The Irrational Fear of Artificial Will

Image [cc] - agsandrew 
A lot has been made of Elon Musk's recent comments about Artificial Intelligence being "a greater risk than nukes." And no less an intellect than Stephen Hawking recently echoed that sentiment. I've seen two examples of this fear showing up in popular television shows; a recent episode of Elementary had Sherlock Holmes administer an extended Turing test to a doll to see if it possibly killed a person, and this season of Person of Interest centers around the battle of omniscient and seemingly omnipotent computers with ridiculously capable and attractive people fulfilling their every desire. (On the other hand, maybe it's just a CBS thing.) It strikes me that all of this sturm und drang has nothing at all to do with artificial intelligence... it's an irrational fear of Artificial Will.

Most computers today do not exhibit Artificial Intelligence, at least not in the way that we generally imagine it, but they are tools that expand and supplement human intelligence. As such, they do provide a type of "Will-less Artificial Intelligence". One that we embrace wholeheartedly. This Will-less AI makes it possible for fewer humans to achieve what would otherwise require many, many more humans, and the additional corresponding costs and resources that the presence of those additional humans would necessitate. In other words, the Will-less AI that currently exists allows us to do much more, with much less, much faster and we're all for that.

At it's base, the popular fear of AI is not that computers will become more intelligent than us, but that they will become willful and that they will exhibit ill will towards us. Today this fear manifests as  a disembodied, internet-enabled, artificially willful intelligence, that will somehow bring about the end of humanity, but 30 years ago it was an unstoppable robot from the future that looked a lot like Arnold Schwarzenegger. In 1921 it was Karel Čapek's play about a robot factory uprising, called Rossum's Universal Robots (from which the term Robots originates).  In 1818, it was Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus, in which Dr. Frankenstein reanimates life in a bunch of cobbled together body parts that ultimately turn against him. In each century the technology changes, it always reflects the latest advances in science and industry, but the feared outcome is always the same: the creator is attacked, or destroyed, or overwhelmed by it's creation.

Shelley references the Greek myth of Prometheus in her title.  Prometheus was a god of old, a Titan, who sided with the new Olympic gods, and helped to bring Zeus and his cadre to power.  But poor Prometheus was a true egalitarian and gave the lowly humans the power of fire, for which he was punished for all eternity by his newly installed rulers. Even in a tale of triumph for the contemporary gods, one who seeks to bring about change must be punished for his sins! This is an old story, continually reinvented throughout human history to spread Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt about change itself.

What hope for those of us seeking to innovate in law firms?!

Now, I don't know what Elon or Stephen actually think about AI, or why it's dangerous, or what concerns they actually have.  I've only seen what's been covered in the media, and that has mostly been sensational click-bait.  Personally, I don't subscribe to the theory that humans have free will, so my fear of machines somehow miraculously acquiring it is probably more limited than most. We are as much a product of programming and development as any computer application, and equally as incapable of defying our code. Our programming derives from our environment, education, and experiences. We grow and develop and change over time, but our actions are still the collective result of our ongoing development. I do not have a choice whether or not to go to work each morning, I have a calculation that weighs the consequences of going against not going.  It's a complex calculation involving my remuneration and my ongoing expenses, but also my sense of pride and self-worth, my camaraderie with colleagues, and my desire to complete ongoing projects. I may not even be consciously aware of all of the variables that go into this calculation or that the calculation is happening at all, but I retroactively apply the term "choice" to the result and say that I have "freely" chosen to go to work today.  Interestingly, if we attempt to calculate this same equation for someone else and come to a wildly different result, we don't say "Oh, well, they've exercised their free will." we say they're crazy, or something is seriously wrong with them, and if we care about them, we try to get them help.

There is little reason to believe that a "willful-seeming" artificial intellect will be any different than a "willful-seeming" biological intellect. If it does not exhibit something that we would call Will, then we will not recognize it to be intelligent and we will not fear it. But no program is likely to exhibit behavior that we would recognize as Will unless it has been raised and educated as any other child-like intellect, to understand the world largely as we see it.  And that particular experiment has been ongoing for hundreds of thousands of years with billions of biological intellects. It has resulted in some phenomenal successes and many truly horrific failures, and the same will continue to be true whether the intelligence is silicon or carbon-based. For those unfortunate silicon-based intelligences that come to wildly different results than we, as a society, deem acceptable, we will say they are crazy and that something is seriously wrong with them, and if we care about them, we will try to get them help.

