AI at Conferences: Game-Changer or Just Another Boring Session?

When registering myself from some professional conferences, I found greater emphasis on ChatGPT and AI regulation. I write about what I am now dreading with this trend.

Cover Photo by Bogomil Mihaylov / Unsplash

It's that time of the year when you decide which conferences to go to (ahem) further and maintain your professional knowledge.

Last year, I made a concerted effort to be more involved and ensure my (ahem) money was well spent. It was a great introduction, and I decided to continue my exploits.

I'll be going to APF 2023!

I am so excited that I hardly even know the details before throwing my money at them: For IAPP's APF23, there's not much more than a broad outline. SCCE's Singapore Regional Conference doesn't even have a venue. I haven't read the agenda for tomorrow's APAC Legal Congress! The suspense is exciting!

These conferences seemed determined to catch the ChatGPT bug, though. The first bullet point on APF23's Agenga is “Elucidating and Demystifying the Use of Privacy Around ChatGPT”. The APAC Legal Congress will also have a talk named “ChatGPT & The legal Implications for the in-house counsel”. I am sure corporate compliance and ethics will get around to it because interest is immense, and everyone's dying to hear it.

Frankly, I am dreading these sessions. Having some experience poking large language models with law, I am very excited about its opportunities and knowledgeable about its limitations. The last thing I want is to be bombarded with meaningless jargon and buzzwords leaving me angry and unfulfilled.

From now on, whenever I read a commentary about ChatGPT or GPT-3, I will replace those words with “thingamajiggy” and figure out whether the author knows what he’s talking about or it’s just a thing which sprouted out from their imagination.

Talking about Artificial Intelligence, ChatGPT or GPT-3 from what you suspect it to be rather than reality does a big disservice to your readers. For one, it’s a strawman. Once you establish that the current state of technology does not do what you imagine it to do, it immediately becomes an argument that disses the entire technology. That’s a siren song for lawyers who fear ChatGPT will come for their jobs. The possibilities of such technologies are lost.

I will try to have an open mind about these talks. Still, I suspect it's going to be superficial drivel about how:

OK, I made up the last one, and I like it.

Anyway, I don't have to sit down and clench my fists for 40 mins. I am old enough to know I can always go shopping if I feel that I am wasting my time. Or hack away somewhere on my computer.

There is one change to my conference schedule that I do not like. TechLaw.Fest is no longer free. My TechLaw.Fest experience has always been a mixed bag. The networking was weird. The buzzwords were also too much for me. Nevertheless, I liked the subject matter being discussed. In the end, I also felt that I had to put my butt on the line because I genuinely believed in the premise of law and technology.

The only details about this year's topics appear limited to the “main stage”. It's telling to me how all but two of the abstracts of the talks contain the word “regulation” in them, which tells you who is driving the agenda this year.

In 2021, I noted that TechLaw.Fest was driven by four ideas, but even then, not all of them got equal coverage. Based on the main stage topics, legal operations and legal technology have completely dropped off. It's pretty depressing to me.

I don't discount the possibility that other events are being planned, but I don't blame myself for thinking that having my butt near the main stage was not worth $600.

Of course, there are other ways to score free conference tickets. For example, speaking. I've been toying around with the idea for some time now. I could share my knowledge on topics like coding, making SG Law Cookies (which did involve some ChatGPT somewhere), or some other machine learning project I did.

Or I could stop wasting my energy on these thrashy events and focus on where I can find like-minded people, like on this blog, Mastodon, Twitter or even LinkedIn.

If you think the cynicism is off the charts today, please feel free to complain. I suspect it's because I have to talk to people tomorrow 🤮.

Author Portrait Love.Law.Robots. – A blog by Ang Hou Fu