Friday 26 June 2015

I, artificial-intelligence-lawyer

Panic is ensuing. Lawyers are scared. Aren't they always? The same fears the Luddites had during the Industrial Revolution are sweeping many more industries than ours. In one sense, the Luddite mill workers were not incorrect: many lost their jobs, wages did not improve for them, and rich landowners benefited while workers did not. A hundred years later, wages had increased, and the improved efficiency of machines had created jobs no one could imagine existing. The job market grew because of machines, eventually.

Most large commercial aircraft could fly themselves. In fact, most of the time they do. In the age of Twitter, news media very seldom break a story. However, the news has not disappeared, at least not yet. Social media users fall prey to a hundred thousand different scams. The knowledge and skills of the journalist, in providing an authentic and verifiable voice, are indispensable in a world of disinformation.

Do-it-yourself (D.I.Y.) legal contracts had been available for years from Horters. Sage Pascal has now entered the same business, with their LegalWrite software platform, offering over one hundred contracts to laymen seeking to avoid a visit to the office of an average lawyer. I went through every one of these contracts in preparation for one of my board exams. As I read through them, I could think of a hundred scenarios where something could go wrong if a lawyer did not in the very least bit read through the final contract with the knowledge of the person's circumstances.

Many lawyers fear that clever AI (that is, artificial intelligence) will replace them as legal advisors, contract drafters, researchers, and as the writers of wills. And yet, for the same reason that large commercial aircraft companies still insist on pilots in their planes, and that news media still exist despite Twitter, artificial intelligence will not take the jobs of lawyers.

Laymen have drafted their own contracts for many years. Much of litigation is thanks to this practice. A nonlegal mind is often unable to adapt a contract to their inevitably very specific circumstances. Even if an artificial intelligence, or pro forma contract could be adapted to every circumstance, people would still require lawyers for the same reason that they require pilots. My suggestion is that artificial intelligence will not take our jobs as lawyers, but that it might automate some of our processes, speeding up our ability to do our jobs. People go to lawyers, because they want to be absolutely certain that their interests, embedded in their contracts, will stand the test of time. Even if machines land up drafting our contracts, legal eyes will still need to read over the contract, and edit it where necessary.

What once took a lawyer six hours, might, within coming decades, take a lawyer six minutes, with the help of a deep learning machine to draft the actual contract. However, the same product would be bought from the lawyer, namely an ability to properly interpret the law, foresee pitfalls, and ensure the quality of the contract, the requested will, or of a memo giving legal advice.

Just as the Internet adage goes, that a product which takes a person fifteen minutes to create, and cost an absolute fortune, is worth a fortune. What is being paid for, is not the fifteen minutes it took to create the product, but the many years of study, skill, and experience required to make the product in fifteen minutes.

What is likely to happen, is that, over time, legal services, with the help of deep learning machines, will reduce radically in cost. This is what happened with the Industrial Revolution, in relation to blue-collar jobs that did not require much thinking. What also happened, is that demand for the products of the machines increased. Every person wanted to own a cotton shirt, several if possible. If anything, the deep learning machine revolution, will allow legal services to be more swiftly and easily provided by expert lawyers. With less effort required by the lawyers providing the services, fees will likely go down. With fees going down, more people will be able to afford legal services, more of the time.

Economics being as they are, the advent of personal computers, meant to reduce the effort and work human beings have to put in, in doing so, increased their workload. If anything, with the aid of deep learning, artificially intelligent machines, lawyers will have more work than they ever have. The deep learning machine industry, furthermore, will impact all other areas of the economy, where human intelligence is currently required. If your architect does not have to draw the plans, but merely go over them to make sure that they are safe and accurate and compliant, more people will be able to employ architects. Intellectual services that once only were available for the elite, could suddenly become available for everyone. If anything, the future holds the potential of more jobs for lawyers, not less. It also holds the potential that what money these lawyers earn will get them further than ever before.

So fear not, my colleagues. The machines are not out to get you. Like a personal computer, and that brilliant invention known as email, they are merely here to increase your workload.

Tuesday 9 June 2015

Smile if you want to be happy.

I am, alas, an unfortunate fan of sociological magazines, such as the much trumpeted: Pacific Standard.

Such high brow publications always talk about these obtuse studies, where people are asked to think or write about some distant past situation, in their short and no doubt meaningful earthly existence. The unwitting-subjects-of-these-experiments' subsequent decisions? They are compromised by these purposely engineered prior thought crimes, and sociological conclusions are quite rapidly drawn on everything from social exclusion, power and poverty to the effectiveness of game theory.

Think about a time when little old you were... gasp... socially excluded, and you, yes, you - with the crooked smile and the coffee stained teeth, are statistically likely to become... wait for it... more likeable.

