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🔐 Premium: This is the question posed by DoNotPay, an AI powered tech lawfirm that has hit the headlines because of a stunt to use AI to actually represent a defendant in a US court of law. Will it happen? What does it mean? Are we one step closer to Minority Report?


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Are we on a path towards a future run by AI?

Since OpenAI’s ChatGPT woke the world up to the power of artificial intelligence, this is the question I see being asked and debated a lot. It’s a question that spikes the imagination and allows us to see the best and the worst of tech at work. It’s easy to see how the answers to the science fiction question can run away with themselves. 🤦‍♂️ The end of the world is nigh!

But here’s the thing, we’ve been here before, haven’t we?

I’m old enough to remember life before the Internet, smartphones and TikTok. When I was at school, the electronic trickery known as a calculator was banned from exams. The only assistance I could rely on was a slide rule and my well-thumbed log book.

But today, I couldn’t imagine working without a laptop, WiFi and a bunch of software tools from the likes of Notion, Canva and Ghost. I hardly put pen to paper anymore and haven’t bought Tipex in 20 years!

With all these marvellous productivity tools, we didn’t have two decades ago, you’d think we’d be on our way to putting humans out of business. Except that that hasn’t happened. In terms of productivity in the United States, the last 20 years have been the most economically stagnant period of the last century. In some European countries, productivity is actually declining over the same period.

Productivity performance is looking through the rear view mirror, what about looking straight ahead? In this market forecast report by Halperin, Mazlish and Chow, (it’s a long and technical assessment of the impact of transformative AI on interest rates), they conclude there will be a  short term impact from the current advances in AI. But, “the market seems to be strongly rejecting timelines of less than ten years, and does not seem to be placing particularly high odds on the development of transformative AI even 30-50 years from now.”

So, can AI really replace human talent, knowledge and capability?

When it comes to the law, it seems like the answer is yes.

AI lawyers doing what human lawyers do

The role of AI in the legal process is not a brand new subject;

  • In 2020, a California task force dedicated to exploring ways to expand access to legal services recommended allowing unlicensed practitioners to represent clients.
  • Also in 2020, the American Bar Association told judges using AI tools to be mindful of biases instilled in the tools themselves.
  • UNESCO, the international organisation dedicated to preserving culture, has a free online course covering the basics of what AI can offer legal systems.

But the news that DoNotPay are to use ChatPGT to represent a defendant in a US court has pushed the debate into the spotlight. Not just because it’s a well-timed stunt that has shone the spotlight on this 6 year old firm, but this is the story of expensive lawyers being replaced by artificial intelligence.

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