Why All the AI Hype in Legal? - A Response to Ron Friedmann

Ron Friedman recently posted the following video to twitter.
Ron and I have talked about this a lot, going back to my AI posts last December when I suggested that we stop using the term Artificial Intelligence in legal because it causes more confusion, consternation, and general trouble than it's worth.

First, to answer Ron's question, why all the AI hype in the legal market?  The AI hype isn't happening in the legal market.  It's happening throughout the world.  It's now in our homes with Nest Thermostats and Hue light bulbs.  It's in our pockets with Siri, and in our offices with Alexa. It's the basis of one of the most engrossing shows on HBO right now, Westworld.  And we still have brilliant people like Elon Musk and Stephen Hawking warning that AI will likely kill us if we don't take precautions. What we're seeing in the legal market is just bleeding-through from the massive hype happening in the rest of the world.  And I think it's all about to come crashing down.  We will shortly enter into the great Trough of Disillusionment for AI.

I don't say that because I think AI will fail to live up to its promise.  On the contrary, I think AI will way outstrip our current expectations.  However, we humans are fickle.  Our expectations shift quickly. Louis C.K. explains it best in his routine about Airplane WiFi.  In the AI space, this same fickle attitude leads to an interesting phenomenon, over time we adjust what we believe qualifies as AI.  The more common a technology becomes the less we believe it to be Artificial Intelligence. 

Google isn't considered AI, but it 'knows' what you're typing as you type, and then it filters a large portion of the web to give you the most relevant pages.  It would have easily been seen as AI twenty years ago.  Siri and Alexa personal assistants respond to voice commands and can return information instantly or actually perform tasks online, but they are considered borderline AI at best these days. Completely self-driving automobiles are still seen as Science Fiction and therefore are solidly in the AI column, but I predict they will NOT widely be considered AI by the time they are commercially available.  AI is a moving target. By the time a technology is commercialized it's no longer considered Artificial Intelligence.  Consequently, we fickle humans are consistently underwhelmed by the promise of AI even as AI fundamentally changes the world around us.

The same is happening in legal right now.  AI is all over the place from e-discovery to contract review, due diligence, and data extraction, to my own company's expert system platform.  (Oh, BTW.  I've got another new job since last I wrote.) But the more we see of it, the less we believe it to truly represent Artificial Intelligence.  AI is always just beyond the horizon.  Just on the other side of the next technological breakthrough.  It's always something just slightly better than what we can do right now.

So I say, "Don't buy into the AI hype!"  Not because AI is not real, but because hyperbolic expectations for AI lead to a belief in 'magical technology'. And expectations of 'magic yet to come' will prevent you from taking advantage of the remarkable and capable technology that is absolutely available today. 

It's not 'Artificial' Intelligence, it's Your Intelligence: Augmented, Enhanced, and Multiplied.

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