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Technology as a Force Multiplier

A year ago at this time, ChatGPT had just launched. As the timing worked out, this was not long after we’d cleaned up the crumbs from our 30th birthday cake, and at that point we couldn’t help but think that if we’d needed any reminder to keep focusing on the future, it would have been hard to find a better one. In the year since, we’ve put a dizzying array of new technologies through their paces and been reminded of both the learning curve for new tools and the magic of gaining leverage on a problem by finding the right fit between a new tool and our central task: helping people find and understand the law.  

As we’ve been talking about in several recent posts, this year has brought us an occasion to look anew at how people from all walks of life use the LII website – including (as we noted in our previous post) whether or not they ever experience our website directly at all.  In part because we have that luxury, we choose to see consumption of our website for purposes of re-use as a force multiplier – quantitatively an existential game-changer, but not all that different qualitatively from what happens when individuals use content from our website to develop training manuals for public servants, or include it in source packets for law school classes, or screenshot it for social media. 

And so far we’re finding that this particular juncture in the history of artificial intelligence increases the need for stable, reliable information whose provenance is clear. We have seen already that the combination of text generation at negligible cost and hallucination by large language models has created a misinformation force multiplier. Although qualitatively a familiar problem (most starkly for those of us who remember that one time when a false citation to a non-existent provision of LII’s U.S. Code played a role in a national news story), the asymmetry of effort required to verify information makes the proliferation of unreliable text an existential problem not just for us but for the web itself.  

Our aim is to keep the legal information we publish free, accessible, stable, and reliable – available to everyone, fact checkers included, from a reputable source at the click of a button. As we navigate this rapidly evolving information environment and find the niches where we can make unique contributions for the benefit of the public, we hope to seize opportunities to evolve while continuing to offer services the public has come to rely on.

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