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  • Writer's pictureFrederick L Shelton

Is OpenAI's Secret Q* Project the Beginning of Skynet?

In the ever-evolving landscape of artificial intelligence, OpenAI's latest innovation, Q* (pronounced "Q star"), is making waves. Spearheaded by chief scientist Ilya Sutskever, this breakthrough has led to a model capable of solving elementary math problems.

While this might seem simple, it represents a significant leap in AI development. Traditional language models like ChatGPT often falter with logical reasoning and abstract concepts, but Q* aims to transcend these limitations by blending deep-learning techniques with human-programmed rules. This advancement enhances the model's ability to reason logically and handle abstract concepts. In other words, instead of just drawing upon the millions of datasets used to train the AI, it can think for itself. That is the very definition of Artificial General Intelligence, which was the first step toward the self-awareness described about the infamous Skynet in the movie "Terminator". Reuters has confirmed that OpenAI's CTO, Mira Murati acknowledge the Q* project in a memo to employees as well as a letter that was sent by the board. This could have been the reason for all the recent chaos over there.

No, we're not at the Skynet Point yet but for the legal profession, even inching a couple of artificial IQ points further forward, could mean an even bigger AI game-changer than anything I have heretofore predicted. Imagine AI that can not only process vast amounts of legal data but also apply logical reasoning to craft arguments, predict legal outcomes, and even assist in complex legal negotiations. AI is already going to revolutionize the profession but such capabilities could take the estimates of legal tasks that can be performed by AI, from forty percent to over ninety percent!

Fear not, legal eagles. In his Substack Post, Gary Marcus urges us not to overestimate the Q* model's current or near future capabilities. He as always, is the voice of reason and balance, calming the waters of hyperbole with playful examples of Chat's shortcomings e.g. its Bing-induced belief that Australia doesn't exist. Thus far, OpenAI has yet to release an official statement on Q*, indicating the project could be akin to the various futuristic prototypes that look so dazzling at auto shows but never make it into mass production - or my driveway. So while the Q* development could be groundbreaking, the rule remains the same for lawyers: AI will not replace attorneys. Attorneys who use AI will replace those who don't.

Frederick Shelton is the CEO of Shelton & Steele, a national firm that does legal recruiting, law firm mergers & acquisitions, rainmaking and legal AI consulting. He can be reached at


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