Clearly, I was spoiled for news stories to cover last week. Even this week, and more specifically today, a lot of things I’m interested in have been cropping up.
Trump‘s been in the news a bunch, but I’m not going to spend any time on the details of that. I mean, who’s got the bandwidth to constantly maintain the rage?
No, the most interesting thing I learned about Trump this week keyed into my interest in the amount of time we spent at work.
However, also, I have to say, 20 hrs a week should be the endpoint of a fully automated economy. All that spare time for craft, relationships, self-development, citizenship. Trump scratches his wizened balls. We can do better. https://t.co/5TnrGjunoH
— Pat Kane (@thoughtland) August 21, 2018
Apparently, Michael Cera plays the Young Donald Trump. You know Trump would love that, right? The character playing his acoustic guitar like a manic pixie dream boi?
From my days as an attorney, the thought of a 20-hour week seems like a crazy dream. Six years later, I’ve got to think that it still is. Surely Trump’s various activities have added – on average – around ten hours to the working week of every lawyer in America.
When I would dream about the day that the legal bar-based closed shop would collapse and my job would be shipped off to an emerging economy, I always reckoned that becoming a barber would be a good gig. Of course, I got the sack and had a stroke before I could achieve that impossible dream.
Around six years too early, it seems. This morning on the Today Programme, they were talking about how algorithms are infiltrating the law and A.I. is playing an increasing role in the legal world. Not just in checking contracts – some of the more advanced NYC firms were already punching the provisions of term sheets into templates and spitting out early drafts of complex agreements when I was practicing. No, they’re talking about algorithms predicting court outcomes, and even making judgments. The Lord Chief Justice of England apparently doesn’t believe that lawyers and judges will be replaced by algorithms. Nevertheless, Today said,
some lawyers are warning that the U.K. should put protections in place to make sure that algorithms aren’t one day allowed to make court rulings.
Interestingly, a legal clerk told the programme that A.I offers the opportunity – for example – to categorise documents for a huge public inquiry like Grenfell, and allow it to move forward more quickly. Which I thought was interesting, because Hillsborough was back in the news this week, too. Apparently in ten years time, a quarter of all legal jobs will be in danger and Book Festivals around the world will be populated by former lawyers who think they can write.
Experiments using algorithms to reach judgments haven’t gone well, it seems. The algorithms follow precedent, one contributor explained:
Precedent is inherently biased – that becomes clearer and clearer as it’s exacerbated by the algorithm.
The barrister Sarah Vine followed up on that point, emphasising that the key characteristics of human judges are that their reasoning is transparent, they are accountable, and they are susceptible to scrutiny, unlike algorithms.
Later in the day, I was listening to the PM programme, wherein a former youth magistrate claimed that people don’t care about diversity on the magistrates’ bench. I can only assume that by this, she meant people like her. Not the horrible sort of “people” who might represent diversity. This remark went unchallenged presumably because – and I’m not kidding here – the programme had to go on to cover Why Can’t Our Telly Be More Like It Was In The Seventies, and A Parade Of Opinions On Trump From Right Wing Radio Phone-Ins In The US.
I was going to say that algorithms are actually more likely to be be transparent than human, but to be fair, that is pretty transparent, isn’t it?