Armies of Lawyers Being Replaced by Artificial IntelligenceMarch 5, 2011 0 Comments
The New York Times has a great article summarizing current trends in AI spreading throughout the economy. Computer AI has become so advanced that it's now starting to replace and automate higher-level jobs. Case in point, back in 1978 a lawsuit against CBS forced the company to spend $2.2 million to hire a team of lawyers and paralegals to sift through 6 million documents for several months.
Fast-forward to today. In January 2011, a company called Blackstone Discovery in Palo Alto, helped analyze 1.5 million documents for less than $100,000 and, of course, taking FAR less time.
Some law bloggers have noted the difficulty for recent law graduates to find jobs, noting that perhaps the trend is due to the bursting of a higher education bubble combined with the current economy. That probably is also the case, but this truly cost-cutting technology probably foreshadows that those jobs won't be coming back in a recovery. This kind of AI technology will only become cheaper as time goes one. And it never gets sick, suffers headaches or grows tired.
“The economic impact will be huge,” said Tom Mitchell, chairman of the machine learning department at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. “We’re at the beginning of a 10-year period where we’re going to transition from computers that can’t understand language to a point where computers can understand quite a bit about language.”
Similar AI to Blackstone's has already proven far superior to whole teams of human workers in terms of speed, but not surprisingly also in terms of accuracy and overall effectiveness. The Times article states that AI has been able to catch many clues of white collar crimes that may elude human eyes.
The computers seem to be good at their new jobs. Mr. Herr, the former chemical company lawyer, used e-discovery software to reanalyze work his company’s lawyers did in the 1980s and ’90s. His human colleagues had been only 60 percent accurate, he found.
“Think about how much money had been spent to be slightly better than a coin toss,” he said.
Even more ominous for the legal profession, AI has found its way to the bargaining table (another sacred domain of lawyers), often being used to sift through the terms of legal contracts to find red flags.
Mike Lynch, founder of Autonomy, estimates that the number of lawyers needed for document discovery could theoretically be reduced even from 500, down to just 1. He further projects that the next generation of software could reduce lawyer staffs by another 50%.
Logic-Cool had previously posted here an article exploring how IBM's Watson will be replacing and automating human-held customer-service jobs...and within 15 years, he'll cost less than $100,000. We also covered how DHS will place AI lie detectors within airports, how some business are trying to use AI to create original website content, how others are using AI for office work, how they can be used to replace musicians in a jam session, how George Lucas wants to recreate dead actors with them, and how healthcare facilities will use robotic nurses in the near future. And the military applications of AI are too numerous to link, but here's one.
Photo of Legal Documents by Ramin Rahimian for The New York Times