Legal method, defined as advocacy, presentation, or persuasion, is due for an upheaval. One trend that’s emerging—artificial intelligence. Brief writing in a matter of minutes rather than hours, gathering, summarizing and presenting data in seconds rather than weeks, even crafting the most persuasive verbal patterns of sound and speech––all will be shaped and affected by AI.
“IBM has been at the forefront of artificial intelligence for years. It’s been more than 20 years since IBM’s Deep Blue computer became the first to conquer a human world chess champion. The company followed up that feat with other man vs. machine competitions, including its Watson computer winning the game show Jeopardy. The latest artificial intelligence accomplishment for IBM is Project Debater. This AI is a cognitive computing engine that competed against two professional debaters and formulated human-like arguments.”
“And formulated human-like arguments”––yes, the future has arrived. Scan a rough draft of an opening statement or closing argument into your computer. The program will then provide an analysis of its logic and reasoning, and suggest ways of improvement. Or how about a device with encyclopedic medical or scientific knowledge with practical suggestions for its use? Or instant access to every case, state or federal, that’s ever been decided, coupled with an understanding of how to best align these cases in service of your case. “Alexa, please draft a brief in opposition to Defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgment. Please cite only Illinois cases. It’s due this afternoon”––more than likely we will see something like this within the next decade or so.
The actual world is one of many possible worlds. The imaginary world is one of many possible worlds. The only way a world becomes impossible if it cannot be real or imaginary. The same is true with events, circumstances, people. Give some thought to the concepts of “existence” and “nonexistence.” Notice how closely related the two concepts appear when thought of physically but how distinct they seem when thought of abstractly. There’s a reason for that––it has to do with the way we see. We know most of what exists remains invisible to our eyes no matter how closely we look.
That’s the trouble with AI––it will only see what its machine-wired brain has been programmed to “see.” The invisible, the incorporeal, the insubstantial––these AI will neglect. Reliance on its human-created algorithmic code––at some point we will depart from its linear rulebook and follow the sure call of otherworldly whispers. “The progress of the intellect is to the clearer vison of causes, which neglects surface differences.” (R.W. Emerson, History)
Reality, particularly legal reality, is intertextual. Predict, revise, calibrate––to imagine a concept which somehow combines the notions of “cyclical” and “linear.” Method by hypothesis, method by rule, method by intuition/counter–intuition, method by reasoning, method by trial and error. Then somehow to join all of these into a single technique known as “Process.” Bridging random uncontrolled events, related but unrelated, between the verified and unverified.
“Artificial intelligence will reach human levels by around 2029. Follow that out further to, say, 2045, we will have multiplied the intelligence, the human biological machine intelligence of our civilization a billion-fold.” —Ray Kurzweil. There’s no question AI will at some point utterly change the legal landscape. In its early stages, it will be easily regulated and contained. At its later stages, it will contain and regulate everything unless we clearly mark its boundary. “I believe there is no deep difference between what can be achieved by a biological brain and what can be achieved by a computer. It, therefore, follows that computers can, in theory, emulate human intelligence — and exceed it.” ––Stephen Hawking, Leverhulme Centre of the Future of Intelligence (Cambridge, U.K., October 2016).
Bernard Marr, The 10 Best Examples of How Companies Use Artificial Intelligence in Practice, Forbes (December 9, 2019)