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Using Novelty, Surprise, and Shock to Change Behavior

Image [cc] Brainware3000
As I was going through my Facebook feed this morning, I noticed an update from Amy Hale-Janeke that pointed to an article on "How to Stop Annoying Behaviors and Handle Offensive People." For strictly research purposes only, of course, I read the article, which led to me watching Dan Pink's 2009 Ted Talk, and then to Pink's short video on Crowd Control: Top 5 Jaywalkers. It was extremely interesting to listen as Pink discussed how businesses incentive methods are shown to be ineffective when reviewed by social scientists. Methods meant to improve performance or behaviors, can actually create the opposite result.

In his latest project, Pink is looking at behaviors of crowds, and in the segments I watched, he focuses on some "lawbreakers" such as jaywalking and speeding. In a very simplistic summary, these types of behaviors tend to be automatic or unconscious (a.k.a. habits), or from the person not actually visualizing the results that come from this type of action. In setting up for the jaywalking episode, Pink mentions the following:
When we were shooting the show, I spent a lot of time watching people in the wild, folks just gliding through their regular lives—on the street, in the office, in a shopping mall, wherever. What amazed me was just how much of the time we operate unconsciously—guided by default behaviors and largely oblivious to what’s happening around us. I’d previously read the research on inattentional blindness, but to see it in action day in and day out was a stunner. It presented a real challenge in changing behavior—which is why we often used novelty, surprise, and sometimes even shock.

Watching Pink's video on using gamification to reduce jaywalking (video embedded below), I got to thinking how such a method of novelty, surprise, and shock could be used to improve behaviors within our work environments. Could these tactics be deployed to enhance tasks that, while not as potentially fatal as jaywalking, might improve the results of behaviors that we know are substandard, but traditional methods (carrot and stick) don't tend to work? I'm not giving any answers to my question, but I will throw out a few law firm behaviors that I think approaches of novelty, surprise, and shock would improve.
  • Not attending training session (or worse, signing up for training sessions and then not showing up.)
  • Time Entry (improving the task to entry time, proper coding of time, and improved descriptions)
  • Updating Client Relationship Management data
  • Entering documents into the Document Management System
There are probably dozens of other behaviors that we would like to improve/change. Perhaps through methods of novelty, surprise, and shock (maybe electric shock?), we can actually change the behavior for the better.

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Lex Machina and the Wave of Legal Research and Analytics Resources

Image [cc] Giulia Forsythe
There are very few legal research and analytic platforms that are truly unique, ground-breaking, advantage-giving resources. One of the newer products out there that does seem to fit this category is Lex Machina. Although I'm still not sure the proper pronunciation of the "Machina" (is it "Mah-CHEE-Na" or "Mak-IN-ah" or "Mah-KEEN-ah"?? ), it is one of the few products where I've heard lawyers from multiple firms say it is a "must have" as part of their IP litigation arsenal. In fact, when talking with an IP Lawyer at a conference once, that lawyer said "I was tired of getting my ___ kicked by a firm that was using it, so we had to bring it into our firm to level the playing field."

[Note: the folks at Lex Machina set me straight, it's pronounced "Mah-Kee-Nah"]

Products like Lex Machina, and Neota Logic are really just scratching the surface of what data analytics and logic-based processing can do to help better position attorneys in understanding, planning, and overall strategy of handling legal matters. 

Lex Machina is launching a new tool, and is presenting a webinar today at 2:00 PM Eastern, that describes the Legal Analytics platform and how law firm and in-house counsel can use this in their strategy of protecting and defending their IP resources. If you haven't had a chance to look at Lex Machina before, this webinar might be a great place to start. I've put the webinar information and press release below.

Whether you call something like this big data analytics, or computer-based mining and logic, or adaptive learning resources, products like Lex Machina are the wave of the future. Leveraging huge amounts of data, computer processing, analytics, advanced algorithms, and human interaction is slowly creeping into the legal research market. What is really interesting is that these advancements are coming from the smaller companies, not the big ones. Now, whether they get acquired by the big players is yet to be seen, but probably inevitable. Not to worry, though. I'm sure there are others at Stanford, MIT, and in basements and garages that are working on the next big advancement in legal research and analytics. I, for one, look forward to seeing what's next.   

