Looks like the deeper implications of ubiquitous robotic automation is really starting to sink in. Sure, wondering about the fate of Foxconn’s underpaid manufacturing drones is one thing, but when white-collar professions are threatened, you can believe that handwringing’s gonna happen. That said, Slate charmed me with their subheadline about expert systems and law: “Software could kill lawyers. Why that’s good for everyone else.” What,that needs to be explained?
Oh, I kid, I kid. Not all lawyers are unprincipled scumbags! But as the Slate piece points out, the ones who are could find their business models drying up, especially in the lucrative patent and IP law sectors…
In the last few years, the law has seen a rush of technological innovation, all stemming from computers’ increasing capacity to decipher and understand written documents. Many law firms now use “e-discovery” tools that can scan large caches of evidence in search of interesting facts and figures. Firms also have software to draft legal documents in a fraction of the time a human would take. And a few services on the horizon might do even more—negotiate the terms of a contract, for instance, or determine whether or not you should sue.
Automation will bring legal services to the masses. Many people who ought to hire an attorney to handle business or personal disputes can’t afford to do so. Software could potentially step in when you want to fight your mortgage lender, draw up contracts to start a small business, or sue for child-support payments.A world with less patent trolls and ambulance-chasers sounds just fine to me.
While legal automation will be a boon for those who can’t afford representation, it’s bad news for lawyers. The industry is already in a slump, and law school is no longer seen as a sure path to riches. Because software will allow fewer lawyers to do a lot more work, it’s sure to drive down both price and demand.
Kevin Kelly’s had his thinking cap on, too; the 7 stages of Robot Replacement are the result:
Zing. First they came for the Foxconn drones, but I said nothing…MORE
- A robot/computer cannot possibly do what I do.
- OK, it can do a lot, but it can’t do everything I do.
- OK, it can do everything I do, except it needs me when it breaks down, which is often.
- OK, it operates without failure, but I need to train it for new tasks.
- Whew, that was a job that no human was meant to do, but what about me?
- My new job is more fun and pays more now that robots/computers are doing my old job.
- I am so glad a robot cannot possibly do what I do.