Updated: Sep 2, 2019
Where are you on the monkey versus pig scale? And where is AI?
You can ‘teach’ a monkey repeatable tasks, but if you slightly change the task, it will not know what to do.
Pigs can extrapolate – they can apply their learning from one scenario to a similar but slightly different scenario.
Using this analogy here in the year of the pig, we ask when will tech become less monkey and more pig?
And what are implications for the future of work and the future of law?
Within law specifically, a huge part of what we do as lawyers is look at patterns and prior similar cases, and extrapolate.
How do previous decisions compare to the current scenario in front of us. What is the ‘correct’ decision based on prior practice ie. it fits the pattern, but also what is the ‘right’ decision in moral and social terms?
This is how we evolve our legal thinking over time without losing sight of core principles.
For example, rape within marriage is now illegal. For younger readers, it’s probably incredible that it was ever legal. But I remember vividly the day the landmark judgment R v R  was passed down by the House of Lords which brought finally the law into line with the 20th century.
If we do not synthesise new information within our environment and use that to inform our decision making then we are no better than monkeys. And if we are building tech that can’t do that either then, other than speed of processing / capacity, there’s no win here. Take for example contract review – fine, run it through a machine, identify contracts with dodgy clauses in two minutes instead of two weeks. That’s efficiency not evolution.
Artificial intelligence right now is still at monkey level – data in, data out. Not a lot of actual intelligence going on in between. The risk of bias amplification and the digital codification of legal concepts that are no longer fit for purpose is very real.
People talk about eliminating human bias from the algorithms, but how will they do this? How will they know where their own bias is and what it looks like? How will they know when they’ve excluded it?
Maybe that so-called bias is years of human experience codified in our brains and actually serves a beneficial purpose (we won’t know until we take it away). It allows us to use our judgment. Can we, and should we eliminate that completely? Maybe there will be unintended consequences and we won’t know what they are until they happen.
People worry that the robots are coming for our jobs. Are they also coming for our judgment? We can’t outsource ethics to the machines …yet.
Truly intelligent AI is some time away (decades probably), but we need to start using those outsize mammalian brains of ours now to think about the frameworks and protections we need in place to preserve our humanity and our ability to evolve our thinking and our laws over time. And maybe to keep a few of us in jobs!
Are you a monkey or a pig?
Are you worried that you’ll be replaced by a robot? Assess your risk here with our handy quiz:
Are you able to absorb and process new information and apply it to real world situations?
Can you successfully carry out tasks unsupervised without extremely detailed instructions?
Are you able to take what you’ve learned over the years in different situations and apply to your new role?
When you go on a training course do you:
A) Just sign up for a day out of the office and the free snacks
B) Take lots of notes and jot down ideas about how you will apply your new learnings back at the office
C) Along with B, you schedule a session with your team and co-workers afterwards to share your insights and ensure everyone benefits from your new learning
D) B and C and you also send a nice email to HR to thank them for the opportunity
A) You’re a monkey and I’ll fire you as soon as the tech is good enough
B)You are a pig – you’re safe for now but you need to stay on top of your game before you become bacon
C) I’ll hire you – you’re super human
D) You are a robot – no human would ever do that
Karen Taylor studied law before moving into legal ‘publishing’, as it was known back in the day when people still read books, and has since spent over twenty years in the legal tech industry in Europe and Asia. Karen currently manages the Asia Pacific region for Anaqua Inc., a global provider of Intellectual Property management solutions and services and enjoys terrifying youngsters with tales of contract drafting software on floppy disks and CD-ROMs of searchable case data. Karen lives in Hong Kong with her husband, three kids and rescue dog. In her spare time she enjoys doing as little as possible, reading, and exploring and photographing the sights and sounds of the city.
For further information, please contact:
Daniel Walker, Chief Executive Officer, Zegal