Lex Machina Launches Custom Insights: Personalized Analytics for Unprecedented Insights into Cases, Motions, and Trends
New capabilities enable lawyers to design their own approach to crafting winning IP strategy

Menlo Park, November 12, 2014 – Lex Machina, creator of Legal Analytics®, today raises the bar for legal technology by introducing Custom Insights with the new release of its Legal Analytics platform. With traditional legal research tools, it’s difficult not only to find relevant cases, but also to glean key strategic insights, unless attorneys are willing to drill into each and every case. This is where Lex Machina gets started. Custom Insights helps attorneys surface strategic information from only those cases or motions they care about, quickly and easily. 

To mark the launch of these exciting new capabilities, Lex Machina will be hosting a webcast on November 13 to demonstrate how in-house and law firm counsel can leverage Custom Insights in their workflow.

“Since launching our platform in October last year, our engineers have worked closely with Lex Machina’s customers to take Legal Analytics to the next level,” said Josh Becker, CEO, Lex Machina.  “More than predefined charts and graphs, our customers wanted the flexibility to apply analytics to the cases and motions that matter to them. With Custom Insights we are delivering a groundbreaking capability that changes the business and practice of law.”

Lex Machina is introducing these new capabilities that provide attorneys with Custom Insights:

Case List Analyzer

The new Case List Analyzer puts lawyers in the driver’s seat by enabling them to select cases based on specific criteria and filter the results by case type, date range, court, judge, patent findings, and more. Available on every case list page, Case List Analyzer helps lawyers uncover strategic information and visualize trends – from how to approach a case, to how to litigate, or how to defend against legal action. With one click they can see trends and gain actionable insights across their case selection.

Case List Analyzer allows me to quickly compare judges, law firms, parties and patents, using the criteria I care about.  I can find a judge’s tendency to award damages of a specific type,” said Scott Hauser, Deputy GC Ruckus Wireless.  “Custom Insights enables me to craft winning IP strategy.”

Motion Metrics

This new feature identifies the docket events and documents connected to a specific motion, and offers Custom Insights into all activity that led to a court’s grant or denial of that motion. With Motion Metrics, attorneys can get Custom Insights for each motion chain within a case to analyze the performance of judges, or opposing counsel, and also compare motions across districts, judges, parties, and law firms. Attorneys are able to compare motion outcomes and select the strategy that has the highest probability of producing the desired results.  

Motion Metrics may reveal that a judge almost never grants a motion for summary judgment,” said Miriam Rivera, former Deputy GC at Google.  “The ability to see this information in an instant, not only saves a tremendous amount of time, but also helps me for the first time to quantify my ROI.”

About Lex Machina

Lex Machina is defining Legal Analytics, a new category of legal technology that revolutionizes how companies and law firms compete in the business and practice of law. Delivered as Software-as a-Service, Lex Machina creates structured data sets covering districts, judges, law firms, lawyers, parties, and patents, out of millions of pages of legal information. Legal Analytics allows law firms and companies, for the first time ever, to predict the behaviors and outcomes that different legal strategies will produce, enabling them to win cases and close business.

Lex Machina is used by companies such as Microsoft, Google, and eBay, and law firms like Wilson Sonsini, Fish & Richardson, and Fenwick & West. The company was created by experts at Stanford’s Computer Science Department and Law School. In 2014, Lex Machina was named one of the “Best New Legal Services” by readers of The Recorder, American Lawyer Media’s San Francisco newspaper.

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The Top 5 Myths of Law Library Outsourcing – And the Unsung Heroes

Image [cc] Richard Aird
[Editor Note: Please welcome guest blogger, Deborah Schwarz, CEO and Founder, LAC Group. Since we know there has been a lot of talk about outsourcing in library services, we thought it would be interesting to get Deb's perspective on what she hears from the business side of Managed Services for law libraries. So our thanks to Deb for giving us five things she hears, but thinks are misperceptions when it comes to Law Library Outsourcing. - Greg Lambert]

As the legal landscape continues to shift, law firms are looking for every possible advantage to mitigate risk and maximize opportunity. That includes outsourcing of support functions like the law library. As information is nearing a complete shift to digital and information needs become more diverse, extending to functions like business development and finance, firm managers are facing some difficult questions:
Do you adopt a greater self-serve information model and risk overwhelming attorneys and staff who are running lean and mean already? How do you balance the cost and complexity of information technology and information resources to gain the benefits of automation and access? How do you optimize information to help satisfy existing clients while attracting new ones?

