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September 16, 2016

Oh Boy: Start-Up Company to Challenge Big Law Firms with... Artificial Intelligence

Two anecdotes: a while ago I reviewed Deep Work (Don't comment in old threads). He told an interesting story there: A financial analyst of a very high level actually lost his job to computers.

Now, that doesn't mean he was doing gruntwork. He wasn't. He was doing very high level computations that very few human beings could do.

But it was his bad luck that his was one of the sorts of computations a machine could be taught to do.

The point of the story, if I remember right, is that the guy changed careers and went into a field that involved more judgment calls. I think he found something future-proof, which he calculated a computer would not be able to do... at least for 15-20 years.

Another anecdote: "Expert systems" are not artificial intelligence, nothing close to that. But they are compendiums of all expert knowledge in a field.

There are medical expert systems which will tell you which questions to ask a patient, what tests to perform, etc., each new bit of data provoking new questions at tests. At the end of the process, it delivers a diagnosis better than 90% of doctors.

I remember reading about these expert systems and doctors' reactions to them: The doctors said, "I went to med school for three years and did four years of internship and have gone to continuing medical education classes ever since -- and all that is just reproducable by this stupid little box?"

It's not just McDonald's workers who can be replaced by machines. Any sort of work which relies on a somewhat strict algorithm -- like medicine or financial calculations -- could conceivably be performed by computers.

So why not the law? The law seems to be a similar field as medicine -- by asking a series of questions (does this involve a contract, is this a harm inflicted on someone, was there a duty to the person harmed, etc.) one proceeds to a "legal diagnosis" of the issues in contention, and then a push of a button will bring up all courses of treatment -- all precedents -- about it.

The law does require more natural-language parsing than medicine does, as law is so language dependent.

But that's where the actual artificial intelligence comes in, I guess.

I'm sure most of you are just heartbroken to learn that lawyers, massive supporters of the Democrat Party, are about to experience the same relentless downward pressure on salaries that the lower and middle classes have for years.

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posted by Ace at 03:33 PM

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