Artificial Intelligence: A Real Opportunity Or A Real Threat?

By Maroulla Paul for CitySolicitor Magazine, Spring 2024 Edition

The world is equally fascinated and terrified at the prospect of Artificial Intelligence.

On the one hand, we are obsessed with playing with ChatGPT which has over 180 million monthly users and over 100 million active weekly users. It took just five days after launch to hit a million users.

Conversely, there is the fear that AI will take over our jobs, making humans redundant. And that given enough time, it will even start to think for itself and begin to threaten not just our livelihoods but everything in between.

It has demanded the attention of the world - from politicians to artists - nobody can ignore the power of AI.


On January 11th this year, Circa launched an ‘exhibition’ from the artist Ai Weiwei, where he challenges AI with 81 daily questions.  Not questions that merely require factual answers but a quest for meaningful insight into life itself.

This is how the CIRCA website describes this project which is entitled Ai vs AI;

In our questions, more so than any answers, we can find the map of the human mind. We ask questions in search of learning and understanding, says Ai Weiwei, dividing ourselves from systems of Artificial Intelligence (AI) that lack interior identities. The questions we ask reveal our humanity and preoccupations, further distancing the human questioner from machine systems, which have no life story, no personhood from which any sincere question can arise.

Ai Weiwei’s 81 questions are both the continuation of a deep history of rational and spiritual inquiry as well as an innately idiosyncratic autoportrait. Ai vs AI is both an endeavour to reinvigorate the ancient convention of philosophical dialogues (from Socrates to The Enlightenment Salon) and a hand-drawn map of Ai’s own mind. Taking inspiration from both the Tiānwèn (‘The Heavenly Questions’) and Ai’s 81-day imprisonment, he explores how the act of questioning retains power today.  “Authorities always know more than you, and they play a game of not telling you what they know,” says Ai. At all times, they tell you less than you should know. Like many who have lived under authoritarian systems, Ai still has no answer to fundamental and life-shaping questions: “Why was I jailed? Why was I released?” Such painful and complex histories are the foundations of our identities; the questions Ai asks today are asked by the person who has lived this life, drawing an irresolvable distinction between the human and machine. “Questions are important because they relate to our personal stories.”

For all humans – from newly inquisitive children to longest-lived adults – the one capacity and freedom we retain is the question, says Ai. Answers are routinely and blandly mass-produced in knowledge factories – including schools, religious institutions, nations and national myths – yet we often believe answers remain more important than questions. Questions are, in themselves, generative: in asking, we sketch out a terrain vague of human inquiry: for thousands of years, Chinese poets and thinkers asked what we might find walking on the surface of the moon, says Ai – this unknown fuelling creativity and generating poetry and song. For this fertile landscape of imagination, the arrival of astronauts on the moon and the photography of dusty craters delivered by lunar exploration marked the destruction of creative terrain. “Expression has always been structured by words and by forms – as fairy tales and mythology,” says Ai. “We have to give a symbolic character to any expression.”

Still, rising systems of technology and knowledge production present new challenges to our ability to question the world. In an age of rising artificial intelligence – when humanity’s role in many forms of knowledge labour is reduced to asking the right questions to powerful systems of information processing – we are reminded that questions are far more than a means to an end, says Ai. “If humans will ever be liberated, it will be because we ask the right questions, not provide the right answers.”

Every day, these questions and their answers will be publicly displayed at Piccadilly and many other international locations including Milan, Berlin and Seoul. Questions include ‘Is there a way to decolonize our minds?’, ‘Do human beings long for death?’, ‘Is polygamy or polyandry better?’, and ‘Can safety be built on the insecurity of others?’.

Ai Weiwei attempts to answer the questions himself, challenging humans against technology. To see who fares better, check out the CIRCA website, or better still, go to Piccadilly and see the exhibit live - until 31 March 2024.

Governments all over the world too recognise the potential and importance of Artificial Intelligence.

In November last year, Rishi Sunak held a very quickly organised summit at Bletchley to try and establish the UK as a global leader in the development of such technology. Tech giants such as Demis Hassabis, Sam Altman and Elon Musk attended as well as representatives from most corners of the world, including ones that could be seen as controversial proving that this is a subject that requires working together not pulling apart. Concrete aims and decisions were set and future international summits planned showing both the success of this one and the recognition of the vast importance of AI to the world.

The outcome of the summit certainly gave Rishi Sunak some bonus points much needed in an election year. But what AI gave with one hand it was soon to take away with the other. In January over 400,000 Facebook viewers saw various videos of Rishi concerning different topics, including the widespread problem of scamming.

It turned out this is precisely what these videos were; scams. Deep Fake videos of the current Prime Minister - created with the use of AI - misinforming the public in an attempt to manipulate their beliefs and to influence how they vote.

If Artificial Intelligence can answer questions man has grappled with for centuries but never been able to, if it can bring together politicians from all over the world and allow them to put aside their differences in order to work together on these new technologies and simultaneously can be used to control our thinking and manipulate elections then it surely will have a huge and significant impact on our world - both good and bad.

[We need to] bring that down to our own specific world - the legal profession - and we examine how lawyers perceive AI, the case for legislation, how it fundamentally can change the way we work and how we have organised our own committees to try and manage these huge changes that will inevitably occur.