As firms examine the options that will help them answer these questions and others, outsourcing has come to the forefront. As CEO of a company that has built a successful business around Managed Services (aka Outsourcing) for law libraries, we firmly believe what we espouse: Outsourcing is a very useful and appropriate business tool that helps firms focus more effectively on their core business. We also believe, and we are not reticent to say so, that there are times when it's not a good idea.
Although outsourcing has come a long way in terms of acceptance and understanding, some apprehensions and misconceptions persist. To that end, I want to debunk five myths about outsourcing, based on questions we get asked most frequently by law firm management. And I want to finish by turning the spotlight on important benefits of outsourcing that often take a back seat to the ‘usual suspects’ of efficiency and cost savings.

1. Outsourcing is less expensive.
As for cost savings, I would like to begin by saying that outsourcing isn’t always cheaper, at least not in the short run, because of simple and obvious economics—the cost of severance and because the outsourcing company doesn’t work for free! There will be a management fee in addition to absorbing the cost of the outsourced staff's compensation, including benefits as well as "grandfathered" paid time off, etc. In almost every outsourcing scenario we have encountered, LAC Group has worked closely with firms to ensure that affected employees have the same or similar benefit packages and salaries.

However, in the long run, outsourcing can be cost effective. After one-time costs are paid out, the financial and managerial responsibilities are handed off to the outsourcing firm. The financial burden of attrition, salary increases, bonuses, benefits and other employee expenses such as workers’ compensation and professional development are borne by the outsourcing company. The client company pays one invoice to one outsourcing provider and everything else, including service level agreements and meeting agreed-upon targets, is part of the outsourcing agreement.
Bottom line: Outsourcing initially costs more, but when done correctly and efficiently by the outsourcing provider, long-term fees and costs are stabilized and predictable. And it becomes the outsourcing company’s challenge and value proposition to deal and perform with fluctuations.

2. Outsourcing disrupts morale and brings down the firm’s culture.
Yes, it can, but like any other change it can be managed and controlled. In our experience, and contrary to popular belief, law firms spend more time considering and outright worrying about the reactions and feelings within their organization than they publicly acknowledge. In the 28 years of LAC Group's outsourcing experience, every client of ours has worked diligently to make the transition as humane and thoughtful as possible.

Many employees view outsourcing as a betrayal of their loyalty. Yet the decision to outsource is always a business decision and it is never personal. It can be an admission that the organization is not able to properly manage and support that group. It may be that the outsourcing provider offers greater efficiency, not strictly in terms of people, but due to better use of technology, better restructuring of workflow and processes, more capable recruiting and hiring practices and greater flexibility in matching resources to needs, no matter how often they change.

3. Outsourcing means sending work to far-away places.
This may be outsourcing's most persistent myth, but it's not necessarily so. Outsourcing today takes many forms, which doesn’t always mean sending work to another country. In my experience, not only have we kept jobs at home, in many of the outsourcing arrangements we are involved in the work is done on site, in firm offices. Often “our” employees work seamlessly and side-by-side with firm attorneys and staff, the only difference being where the person’s paycheck comes from. Increasingly, outsourcing may involve work done virtually by individuals working from home.

It’s also important to note a related outsourcing myth, which is that all current staff will lose their jobs. That’s not usually the case, and if some reduction in staff is required, we can assist with placement of anyone who may be outplaced.

4. Outsourcing denigrates wages and devalues the employee who is outsourced.
In LAC Group’s experience, matching wages and continuing to provide a total compensation package with benefits is usually a condition we have to meet. While we can’t always match the scope of benefits offered by large, multinational firms, we can and do offer a competitive package. When we take over an operation or a function, matching salaries and honoring the privileges of established employees is often a condition.

