I was unfortunately not able to go to Relativity Fest London, which opened on Tuesday. The photographs from the Keynote show a room as packed as it was in 2019 when the last in-person event took place. Relativity has always been good at getting its conference messages to people outside the halls as well as to those attending, and one of the legacies of the last two years of virtual events is that the flow of information to those not present has been both comprehensive and interesting.
That was a great deal of talk about AI, as CEO Mike Gamson made clear in his opening keynote. The press release is packed with announcements on a range of subjects, including the ethical use of AI, the optimisation of workflows, and the enhancement of users’ ability not just to deal with the data, security, and privacy implications which they face today, but to adapt to changes as they take place.
We have heard more from Relativity each year about AI, both on the technical enhancements built into Relativity and on the ethical implications of using tools which, without human and technical restraints, have the potential to proliferate bad things (such as bias) as well as the good. Mike Gamson said:
Optimizing the potential of AI will require deeply invested, highly skilled subject matter experts who recognize its benefits, clear the way for its adoption, and put guardrails in place to ensure that it’s used safely and ethically.
Many of the announcements were about getting the work done faster and more efficiently. A good example is language translation which, historically, has been a stumbling block for document review, both in terms of the time it takes and of the expense. Relativity is integrating Microsoft Translator Text API, giving users the ability to translate documents in bulk in more than 100 languages. The days are gone when everything went on hold while documents were sent out for translation.
There has been a big focus too on automation designed to speed up user processes. Relativity gives as a statistic that the use of its automated workflows has saved 164 hours and 5,780 clicks in the last six months for each RelativityOne user. The press release lists technical enhancements, such as parallel execution which allows multiple actions to take place at the same time. As always with Relativity, there is growing potential for users to develop their own actions and triggers and so to customise the workflows to suit their immediate needs.
Users need to be reassured that all this delegation to technology does not miss significant details which might have been picked up – eventually – by human eye. One of the tools to help with this is sentiment analysis, allowing the identification of positive and negative sentiment in documents and data. Language, both spoken and written, is infinitely subtle, and the whole (apparent) sense of a sentence or paragraph may be altered by the use of a word or phrase which, to the human ear, indicates the true meaning of the rest. My favourite example is the word “quite” which can mean different things depending on the tone with which it is used and whether the speaker or writer is American or English – “That was quite good” can range in meaning from “That was all right, I suppose” to “That was quite wonderful”. Sentiment analysis, of course, does not have the benefit of the tone of voice to help decide whether this is a positive or a negative assertion, but every little helps when you have a million documents to review, and most examples are less dependent on tone to convey the intent of the speaker or writer.
The enhancements to Relativity’s security and privacy functions, as described in the press release, make a serious point about the evolution of software to keep up with new threats and changes in regulations. It is obvious that security threats evolve all the time – that is why we are given constant updates to operating systems and other software. It may be less obvious that regulations change constantly, until you consider that an international organisation may be subject to multiple regulators in several different jurisdictions, each of whom is constantly adding to and refining the rules. Organisations need to be able to keep up with those changes which affect them.
The importance of data privacy to Relativity and its users is shown by the fact that there are three sessions devoted to the subject, between them covering differences in regulations around the world, the role of people in tackling the problems, and how to face EMEA’s complex data privacy requirements.
The content at Relativity Fest London is, in a sense, a reflection in miniature of many of the most serious issues facing organisations of all sizes. It is no longer right to think of these as either purely legal or purely technology problems – they are both, and, increasingly, the human element increases in importance. However useful the virtual events have been, there is value in getting people with common interests together in one space and inviting them to listen to experts and discuss their own positions.