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OH HAPPY DAY! Lawyers replaced by AI

Google also outsmarted by friendly machine pals

Artificial intelligence is a worry on two fronts. In a worst-case scenario, we end up with The Terminator. In a less-painful scenario, we end up with billions of humans out of work as drudgery is replaced by machines.

The second scenario looks just a little bit closer today, but also less painful, after the advent of “ROSS”, a service that promises to replace lawyers.

Don't start cheering at the prospect of a lawyer-less world. Ross is billed as a lawyer's aide that can handle natural language queries like “What is the leading case in Ontario on an employee starting a competing business” and spit out a “relevant answer”.

The schtick seems to be that this service produces more accurate results than Google, thanks to specialisation and affiliations with legal publishers that give it quality information on which to feed. Most of such publishers' content requires payments to access, either by subscription or pay-by-read. ROSS proposes to charge such publishers a small commission.

ROSS isn't saying just how it does this stuff, other than to say it's put IBM's Watson supercolossal-analytics-o-tron to work.

Helping lawyers to do stuff they'd dump on a junior's desk isn't quite enough evidence with which to justify a time-travelling intervention to alter the past and erase Watson from history. In fact some may argue we'd be better served if ROSS came into existence rather earlier, as by removing the need for lawyers we get the best possible example of AI as a benign force. ®

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