakar, whose official title is Director of the Office of Science and Technology. She is a close advisor of the President and member of the Cabinet. Yes, that means she has seen all of the still top secret UFO files. In her position, and with her long DOD history, she knows as much as anyone in the world about the very real dangers posed by ongoing cyber-attacks and the seemingly MAD race to weaponize AI. Yet, somehow, she keeps smiling and portrays an aura of restrained confidence, albeit she did seem somewhat skeptical at times of her bizarre surroundings at DefCon, and who knows what other sights she has been privy too. Some of the questions she was asked about AI did seem strange and alien to me.

Arati Prabhakar speaking on artificial intelligence, its benefits and dangers, Photoshop, beta version, enhancements by Ralph Losey

Stay tuned for more chronicles. Our heads are exploding with new visuals, feelings, intuitions and ideas. They are starting to come together as new connections are made in our brains’ neural networks. Even a GPT-5 could not predict exactly what we will write and illustrate next. All we know for certain is that these ongoing chronicles will include video tapes of our interviews, presentations attended, including two mock trials of hackers, as well as our transcripts, notes, impressions and many more AI enhanced photos. All videos and photos will, of course, have full privacy protection of other participants who do not consent, which the strict rules of Def Con require. If you are a human, Ai or alien, and feel that your privacy rights have been violated by any of this content, please let us know and we will fuzz you out fast.

DefCon 31 entrance photo by Def Con taken before event started

Ralph Losey Copyright 2023 (excluding the two videos, photo and mural art, which are Def Con productions).

What Lawyers Think About AI, Creativity and Job Security

July 28, 2023

This article continues the Ai creativity series and examines current thinking among lawyers about their work and job security. Most believe their work is too creative to be replaced by machines. The lawyer opinions discussed here are derived from a survey by Wolters Kluwer and Above the Law: Generative AI in the Law: Where Could This All Be Headed? (7/03/2023). It seems that most other professionals, including doctors and top management in businesses, feel the same way. They think they are indispensable Picassos, too cool for school.

All images and video created by Ralph Losey

The evidence discussed on this blog in the last few articles suggests they are wrong. It might just be vainglory on their part. Creativity and How Anyone Can Adjust ChatGPT’s Creativity Settings To Limit Its Mistakes and Hallucinations; and Creativity Test of GPT’s Story Telling Ability Based on an Image Alone and especially ChatGPT-4 Scores in the Top One Percent of Standard Creativity Tests. Some of the highest paid, most secure attorneys today are very creative, but so too are the new Generative Ais. Some of the latest Ais are very personable too, dangerously so. Code of Ethics for “Empathetic” Generative AI.

Introduction to the Lawyer Survey

The well-prepared Above The Law Wolters Kluwer report of July 3, 2023, indicates that two-thirds of lawyers questioned do not think ChatGPT-4 is capable of creative legal analysis and writing. For that reason, they cling to the belief they are safe from Ai and can ignore it. They think their creativity and legal imagination makes them special, irreplaceable. The survey shows they believe that only the grunt workers of the law, the document and contract reviewers, and the like, will be displaced.

I used to think that too. A self-serving vanity perhaps? But, I must now accept the evidence. Even if your legal work does involve considerable creative thinking and legal imagination, it is not for that reason alone secure from AI replacement. There may be many other reasons that your current job is secure, or that you only have to tweak your work a little to make it secure. But, for most of us, it looks like we will have to change our ways and modify our roles, at least somewhat. We will have to take on new legal challenges that emerge from Ai. The best job security comes from continuous active learning.

With some study we can learn to work with Ai to become even more creative, productive and economically secure.

Recent “Above The Law” – Wolters Kluwer Survey

Surprisingly, I agree with most of the responses reported in the survey described in Generative AI in the Law: Where Could This All Be Headed? I will not go over these, and instead just recommend you read this interesting free report (registration required). My article will only address the one opinion that I am very skeptical about, namely whether or not high-level, creative legal work is likely to be transformed by AI in the next few years. A strong majority said no, that jobs based on creative legal analysis are safe.

Most of the respondents to the survey did not think that AI is even close to taking over high-level legal work, the experienced partner work that requires a good amount of imagination and creativity. Over two-thirds of those questioned considered such skilled legal work to be beyond a chatbot’s abilities.

At page six of the report, after concluding that all non-creative legal work was at risk, the survey considered “high-level legal work.” A minority of respondents, only 31%, thought that AI would transform complex matters, like “negotiating mergers or developing litigation strategy.” Almost everyone thought AI lacked “legal imagination,” especially litigators, who “were the least likely to agree that generative AI will someday perform high-level work.” This is the apparent reasoning behind the conclusions as to whose jobs are at risk. As the ATL Wolters report observed:

The question is: Can an AI review a series of appellate opinions that dance around a subject but never reach it head on? Can the AI synthesize a legal theory from those adjacent points of law? In other words, does it have legal imagination? . . .

One survey respondent — a litigation partner — had a similar take: “AI may be increasingly sophisticated at calculation, but it is not replacing the human brain’s capacity for making connections that haven’t been made before or engaging in counterfactual analysis. . ..

The jobs of law firm partners are safest, according to respondents. After all, they’re the least likely group to consider themselves as possibly redundant. Corporate work is the area most likely to be affected by generative AI, according to almost half of respondents. Few respondents believe that AI will have a significant impact on practices involving healthcare, criminal law or investigations, environmental law, or energy law.

Generative AI in the Law: Where Could This All Be Headed? at pgs. 6,7.


