Will artificial intelligence (AI) replace or augment professional human functions such as the analytical prowess and advisory skill of a talented attorney, as machine intelligence evolves, and traditional healthcare morphs into telemedicine, mobile health, and fitness self-tracking devices?
I addressed this question in Artificial Intelligence and the Future of Law Practice (Daily Journal, 5/6/15).
The article begins by drawing parallels between healthcare, healthcare legal practice, and law practice in general:
My health care law practice has morphed over the past few years from principally representing physicians and health care facilities in brick-and-mortar operations, to advising ventures using telemedicine, mobile medical apps, and other health care technologies. Many clients I once counseled on legal issues relevant to the delivery of health care services have migrated to creating health care products. For example, a physician might try to package information on alternative therapies and nutrition as an online webinar at a subscription, exploiting his or her expertise nationally to a virtual clientele to instead of to patients, in-office. Or the clinician might create a medical device or app.
Along the way, the legal landscape has shifted, opening up to reduce barriers to telemedicine practice by loosening rules at the state level regarding licensure and the necessity of a physical exam prior to telehealth services. Physicians can teleport into consultations, just as attorneys see fewer and fewer clients around the expensive mahogany table in the big office suite, and find it more convenient to phone or Skype than fight traffic across town.
Our professional relationships are shifting from physical to virtual, even in medicine and law, once considered quintessential “relationship”-based trades.
This is all facilitated by the Internet, of course. And as machine intelligence continues to grow exponentially, it will increasingly handle tasks once thought that only humans could manage. If IBM’s Watson and other artificial intelligence (AI) constructs can increasingly diagnose dangerous diseases, even more accurately than the best trained human doctors, then AI certainly can notch up Shepardizing, analysis of cases, and the massive data-crunching required by discovery, so as to improve upon attorney and paralegal performance.
Other points the article makes are:
- Legal analysis is a computing function
- Computational law works best where human interpretation is unnecessary – such as compliance reviews where statutory law is straightforward, ambiguity is minimal, and legal challenge or administrative/judicial review unlikely
- Where we require a “fact-finder” or judgment, computerized approaches to law have limits
- The argument for AI lawyers replacing human lawyers is that by 2050, robots will pass the Turing test, making them indistinguishable from human beings; moreover, AI increases learning exponentially
- In the meanwhile, law firms are working to enhance productivity and results, at lower costs, by using AI to enhance human lawyering
In addition, there is a deeper philosophical question about the nature of consciousness, and the assumption that humans are the “crown of creation.”
AI can write poetry, come up with new cooking recipes, and thrive in an office without sleep, or office power struggles.
Many are writing now about the “existential threat” to humanity as our own creations outpace our abilities; others regard this as a pinnacle of human achievement, stirring us on to greater leisure and accomplishment.
Peter Diamandis predicts in The Singularity Hub that:
Existing healthcare institutions will be crushed as new business models with better and more efficient care emerge. Thousands of startups, as well as today’s data giants (Google, Apple, Microsoft, SAP, IBM, etc.) will all enter this lucrative $3.8 trillion healthcare industry with new business models that dematerialize, demonetize and democratize today’s bureaucratic and inefficient system.
Biometric sensing (wearables) and AI will make each of us the CEOs of our own health. Large-scale genomic sequencing and machine learning will allow us to understand the root cause of cancer, heart disease and neurodegenerative disease and what to do about it. Robotic surgeons can carry out an autonomous surgical procedure perfectly (every time) for pennies on the dollar. Each of us will be able to regrow a heart, liver, lung or kidney when we need it, instead of waiting for the donor to die.
He also calls this the “early days of JARVIS:”
In a decade, it will be normal for you to give your AI access to listen to all of your conversations, read your emails and scan your biometric data because the upside and convenience will be so immense.
This is the new normal for which we are being prepared.
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