In addition, the outsourcing company can offer better soft benefits such as greater support and mentoring, as well as opportunities for advancement and professional development. At LAC Group we pride ourselves on the fact that offering these advantages contributes to our very low attrition rate. Our people are very important, so we strive to reward them professionally and financially.

5. Outsourcing turns permanent jobs into temporary assignments.
Nothing is forever. No one’s position remains static year-after-year—technology and globalization have made that a truism for everyone in the work place. Working for a reputable outsourcing company is neither better nor worse as a career move than a “permanent” position within a law firm.  

Sometimes outsourcing is temporary, as in the case of disaster recovery. For example, a major university library system hired us after an unforeseen disaster which required additional staff for an assignment that would be long term, but not permanent, and the workload would diminish over time. The people we placed were aware of this, and as needs changed we lost some to attrition and some were moved to other clients and projects.

On the other hand, many of LAC Group’s outsourcing contracts are over 10 years old. That’s become a lifetime in today’s work environment! But does it mean these contracts remain the same every year? Not at all. Contracts are reviewed regularly and compared to the current market. This keeps us on our toes as we have to make sure that we continue to deliver value, quality and service excellence. All outsourcing contracts should be able to stand up to this level of scrutiny. In my judgment, any arrangement where this isn't happening ought to be revisited.

The Unsung Advantages of Outsourcing
Often the drivers behind an outsourcing decision are to streamline operations and save money. And when the primary goal is saving money, there’s no denying that sometimes the work goes offshore to places with lower wages. Yet in my experience, even when law firms come to us seeking cost savings, other benefits end up being more desirable to them. Those benefits are expertise and agility, and I call them the ‘unsung heroes’ because they get so little public mention.

Expertise and Agility
Regarding expertise, I don’t mean to imply that firm librarians are not experts. However, firms are finding it increasingly difficult and impractical to keep specialists on staff for all their information needs, which have become much more dynamic. In addition, many firms are not committed to the kind of training and development that’s needed to ensure their library staff can stay ahead in today’s big-data world.

As for agility, the one underlying skill we all need today is flexibility and openness to continuous change, because that’s the new normal! Outsourcing is one way law firms can be more agile in responding to, and developing strategies for, changing demands and expectations of clients, competitors and markets. They can scale up, down and sidewise as needed, often with not much more than a phone call. While this concerns some librarians, the truth is that they can gain their own advantages, leveraging outsourcing for their own personal and professional flexibility.

Outsourcing is a valuable tool, albeit one with the proverbial double edge that can cut both ways.  Separating myth from reality gives law firm leadership, and law firm librarianship, the knowledge they need to view outsourcing realistically and use this tool wisely.

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Free Webinar on Competitive Intelligence Deliverables - This Thursday 11/13

Update 11/18/2014: A recording of the presentation, handouts, and examples are available on the CIBlawg site.

NOTE: The Webinar has been over-subscribed! Unfortunately, this may mean that some of you may not be able to log in and listen. 

The Slides of the presentation will be available shortly after the webinar. Seems like AALL and PLL have a popular thing on their hands, and hopefully will present additional CI webinars soon. - GL

If you've ever wondered what Competitive Intelligence looks like, then sign up for this free webinar sponsored by Private Law Libraries Special Interest Section of the American Association of Law Libraries (or PLL as we like to call it.)

Fellow 3 Geek contributor, Mark Gediman, is on the panel with a couple of Dallas-based CI experts, Emily Rushing and Kevin Miles, as well as Juli Stahl Hughes. Should be a great webinar, but hurry, there's only room for 100 participants.

CI Deliverables - FREE PLL Webinar

November 13, 2014, 2-3 PM EST (this coming Thursday)

This webinar will give you insights from three veteran CI professionals showing you their best practices and how their response to these requests is tailored based on these factors:

  • Turn-around time
  • What the need is 
  • Preparing for a meeting
  • Responding to an RFP
  • Having Lunch
  • Planning a Client Check-up Meeting
  • Participating in a Business Development Initiative, etc.
  • The Audience's Context
Register soon as space is limited to 100 participants.

Moderator/Coordinator - Kevin Miles (Norton Rose Fulbright)

 Emily C. Rushing (Haynes & Boone)
 Mark Gediman (Best, Best & Krieger)
 Juli Stahl Hughes (Stradley Ronon)

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