Guest post by Rick Georges
CES is the world’s biggest tech show, focusing on the business of consumer technologies. It has served as the proving ground for innovators and breakthrough technologies for 50 years — the global stage where next-generation innovations are introduced to the marketplace. If you want to know what gadgets and tech will be changing your life in the near future, it is the place to be every year, in January, in Las Vegas, Nevada. New tech happens here; but, it doesn’t stay here..This year, Artificial Intelligence (I hate the term, but it is what it is), was the overarching theme of CES 2018. Smart things were everywhere, and the advances in AI were evident. Combining AI with Robotics is a no brainer, and the robots are becoming more useful and intelligent every day. There already is an in-home robot that really can fetch your beer. Of course, the lawyer in me is more interested in what the AI robots can remember and see and play back. It will create a new landscape of discovery in litigation when the family retainer can be called to testify. Robot dog, were you present when Dad and Mom were fighting? Play back the video of the fight please. There will also be a spate of motion practice in which experts will be called to testify whether the robot’s memory has been hacked or modified. I recall a Star Trek episode in which the ship’s computer was hacked to create false evidence against Captain Kirk. Who said that lawyers will become obsolete? New legal specialties are popping up every day. The evolution of the Internet of Things and Artificial Intelligence will only create more. Far from eliminating lawyers, these changes will create much more work for those who assist other humans in navigating the legal system.
Fellow lawyer and gadgeteer, Steve Embry, attended CES 2018, and is pessimistic about the future of lawyering, given the speed (5G anyone?), and the incorporation of AI into robots, and into just about everything. I don’t, however, share that pessimism; although, I agree that lawyers will be doing different stuff in different ways in the future. Counseling, decision making, and other human stuff will always be required for the interaction and conflicts humans engage in. The information will be much better and the AI robots and computers will spout information and connections that have authority; but, until the robots take over, humans will stay in control. In fact, I see many new legal specialties arising in the legal consequences of AI robots roaming the planet eavesdropping, and spying, and being in the woodwork and in TVs and in refrigerators and anything else humans may touch. We lawyers will evolve and survive. We are just made that way. Whom do you think the robot makers will hire to solve their problems? Who will conduct the litigation required by the damage done by intelligent machines? Who will be responsible for the negligent construction and deployment of machines that can think? At what point will legal scholars be asked to define what it means to be human?
I suppose it is possible that robots will take over law practice. Sophia, a highly intelligent AI robot head that speaks like an adult, and has limitless knowledge, is getting a body and legs. In taking her first steps, she is much like an infant learning to walk. While industrial and business applications will be the first to exploit these walking, talking robots, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that, as they become sleeker and more human like, other occupations will take a hit. Can they become sentient? Who knows? Most of us will likely be long gone from the planet before that happens, if it ever does. But, science fiction is looking more like science fact, isn’t it?
What if you could take the deposition of the family dog? What if the family dog could listen, remember, and parrot back everything it heard in the house? Well, Sony has a plan to create an AI enabled dog to do just that. I can hear the litigators in the crowd oohing and aahing. Hey, I love tech as much or more than the next person. It would be cool to have an AI enabled animal that could recognize different family members, talk back to them, and remember stuff. It would also be nice to have a dog that didn’t forget where to go to the bathroom. And, it would be great to have a dog that didn’t eat expensive food. But, Sony. Reality check. AI is nice in gadgets that know how much food is in the refrigerator and can order replacement items without intervention. AI devices that can record everything that goes on in the house? Not so much. I think we may need to create a family dog evidence privilege. There are already lawyers using existing voice assistant devices like the Amazon Echo and Google Home in the discovery of evidence in litigation. The evidentiary bonanza alone will keep lawyers busy for the next hundred years.
In sum, then, CES 2018 was a showcase for the limitless appetite of humans for increasingly useful and entertaining ways to make tech part of our lives. The tech that was shown will augment human intelligence, and create new ways for lawyers to resolve disputes; some of which haven’t even been contemplated yet. Many of us won’t live to see it; but, the future is bright for legal practitioners, if we go with the flow of technology.
In summary, events like CES 2018 make it clearer than ever that lawyers and everyone else will need to adapt to survive in a changing market. But, as technology becomes more complex, I believe that there will always be work for lawyers; and, that is a good thing.