Relativity has published a celebration of people it calls “AI visionaries”, a list of individuals who have contributed to the development of artificial intelligence and its application to every day business processes. Relativity describes these people as “earlier adopters in legal, compliance, and risk who are playing a similar role in advancing the use of AI in the organisations”.
All technological developments go through a period of conflicting views. Enthusiasts, and those with something to sell, often over-hype the alleged benefits. Cynics abound, either because they have seen a demonstration in which the benefits fall short of the hype or because they are resistant to change generally. AI perhaps gets more of this than most things because it is not a single product or product type but a broad set of capabilities which can be applied to almost anything and is correspondingly hard to describe.
Its nature is that it is hard to see if it works well – it just gets on with the job. Failure, however, is only too obvious. It is easy to see AI as disturbing – the whole idea of a machine taking control of something hitherto done by humans poses a threat whether that something is a manual task which provides employment for many, an intellectual one which calls on hard-earned skills, training and qualifications, or one involving high stakes and responsibility.
Any discussion about AI is bedevilled by overselling, by a loose use of terminology, or by an obvious failure seen in every day life. You see people claiming that the product uses AI when what they really mean is that it offers fairly simple branches depending on a prior choice. Netflix is often held up as an AI role model, but my first exposure to it ran something like “Because you watched [this light comedy] you might like [this grim documentary about Nazi history]”. Amazon’s claimed AI attracts contempt because (however much complexity is underneath) its output is often laughably stupid – you bought this vacuum cleaner so you must want to start a collection of vacuum cleaners. People draw conclusions from this kind of failure at home which do not encourage early adoption at the office.
All this tends to obscure the truly valuable work being done by artificial intelligence and by those who (as Relativity puts it) “are playing a seminal role in advancing the use of AI in their organisations”. Relativity adds “What we’ve found in interviewing nearly 50 leaders applying AI to business is that it takes a learning mindset, more than technical skill, to succeed.”
The format of Relativity’s “meet the industry luminaries” page helps show the wide range of ideas being developed, with helpful quotations to identify the focus of developments. If someone like Tess Blair of Morgan Lewis says that technology “has enabled us to quadruple the size of our practice without adding additional people”, then one has to take notice. Kelly Clay of GSK talks of support for “the fair and judicious resolution of matters”. Nick Cole of Foley & Lardner describes AI tools as a “force multiplier” which “provide a competitive advantage, allowing us to get to the truth faster and to minimise risk”. You can’t sensibly pass by on the other side when people of this standing are making claims like this.
Perhaps the most interesting subject arising here is unconscious bias, for example, in recruitment and performance review processes. The focus here is not just on data, nor on getting a job done faster, but on people and on making an organisation a better place to work. The Relativity blog post mentioned above tells of interesting work being done by Ballard Spahr on this which will be the subject of a discussion between Virginia Essandoh of Ballard Spahr and Relativity’s CEO Mike Gamson during Legalweek.
This is an interesting list of people doing useful and important things for their firms and their clients. The broad umbrella subject is finding truth and relevance out of data but, as the list shows, this covers a very wide range of activities from “traditional” legal work like document analysis through to subjects like diversity and bias.
It would be interesting to pick two or three of the named people and ask them again in twelve months time where they have got to with their projects.