A Mind of Its Own: The Question of Automated Policy

As the presence of automated technologies seems to be creeping into almost every field of work, it seems easier to ask which sectors they will not influence. According to an article in CMS Wire, some of the industries which will be most disrupted by artificial intelligence include agriculture, healthcare, and customer service. Despite initial hiccups, the ability of AI to dominate these industries in the future seems fathomable. What does seem surprising, though, is the potential for AI to change the way we work in sectors that are traditionally reliant on human interactions and relationships. In corporate boardrooms, compliance and legal departments, and even politics, could we start seeing more and more automation? Many analysts in these fields believe the course has already been set.

If the legal profession is any indication of futuristic AI integration, we will see many changes sooner than we think. According to a Forbes article written by Bernard Marr, Deloitte predicts that “100,000 legal roles will be automated by 2036.” Not only will algorithms be used to make manual document retrieval a thing of the past, but legal tech companies that strive to integrate digital technologies into legal analysis are also already in existence. A foundational member of this new sector is Nextlaw Labs. Working under Dentons, the world’s largest law firm in terms of human capital, Nextlaw Labs recognizes the encroaching potential of technological integration. According to the company itself, “Nextlaw Labs curates, pilots and adapts technology and processes to proactively predict client needs and address real-world challenges…Our goal is to empower clients with the latest actionable insights into legal innovation. The Nextlaw Labs user-centric, practical approach allows us to collaboratively address pain points in current practices with the right solutions.” Combining the genius of professionals who have worked at the Boston Consulting Group, served as President Obama’s Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development, and experienced a wide range of business and technology intersections, Nextlaw seems well equipped to predict the future of law in the private sector. As the organization develops more branches, such as its venture capital presence in the legal tech world with Nextlaw Ventures, investors of as high caliber as Mark Cuban have taken a monetary interest.

With these beginnings in the corporate legal arena, one must wonder about the potential of AI to shape the public policy world. Certain algorithms are already being used to predict legal outcomes in terms of settlements and human judgment. Could these same algorithms be used to predict the effects of laws and regulations? The general consensus regarding the benefits of using legal tech is that it saves time and money: two things that allow for more productivity. At a seminar at Columbia University, Dr. Robin J. Lewis identified opportunities for artificial intelligence in government-run infrastructures such as “smart cities, facial recognition technology, and crime prediction algorithms.” With these possibilities on the horizon, much is at stake for current professionals in the political arena, as well as those hoping to enter it upon graduation. Uncertainty is the singular guarantee when it comes to the limits of AI. If policy outcomes become more and more definitive, it will be interesting to see whether our policymakers become less divided. With less room for negotiation about theoretical outcomes, will less be up for interpretation? When it comes to the question of reliable automated policy, the answer is like most projections for the dependability of AI: the unpredictability of humanity may not be able to be replicated by the systems we create.