This post was originally published twelve years ago today. However, as I ponder the topic posed by Northwestern Law Professor Michael Zuckerman about how law students shouldn’t use automated writing technology because they will miss out on learning how to do initial drafts, this post seems as relevant now as ever. – GL]

I read a lot. But, I don’t usually read the same book twice (because I already know how it is going to end!) But, I do love me some SciFi and Vampires and Humor, so when I get that all rolled into one, I make an exception and read the book again. I do it for fun, not for business research or to get some type of deep philosophical experience out of the deal. However, coming in on the bus this morning, and re-reading Christopher Moore‘s 1995 book Bloodsucking Fiends, I read a passage that made me put the book down and really think. (You can read the passage starting at page 84 via Google Books.)

Moore’s characters, a bum who is known as the Emperor of San Francisco [who I later learned was fashioned after San Francisco citizen Joshua Abraham Norton], and a young aspiring writer named C. Thomas Flood are discussing the well-dressed business folk who are scurrying about. The Emperor calls them “Fallen Gods” because the things that have made them successful are going away and they will soon be losing out to the “chinless techno-children… and their silicon-chip reality.” Then the Emperor says something that really got me thinking. “Uncreative thinking is done better by machines.”
Now, skip ahead 14 [26] years and the chinless techno-children are now seen as the new Gods. The old Gods and their ability to push paper around has been replaced by the new Gods’ ability to push large amounts of data around. The new Gods’ success has simply been to find a more efficient way of pushing information (a.k.a. ‘paper’, ’emails’, ‘databases’, etc.) around. But, has the increase in efficiency helped make either man or machine more creative thinkers? Or, have we created a situation where we’re still on an uncreative path, but making up for it in volume?
When we look at technology in the legal setting, whether it is legal research, knowledge management, or electronic discovery, we’ve seemed to have taken the last 14 [26] years to increase the scale of what we do. We can now push more information around — We can now store Terabytes of information — We can now virtually capture every keystroke that an attorney makes. But, have we made ourselves more creative, or have we simply increased the volume of information each of us can access? Uncreative thinking is still done better by machines. What we really need to ask is whether we are using the efficiency of the uncreative machines to push these tasks off of our people and allowing them to use their creativity to come up with better and more effective solutions?
Thanks to a book about vampires, I was reminded that machines (computers, software, databases, etc.) are efficient yet still uncreative in handling information and should be designed for our human resources to be more effective and creative in accomplishing their work. So, when you’re ready to upgrade that hardware or software, you really should sit down and ask yourself this: “How does this make my people more creative and effective?”

 

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Photo of Greg Lambert Greg Lambert

Librarian-Lawyer-Knowledge Management-Competitive Analysis-Computer Programmer…. I’ve taken the Renaissance Man approach to working in the legal industry and have found it very rewarding. My Modus Operandi is to look at unrelated items and create a process that can tie those items together. The overall…

Librarian-Lawyer-Knowledge Management-Competitive Analysis-Computer Programmer…. I’ve taken the Renaissance Man approach to working in the legal industry and have found it very rewarding. My Modus Operandi is to look at unrelated items and create a process that can tie those items together. The overall goal is to make the resulting information better than the individual parts that make it up.