Think about when you were weak, and you will gain empathy for those in a pinch.

People who think of others as their superiors - are better able to read their emotions. When told a picture is of an inferior, it becomes perplexingly difficult for the people - inevitably called 'subjects' - to read the emotions of the lads and lasses in those same pictures.

Think about yourself as smart, and you lose intelligence in subsequent test results, but think of your humble little muggins as trying hard, and always doing your best, and your results in tests somehow go up.

When, as a young boy, I moved to a new school... I moved from the government syllabus to the posh IEB, and along with it, to a school outsiders called... 'snobbish' - at the best of times. It was not a pleasant shift, needless to say.

One of the girls in my class once did a thoroughly boring prepared-speech on none other than 'happiness'.

She said that smiling itself caused the systems in the human body to magically release those special chemicals that cause happiness. I left that class with a fake smile, and faked happiness that day, until I was a happy lil' chap.

Life being as it is, I soon returned to blank expressions, and held to that for a few years, way back when... but c'est la vie, especially when moving to a different school.

Besides, I prefer to see my emotions as alarm bells, warnings of something that my subconscious mind has secretly picked up upon, and that poor old inobservant me just hasn't picked up yet... I would rather be genuinely sad, than peppy happy, any day of the week except Sunday. I do believe I am genuinely happy, but that does not mean a few thought crimes don't sometimes help me become better at what I need to achieve.

Actors will teach you something similar, they say that if you want to be successful, pretend you already are. Your posture changes how you view the world. It also changes how others view you in a given moment. The most annoying opponent is one who smiles when they lose a game. The absolute worst, is one who encourages you when you miss the ball, and insists on wishing you the best of luck.

Returning to those ridiculous, yet bizarrely effective, thought experiments that the inevitable sociology obsessives gravitate to...

Put a pencil in your mouth, so as to force yourself to smile. You will be less critical of what you are reading or being told at that moment... try doing so while reading this very article, and await that spinning wheel television shows portray as hypnosis. You will be an optimist, or more so, if you insist upon a breakneck speedy smile.

P.S. dear reader, you being less critical at such a critical moment, will not prevent your nearby colleagues from being critical of you, for your use of a pencil (hopefully your own): as what they might, for-some-unknown-reason, perceive as a chew toy.

Frown heavily now, and you will spot far more errors. I often enjoy a hardy frown, and a bit of bitter coffee... when it comes time to edit my tremendous or horrendous prose... it works wonders that a smile never could.

So, back to those lessons that unfortunate aspiring actors do get at sub-par-and-above schools of the arts...

By mimicking powerful or successful people, actors do something they don't even notice at first. Think of the first time a beautiful lass or two said she loved you (or, for the ladies, and those so oriented, the first time a lad did... mutatis mutandis, and all). Your posture will straighten. You will smile from ear to ear.

Just, as going to sleep at a certain time, will set and reset your biological clock, smiling from ear to ear, even without those champagne bubble memories, and standing up straight - along with that - will undoubtedly affect your internal confidence and happiness clocks.

The saying that you should treat everyone you meet as an old friend, in order to curry their favour (stop being so diabolical, dear reader) - also seems to ring true. What we think, and the way we behave, influences our mind and the behaviour of others.

So, if you are not feeling particularly confident, after you phoned up that first girl... or lad - who ever said s/he loved you - and s/he quite politely told you that s/he just isn't whatsoever interested in you anymore...

Pretend you are a puppet on a string, being held up by the top of your head, or that you are hanging on for dear life - by a wooden beam between your teeth.

Mind you, in the second example, don't put your teeth to the sky: have your face at exactly 90% from the ground... otherwise, it just looks a tad strange. In fact, so strange, that you might be socially excluded by your colleagues... priming you effectively for the coming example about social exclusion.

On that sour note, read on, to just another sociology topic...

When you next meet someone new, think of a time your were socially excluded from some portion of society - one that you so desperately wanted to be included with... statistics analysis suggests you will be more charming as a result.

Perhaps, you might be thinking to yourself - you should have done so before you called up that first lass/lad/etc who - once upon a blue moon - said she... or he... or s/he... loved you. Maybe you would have been just charming enough to reignite the inexplicable spark she... or he... once somehow - for no reason you can ever seem to comprehend - felt.

So, sit up straight in your chair, and pretend you love your day job as much as you love hearing other people say they love you. You might just become more focussed on your work, and you might just get that promotion you always wished you had. You might also not, but isn't it worth a try?

In the very least, you might find that you visit your physiotherapist or chiropractor just a pinch less, and are far happier now that you have that extra bit of cash to spend. Sitting up straight can, somehow or other, do wonders for your posture.

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