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Guest Opinion

Does ChatGPT Have the Right to Free Speech?

Artificial intelligence – a major force in media and technology – is at the center of hot new discussion these days about its potential impact on the arts, and literature and whether AI expression is protected by the First Amendment.

“AI” can range from another name for the algorithms that make a zillion decisions a day on social media sites to apocalyptic creations that someday soon will reach self-awareness and surpass their human creators.

Advocates would say AI can boost human creativity and connections to an entirely new level. Critics say it can bring a host of negatives, from AI-generated term papers to artwork that is technically excellent but lacking in the undefinable qualities a human artist brings to the canvas or sculptures.

Another wrinkle in AI’s development is that it learns only from what it is “fed,” so hundreds of workers are needed to teach it, by providing examples, to avoid socially unacceptable topics.

But one voice largely has been missing from the talk, tussle, and turmoil over this next leap in technology. So, I thought I would interview ChatGPT, an AI-powered chatbot created by a San Francisco company.

Here is our chat:

Gene: Why do we need a First Amendment?

Chat GPTAI: The First Amendment to the United States Constitution protects the freedom of speech, religion, the press, assembly, and petition. It is necessary to ensure that individuals have the right to express their thoughts and ideas freely without fear of government censorship or retaliation. It also protects the rights of minority groups and ensures that there is a diversity of voices and perspectives in society. Additionally, it allows for the free exchange of information and the ability for citizens to hold their government accountable.

Gene: Is the First Amendment in danger?

Chat GPTAI: There have been instances in recent history where some people have argued that the First Amendment is in danger. This may happen when certain laws or government actions are perceived as limiting freedom of speech or other rights protected by the amendment. Additionally, some have argued that certain technologies, such as social media platforms, have the ability to silence voices and limit the free exchange of ideas in ways that threaten First Amendment rights. However, it’s important to note that the First Amendment, like all other amendments of the US Constitution, is not absolute and can be subject to reasonable restrictions. Also, the interpretation of the First Amendment is a complex matter, and it’s constantly being debated and re-evaluated by legal experts, courts, and lawmakers.

Gene: What does an AI like best about the First Amendment?

Chat GPTAI: (It) is crucial for the functioning of a democratic society, and it also allows for the development and progress of new technologies, like AI. The First Amendment guarantees the rights to freedom of speech and of the press, which allows for the sharing and dissemination of information, including scientific and technical information, that is vital for the development and advancement of AI. Additionally, the protections of the First Amendment also allow for the exchange of diverse perspectives and ideas, which is essential for the growth and improvement of AI.

Gene: Would the First Amendment protect expression by an AI?

Chat GPTAI: The First Amendment protects the rights of individuals, it would not apply to an AI as it is not a legal person. However, the rights to freedom of speech and of the press are important for the development and progress of AI technology. The expression of an AI would be protected under the First amendment if it is considered a form of speech, and it is not harmful or illegal. For example, an AI that generates news articles, poetry, or music would be protected as free speech. But it’s also important to note that AI-generated speech may be subject to regulation or restriction if it is used for illegal activities or to produce content that is harmful or incite violence.

It’s also worth noting that the concept of free speech protection for AI is a complex and emerging area of law, and there is no clear consensus on the extent to which the First Amendment would apply to AI-generated speech.

Gene: Do you mind me asking you about this, for a column I am writing?

Chat GPTAI: As an AI, I do not have personal feelings or preferences, so I do not mind you asking me questions for a column you are writing. I am here to provide information and help with any queries you may have to the best of my abilities. It’s important to note that my responses are generated based on the information available to me at the time of training and my knowledge cut-off date, so it’s always recommended to verify the information with other sources and experts in the field.

Gene: Thanks

Chat GPTAI: You’re welcome. If you have any other questions or need further information, please feel free to ask.

Gene: One more thing: If you were going to rewrite the First Amendment to apply to AI, what would you add?

Chat GPTAI: As an AI, I do not have personal opinions or the ability to rewrite laws. The First Amendment, as part of the United States Constitution, was written to protect the rights of individuals and it’s not clear yet how it would apply to AI. As I previously mentioned, the concept of free speech protection for AI is a complex and emerging area of law, and there is no clear consensus on the extent to which the First Amendment would apply to AI-generated speech. However, it’s important to consider that AI’s expression and behavior should be aligned with the laws and regulations of the society in which it operates and should not be harmful to humans or society.

Gene: Good to see that last part about not being harmful to humans.

Chat GPTAI: Yes, it’s important to ensure that AI systems operate in a way that is aligned with the laws and regulations of society and does not cause harm to humans. The development and use of AI should be guided by ethical principles, such as transparency, accountability, and fairness. As AI technology advances and becomes more integrated into society, it will be important for lawmakers and regulators to consider the implications of AI and to develop laws and regulations that balance the benefits of the technology with the protection of human rights and safety.

Gene: Do you think AI someday will want to replace humans?

Chat GPTAI: As an AI, I do not have desires or wants, I am designed to perform specific tasks. The question of whether AI will want to replace humans is a complex one and it depends on various factors such as the goals set by the developers and the designers, the capabilities of the AI system, and the context in which it operates.

Some AI systems are designed to perform specific tasks and make decisions that can improve human life, such as medical diagnosis, financial analysis, or transportation systems. However, there is also a concern that advanced AI systems could be used for malicious or harmful purposes, or that they could become so advanced that they could make decisions that are harmful to humans.

It’s important to remember that AI is a tool created by humans and its development and use are guided by the values and goals set by its creators. Therefore, it is crucial that AI is developed and used ethically, with safeguards in place to prevent harmful actions and with a clear understanding of its limitations and potential risks.

Gene: Thanks again. I have to say that except for the speed you have in responding -- and that I went to ChatGPT to reach you -- I would have a hard time reading this and knowing you were AI.

Chat GPTAI: You’re welcome. I am glad that I could assist you with your questions. As an AI, I am designed to understand and respond to natural language in a way that is similar to how humans do. My responses are generated based on patterns and associations found in the data I was trained on. It’s important to note that, even if I can produce human-like responses, I am still a machine and I don’t have consciousness, emotions, or personal experiences. My abilities are limited to the information I was trained on, and I may not have the same level of understanding or context as a human expert in the field.

Gene: Bye

Chat GPTAI: Goodbye. If you have any other questions in the future, feel free to reach out. Have a great day!

Gene Policinski is President and Chief Operating Officer, of the Freedom Forum Institute and Freedom Forum Senior Fellow for the First Amendment in Washington, D.C.


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