After having studied and used ChatGPT for hundreds of hours now, and after having been a partner in one law firm or another for what seems like hundreds of years, I reluctantly conclude that my fellow lawyers are mistaken on the creativity issue. Their response to this prompt appears to be a delusional hallucination, rather than insightful vision.

As Sam Altman has observed, and I agree, that it is an inherent tendency of the creative process to make mistakes and make stuff up, to hallucinate without even knowing it. Creativity and How Anyone Can Adjust ChatGPT’s Creativity Settings To Limit Its Mistakes and Hallucinations; (includes Sam Altman’s understanding of human “creativity” and how Ai creativity is somewhat similar), Creativity Test of GPT’s Story Telling Ability Based on an Image Alone (you be the judge, but ChatGPT’s stories seem just as good as that of most trial lawyers) and ChatGPT-4 Scores in the Top One Percent of Standard Creativity Tests (how many senior partners would score that high?). Also seeWhat is the Difference Between Human Intelligence and Machine Intelligence? (not much difference, and Ai is getting smarter fast).

The assumed safety of the higher echelons of the law shown in the survey is a common belief. But, like many common beliefs of the past, such as the sun and planets revolving around the Earth, the opinion may just be a vain delusion, a hallucination. It is based on the belief that humans in general, and these attorneys in particular, have unique and superior creativity. Yet, careful study shows that creativity is not a unique human skill at all. Ai seems very capable of creativity in all areas. That was shown by standardized TCTT creative testing scores in a report released the same day as the ATL Wolters Survey. ChatGPT-4 scored in the top 1% of standardized creativity testing.

ChatGPT-4 is Number One!

Also, consider how human creative skills are not as easy to control as generative Ai creativity. As previously shown here, GPT-4’s creativity can be precisely controlled by skilled manipulation of the Temperature and Top_P parameters. Creativity and How Anyone Can Adjust ChatGPT’s Creativity Settings. How many law firm partners can precisely lower and raise their creative imagination like that? (Having drinks does not count!) Imagine what a GPT-5 level tool will be able to do in a few years (or months)? The creativity skills of Ai may soon be superior to our own.


The ATL and Wolters Kluwer survey not only reveals an opinion (more like a hope) that creative legal work is safe, it shows most lawyers believe that legal work with little creativity will soon be replaced by Ai. That includes the unfairly maligned and often unappreciated document review attorneys. It also includes many other attorneys who review and prepare contracts. They may well be the first lawyers to face Ai layoffs.

Future Ai Driven Layoffs May Hit Younger Employees First

Free training and economic aid should be provided for these attorneys and others. McKinsey Predicts Generative AI Will Create More Employment and Add 4.4 Trillion Dollars to the Economy (recommending economic aid and training). Although the government should help with this aid, it should primarily come from private coffers, especially from the companies and law firms that have profited so handsomely from their grunt work. They should contribute financial aid and free training.

EDRM provides relevant free training and you should hook-up with EDRM today. Also, remember the free online training programs in e-discovery and Ai enhanced document review started on the e-Discovery Team blog years ago. They are still alive and well, and still free, although they are based on predictive coding and not the latest generative Ai released in November 2022.

  • e-Discovery Team Training. Eighty-five online law school proven classes. Started at UF in 2010. Covers the basics of e-discovery law, technology and ethics.
  • TAR Course. Eighteen online classes providing advanced training on Technology Assisted Review. Started in 2017, this course is updated and shown as a tab on the upper right corner of the e-Discovery Team blog. Below is a short YouTube that describes the TAR Course. The latest generative Ai was used by Ralph to create it.

The e-Discovery Team blog also provides the largest collection of articles on artificial intelligence from a practicing tech-lawyer’s perspective. So far in 2023, thirty-seven articles on artificial intelligence have been written, illustrated and published. It is now the primary focus of Ralph Losey’s research, writing and educational efforts. Hopefully many others will follow the lead of EDRM and the e-Discovery Team blog and provide free legal training in next generation, legal Ai based skills. Everyone agrees this trend will accelerate.

Get ready for tomorrow. Start training today, not only by the mentioned courses, but by playing with ChatGPT. It’s free, most versions, and its everywhere. For instance, there is a ChatGPT bot on the e-Discovery Team website (bottom right). Ask it some questions about the content of this blog, or about anything. Better yet, go sign up for a free account with OpenAI. They recently dropped all charges for the no-frills 4.0 version. Try to learn all that you can about Ai. ChatGPT can tutor you.

There is a bright future awaiting all legal professionals who can learn, adapt and change. We humans are very good at that, as we have shown time and again throughout history. We will evolve, and not only survive, we will prosper as never before. Sam Altman’s Favorite Unasked Question: What Will We Do in the Future After AI?

This positive vision for the future of Law, for the future of all humanity, is suggested by the below video. It illustrates a bright future of human lawyers and their Ai bots, who, despite appearances, are tools not creatures. They are happily working together. The video was created using the Ai tools GPT-4 and Midjourney. The creativity of these tools both shaped and helped express the idea. In other words, the creative capacities of the Ai guided and improved the human creative process. It was a synergistic team effort. This same hybrid team approach also works with legal creativity, indeed with all creativity. We have seen this many times before as our technology advances exponentially. The main difference is that the Ai tools are much more powerful and the change greater than anything seen before. That’s why the lawyers shown here are happy working with the bots, rather then in competition with them.

Click on the photo to see the video, all by Ralph Losey using ChatGPT and Midjourney

Copyright Ralph Losey 2023 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

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