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Tags: earl warren | thurgood marshall | supreme court | ai
OPINION

AI Can Recreate History, and Pose Dangers

earl warren

Chief Justice Earl Warren (AP)

Paul F. deLespinasse By Thursday, 13 June 2024 02:38 PM EDT Current | Bio | Archive

Seventy years ago, the Supreme Court held that segregated public schools were unconstitutional. The unanimous opinion in Brown v. Board of Education was read in the courtroom by its author, Chief Justice Earl Warren.

Thanks to information received from John Q. Barrett, law professor at St. Johns University and expert on Justice Robert H. Jackson (1941-1954), I recently listened to a recording of Warren announcing the court's decision in 1954. This would be unremarkable had not recorders been forbidden in the court then.

And no one could have snuck in a tiny recorder, which didn't exist yet in the pre-transistor age.

"Recordings" like this can be wonderful educational tools. But the technology that produced it also has dangerous possibilities.

A transcript of what Warren actually said, not exactly tracking the text of the court's opinion,  was available. Recordings of Warren speaking in other situations existed. Someone read the transcript aloud, and an artificial intelligence (AI) program converted the recording into Warren's own voice.

Thurgood Marshall — later the court's first Black member — was the plaintiffs' lead attorney. The same AI process was used to "record" the oral arguments of his team before the court.

The virtual "resurrection" of Earl Warren and Thurgood Marshall is a fascinating development with legitimate uses. However, this technology also has serious downsides.

It could make it impossible to be sure that what we hear is genuine. In an age of photoshopping, seeing is no longer believing, and now AI may also undermine our confidence in the reality of what we hear.

Maybe ways to ascertain whether a recording is genuine will be found, but AI programs could then figure out how to evade them. Legislation requiring the equivalent of watermarks in AI recordings might help, but wouldn't protect us from people willing to break the law.

Imagine what faked recordings might do to political campaigns. An AI-faked voice of Joe Biden was already used in robocalls discouraging voter turnout in the 2024 New Hampshire Democratic primary.

At the personal level, telephone scammers pretending to be relatives who have gotten into trouble and need money — fast — are already using AI technology.

Fortunately, we can protect ourselves if we get such a call. We must avoid panicking. We should ask the caller questions that only the person the caller is claiming to be could answer. These questions should not be obvious ones like birthdays, information that is often widely available.

This should help even with scammers who are not using AI technology, one of whom recently called me, saying, pathetically, "Hello, Grandpa."

I asked, "Is that you, David?" Astoundingly, he admitted to being David. Unfortunately for this crook, I have no grandson named David.

AI having brought Earl Warren back to "life," it may be a good time to review his involvement in Brown v. Board of Education. Looking back 70 years later, we may feel that its unanimous finding was inevitable, but the truth is more complicated.

When the case was first argued, the chief justice was Fred Vinson, a conservative Southerner, who some feared would convince the court to uphold segregation. But Vinson died unexpectedly at age 63 before the court could decide the case. President Dwight Eisenhower then appointed Earl Warren to replace him.

Warren didn't have a great record on racial matters. As California's governor during World War II, he had supported forcing all Japanese-Americans from West Coast states into "relocation" camps.

But Justice Felix Frankfurter considered Warren to be a great improvement. Commenting privately on Vinson's death, Frankfurter said, "This is the first indication I have ever had that there is a God."

Warren later regretted supporting the "relocation" of Japanese-Americans, and as chief justice, he led the Supreme Court to its unanimous decision striking down segregated schools.

Vinson actually had a decent record in previous civil rights cases. Whether Brown would have been different if he had survived is still being debated.

Paul F. deLespinasse is Professor Emeritus of Political Science and Computer Science at Adrian College. He received his Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins University in 1966 and has been a National Merit Scholar, an NDEA Fellow, a Woodrow Wilson Fellow and a Fellow in Law and Political Science at the Harvard Law School. His college textbook, "Thinking About Politics: American Government in Associational Perspective," was published in 1981. His most recent book is "The Case of the Racist Choir Conductor: Struggling With America's Original Sin." His columns have appeared in newspapers in Michigan, Oregon and other states. Read more of his reports — Click Here Now.

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PaulFdeLespinasse
Seventy years ago, Chief Justice Earl Warren read the Supreme Court'ss opinion in Brown v. Board of Education. I recently listened to a recording of Warren announcing the decision in 1954. This would be unremarkable had not recorders been forbidden in the court then.
earl warren, thurgood marshall, supreme court, ai
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2024-38-13
Thursday, 13 June 2024 02:38 PM
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