As I was crunching data for the 2016 year in review, my mind started wandering into 2017. Logically, I felt of swell of predictions and trends. However, I once attempted a prediction and, in my humble opinion, the future turned out to be worse. Instead, I’ll just jot down some of my dreams and intuitions for 2017.
On October 21, 2014 at 8:34PM, I quit Facebook and limited my sharing to Twitter, LinkedIn, and Medium. While I kept my rhythm of a post-a-day and blog-a-month, some of my compatriots slowed down. My Instagram and Pinterest use also dipped near the end of 2016. Even Product Hunting became less exciting since I encountered a bug with their collection feature [footnote] I can’t sort on ‘Newest’ ?[/footnote]. Recent Twitter struggles and the LinkedIn acquisition indicate I’m not alone in experiencing sharing fatigue. In 2017 I hope we see a (new) network that honestly rewards those who sincerely curate and share original thoughts and links in a world of clickbait & fake news. So I tip my hat to Artifical Lawyer.
Legal Tech Paradox
Let’s face it: the legal industry was pushed off a cliff during the 2009 recession. Technology has only acted as an accelerant to its descent ever since. Some samples of laws left splattered by technology:
- Copyright: at odds with the Internet and the music industry never recovered, will Blockchain save it?;
- Patents: is stifling innovation and forcing titans like Elon Musk to completely misappropriate it with Tesla or ignore it with Space-X, will Trade Secrets Law help?;
- Tax: a chaos of contradictory rules confusing global commerce, giving Apple a €14.5 billion tax headache;
- Finance: these laws can’t handle crypto-currency;
- Traffic: most laws to become obsolete with self-driving cars;
- Labor: in complete disarray in an on-demand economy of Uber;
- Property: where laws severely challenge your freedom to use Airbnb;
- Litigation: 75% goes to court without a lawyer because even millionaires can not afford it.
I’ll revisit the Evolution of Law series in April to see if the technology is the parachute or the propellor of decline. In any case, Legal Tech may need to strike a balance to Automate the existing legal frameworks but not to perpetuate them. Legal Tech should not strive to protect laws (and lawyers jobs) but rather to protect a fair society.
Another concern is Data. There may not be enough data available to have apps take full advantage of machine learning. Even Apple researchers published a paper on the challenge of too little data. But the legal industry has an extra burden of lot of legal data is locked in layers of laws & ethics. I believe companies should open and automate their contract data to prevent another global economic crisis as concluded by this year’s Nobel prize winners. Governments should release all litigation and legislation data. If they don’t, someone will hack their way to it or use non-legal open data. The inevitable but less desirable outcome will be that non-legal is used to approximate legal and train algorithms.
Voice + Video = Future
It may be just wishful thinking but typing to a Lawbot just isn’t my thing. I would rather be talking to it like Amazon Alexa, Apple Siri or Google Assistant. I also rather not be reading texts but listening to it or better yet, watch it come alive. So before the #Docs2Bots revolution takes off, I’ll jumpstart a “Watch my Rights” movement with a PrivaCeee campaign in January 2017. I’m not alone. Pioneers like TalksonLaw and LegalTechLive by @NickJRishwain are reinventing the video space. I’ll keep adding clips to the LegaLCompleX TV channel. In short, videos may become a better vehicle to deliver a legal message. Be honest, isn’t it more efficient to watch a TEDTalk before you drag yourself thru an entire book on the subject?
This movement isn’t just restricted to videos, but also extends to audio. I’ve seen a rise of podcasts delivering legal advice and insights. Interestingly enough, dispensed by fellow founders rather than lawyers. I also almost exclusively use the “Listen” feature in Pocket for all articles I ‘read’. I’m hoping I can find a equally soothing ‘voice’ on my desktop so I can save and share the audio version of my posts on SoundCloud.
I hope you have noticed and appreciate the restrain in my using of buzzwords like Innovation, Big Data, Blockchain and AI. This is not to say these trends aren’t relevant but rather they may actually diffuse the debate on what really matters. That they are just means to an end and I’m more concern about the end.
Big Data: The ideas, talent, and apps are available. I believe we are waiting for an uptick in demand and adoption of the inevitable. In short, a culture of acceptance that hoarding data and content will not sustain a business but rather the algorithm to understand it.
AI: Like flying cars, it is the idea so beautiful that it becomes hard to ignore the reality of the evolution of law. That it simply will not matter if computers become as smart as lawyers in knowing the law when these laws become obsolete. That conflicts will be resolved without ever becoming one and disputes may only be entertained by the rich as a spectacle. Just like Tesla’s Autopilot predicted an accident before a human ever could, the rules of engagement in our society will parse like code in a computer rather than prose in parliaments.
Ever since Perc I have this thing for intuitions. Premise: mark your inclinations and checked them later. Here goes: in 2017, I dream of viewing unique voices that break laws & traditions to bring us crazy tech without the buzz…and I hope to contribute.
Change = Chance