Nathan M. Crystal, Is artificial intelligence a real danger? Which are its danger in the practice of law?

A number of leading scholars and business leaders have recently warned about the danger of artificial intelligence (see Stephen Hawking, Elon Musk and Bill Gates among others).

For example Elon Musk, patron of Tesla, said: “I think we should be very careful about artificial intelligence. If I were to guess like what our biggest existential threat is, it’s probably that. So we need to be very careful with the artificial intelligence.” He raised the issue whether some “oversight maybe at the national and international level” would be necessary. (see here)

Bill Gates, commenting on these declarations, added that while machines are useful, today artificial intelligence “is strong enough to be a concern. I agree with Elon Musk and some others on this and don’t understand why some people are not concerned.” (see here)

When such prominent figures make these remarks, governmental officials and civic leaders should take notice, at least in the sense of analyzing the dangers. But what to do? Artificial intelligence developments are occurring in a wide range of sectors of the society. Is the way of regulation the most appropriate? Should we think about creating an authority to oversee artificial intelligence? If yes, it should be done now, before the horse is out of the barn.

A tension already exists between human and artificial intelligence in the practice of law.  For example, increasingly courts are allowing the use of technology assisted review (TAR) for dealing with issues in electronic discovery.   In Good v. Am. Water Works Co., Inc., 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 154788 (S.D. W. Va. 2014), the court found that the defendant was not limited to an electronic review of documents to determine the application of the attorney-client privilege, but the court warned that it would not tolerate undue delay.  But the use of technology is breaking new ground. In law (as in medicine) work is underway to develop expert systems to analyze legal problems.  (see here) These developments present a fundamental question (also in the light of Hawking’s, Musk’s and Gates’s remarks): what should be the relationship between lawyer intelligence and artificial intelligence in the practice of law?  Are lawyers to be replaced, or seriously diminished in their roles, by machines? Which are the specific dangers of artificial intelligence in the practice of law?

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