Futurist: Lawyers Will Begin To Be Obsolete This Year

Karl Schroeder envisions a future where human beings have “replaced their legal system with all-knowing A[rtficial] I[ntelligences].   While this is a possibility recognized for some time (The Future’s So Bright…), Mr. Schroeder, science fiction writer and strategic foresight consultant thinks that this is the year when lawyers begin to become obsolete. Within a few decades, the primary task of our profession might well be instructing and running the justice machines.  Until they get smart enough to do it themselves.

robot lawyer

Since we are fundamentally in the information processing business, more so than all professions, except maybe accountants, who will are facing a similar fate (I just finished doing my income taxes this morning on TurboTax.) So it makes sense that faster, cheaper information processing means much of what the lawyers do now can be done by machines.  And it’s been happening for awhile now. So Schroeder’s vision raises the question:  is there something irreducibly human in the justice system that an artificial intelligence cannot do?  The first examples that come to mind echo Justice Holmes famous words about the life of the law not being logic but experience.  The role of lawyer as advisor made explicit in ABA Model Rule 2.1 would seem to present many areas where a machine would be unable to provide the “moral, economic, social and political” context necessary to advise a client. But this probably comes from as much from human ego, from my own irreducibly humanist point of view.  A big fact is that human beings are becoming integrated with digital technology in a way that is changing them in unpredictable ways.  The experience of the past may well be less valuable in the future.  Moreover, the technology means that more individual experience will be accessible to everyone.  And by everyone, I mean the cyborgs that we are in process of becoming. So if there are to be robot lawyers, we will need to have robot lawyer ethics.  In my satirical piece, I played of on Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics as the basis for a robot lawyer code of ethics, as indeed they are.   Not a bad one, either, stating concisely a high form for fiduciary duty requiring the robot to sacrifice itself to prevent harm to a human being.  But the robot lawyers of the future will probably need something a little more detailed.  The process of writing ethical rules for robots in general has already started.  Is anyone thinking about ethics for robot lawyers?

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