Post Process

Everything to do with E-discovery & ESI

What happens when the Review Application is Smarter than we are?

Posted by rjbiii on July 27, 2009

According to an article in the Science section of the NY Times, scientists have become concerned that machines may one day outsmart us.

Impressed and alarmed by advances in artificial intelligence, a group of computer scientists is debating whether there should be limits on research that might lead to loss of human control over computer-based systems that carry a growing share of society’s workload, from waging war to chatting with customers on the phone.

Their concern is that further advances could create profound social disruptions and even have dangerous consequences.

I think that there is no doubt that a profound change is occurring here, and that we need to (at least attempt to) proactively manage the change. In our industry, we have seen some displacement of attorneys reviewing documents due to outsourcing. What happens when the review application not only stores the review data, but also actually conducts the review for relevance as well? Yet trying to install limits on the growth of technology is a difficult, and perhaps ill-advised, effort.

The article continues by mentioning scenarios which have machines taking over…or at least foresee the ending of the “human era.” Interestingly, the final passages look at an interesting occurrence in these times:
Despite his concerns, Dr. Horvitz said he was hopeful that artificial intelligence research would benefit humans, and perhaps even compensate for human failings. He recently demonstrated a voice-based system that he designed to ask patients about their symptoms and to respond with empathy. When a mother said her child was having diarrhea, the face on the screen said, “Oh no, sorry to hear that.”

A physician told him afterward that it was wonderful that the system responded to human emotion. “That’s a great idea,” Dr. Horvitz said he was told. “I have no time for that.”

So here, we program a machine to simulate human emotion, alleviating the need for a real human to be supportive. Of all the ways the future can go, I would say that humans attempting to emulate machine-like behavior for the sake of efficiency is the worst choice. We cannot be better machines than machines…we can only maintain a true course in all of this chaos by embracing our own humanity. The doctor above who “had no time” to be supportive needs (ahem) to be re-programmed.

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