If we listened only to the naysayers of this world, we would still be living without:-
The aeroplane - "no chance of it ever becoming a commercial means of transport "- Engineer Magazine
The telephone- "it has too many shortcomings to be seriously considered as a means of communication."- Western Union
The car - "but this is only a novelty – a fad” -President of Michigan Savings Bank
The TV - "People will soon get tired of staring at it"- Darryl Zanuck
The light bulb - "When the Paris Exhibition [of 1878] closes, no more will be heard of it"- Professor Erasmus Wilson
...and, of course,the PC - "There is no reason anyone would want one in their home" - Ken Olson, Founder/President of DEC
The next target for those who so seek to protect what they have that they lose their distant vision is the march of the robot lawyers. Last month saw the launch of Professor Richard Susskind's latest book "The Future of the Professions" in which he, and his co-author, Daniel Susskind ("we worked so closely together on this book that,at times, he seemed like a father to me") focus on the impact AI (Artificial Intelligence) is beginning to have on all professions not least the law. Much of what we as lawyers do can be done by machines. Document assembly has been happening for some time by lawyers with clients now being offered hands on access to the controls so they create and only need to pay lawyers to advise,check and tweak the output. But why not in contentious work? Taking clients through standard logic trees of questions to extract what their case is about, researching clear and unambiguous legal rules and applying them to the facts, extracting data from previous court decisions on similar cases, calculating risk........all of this can be undertaken in straight forward standard individual cases by well programmed self-learning machines constantly fed with the knowledge and analytics of all cases (and not just the .001% of appeal decisions that find their way into the law books). So let the machine take the strain and free the lawyer to do just what he is best at, applying high levels of skill, and professionalism to the knowledge provided.
This is not the future but the present! Lex Machina is doing it in IP cases. The IBM Watson technology is now being applied to the law in the Ross Intelligence project (brilliant name but no connection!). Two events this month feature discussion on AI and the law - Legal Futures in London ("From ABS to AI") and The Bucerius Centre for the Legal Profession in Hamburg ("Man Versus Machine"). I will be sharing the speaker panel with speakers from both IBM Watson and Ross Intelligence.