Gonna Be a Bright, Bright, Sunshiny Day

We met Sebastian Thrun last time. He’s a bright guy with a sunshiny disposition who’s not worried about robots and artificial intelligence taking over all the good jobs, even his own. Instead, he’s perfectly okay if technology eliminates most of what he does every day because he believes human ingenuity will fill the vacuum with something better. This is from his conversation with TED curator Chris Anderson:

“If I look at my own job as a CEO, I would say 90 percent of my work is repetitive, I don’t enjoy it, I spend about four hours per day on stupid, repetitive email. And I’m burning to have something that helps me get rid of this. Why? Because I believe all of us are insanely creative… What this will empower is to turn this creativity into action.

“We’ve unleashed this amazing creativity by de-slaving us from farming and later, of course, from factory work and have invented so many things. It’s going to be even better, in my opinion. And there’s going to be great side effects. One of the side effects will be that things like food and medical supply and education and shelter and transportation will all become much more affordable to all of us, not just the rich people.”

Anderson sums it up this way:

“So the jobs that are getting lost, in a way, even though it’s going to be painful, humans are capable of more than those jobs. This is the dream. The dream is that humans can rise to just a new level of empowerment and discovery. That’s the dream.”

Another bright guy with a sunshiny disposition is David Lee, Vice President of Innovation and the Strategic Enterprise Fund for UPS. He, too, shares the dream that technology will turn human creativity loose on a whole new kind of working world. Here’s his TED talk (click the image):

David Lee TED talk

Like Sebastian Thrun, he’s no Pollyanna:  he understands that yes, technology threatens jobs:

“There’s a lot of valid concern these days that our technology is getting so smart that we’ve put ourselves on the path to a jobless future. And I think the example of a self-driving car is actually the easiest one to see. So these are going to be fantastic for all kinds of different reasons. But did you know that ‘driver’ is actually the most common job in 29 of the 50 US states? What’s going to happen to these jobs when we’re no longer driving our cars or cooking our food or even diagnosing our own diseases?

“Well, a recent study from Forrester Research goes so far to predict that 25 million jobs might disappear over the next 10 years. To put that in perspective, that’s three times as many jobs lost in the aftermath of the financial crisis. And it’s not just blue-collar jobs that are at risk. On Wall Street and across Silicon Valley, we are seeing tremendous gains in the quality of analysis and decision-making because of machine learning. So even the smartest, highest-paid people will be affected by this change.

“What’s clear is that no matter what your job is, at least some, if not all of your work, is going to be done by a robot or software in the next few years.”

But that’s not the end of the story. Like Thrun, he believes that the rise of the robots will clear the way for unprecedented levels of human creativity — provided we move fast:

“The good news is that we have faced down and recovered two mass extinctions of jobs before. From 1870 to 1970, the percent of American workers based on farms fell by 90 percent, and then again from 1950 to 2010, the percent of Americans working in factories fell by 75 percent. The challenge we face this time, however, is one of time. We had a hundred years to move from farms to factories, and then 60 years to fully build out a service economy.

“The rate of change today suggests that we may only have 10 or 15 years to adjust, and if we don’t react fast enough, that means by the time today’s elementary-school students are college-aged, we could be living in a world that’s robotic, largely unemployed and stuck in kind of un-great depression.

“But I don’t think it has to be this way. You see, I work in innovation, and part of my job is to shape how large companies apply new technologies. Certainly some of these technologies are even specifically designed to replace human workers. But I believe that if we start taking steps right now to change the nature of work, we can not only create environments where people love coming to work but also generate the innovation that we need to replace the millions of jobs that will be lost to technology.

“I believe that the key to preventing our jobless future is to rediscover what makes us human, and to create a new generation of human-centered jobs that allow us to unlock the hidden talents and passions that we carry with us every day.”

More from David Lee next time.

If all this bright sunshiny perspective made you think of that old tune, you might treat yourself to a listen. It’s short, you’ve got time.

And for a look at a current legal challenge to the “gig economy” across the pond, check out this Economist article from earlier this week.

The Future of Law (23):  The Future Couldn’t Wait III

I tried to end this series three weeks ago, but the future keeps arriving, and I keep wanting to tell you about it. I realize that just because it’s news to me doesn’t mean it’s news, and this week’s topic is a case in point:  it was analyzed in this law journal article three years ago.

“This article is dedicated to highlighting the coming age of Quantitative Legal Prediction with hopes that practicing lawyers, law students and law schools will take heed and prepare to survive (thrive) in this new ordering. Simply put, most lawyers, law schools and law students are going to have to do more to prepare for the data driven future of this industry. In other words, welcome to Law’s Information Revolution and yeah – there is going to be math on the exam.”

“Quantitative Legal Prediction” is noteworthy because it encompasses several developments we’ve been talking about:

The above all come together in Ravel Law, as described a couple weeks ago in The Lawyerist:

“We hear a lot of talk about “big data” and how it will drive law practice in the future. In theory, someday you will have every bit of relevant practice data at your fingertips and you will be able to use that to predict how a judge will rule on a case, have computers crunch through discovery, and realistically predict the cost of litigation. That someday is getting closer and closer, particularly with tools like Ravel.

“At its most advanced, Ravel also offers judge analytics, where you can see patterns about how judges rule and what ideas and people influence those judges. That type of analysis could be incredibly helpful in making decisions about settlement, deciding who should argue a case, whether to strike a judge, and how to approach your pretrial motion practice.”

The National Law Review said this about Ravel Law last winter:

“Data analytics and technology has been used in many different fields to predict successful results.

“Having conducted metrics-based research and advocacy while at the Bipartisan Policy Center, and observing how data-driven decision making was being used in areas like baseball and politics, [Ravel Law founder Daniel Lewis] was curious why the legal industry had fallen so far behind. Even though the legal field is often considered to be slow moving, there are currently over 11 million opinions in the U.S. judicial system with more than 350,000 new opinions issued per year. There is also a glut of secondary material that has appeared on the scene in the form of legal news sources, white papers, law blogs and more. Inspired by technology’s ability to harness and utilize vast amounts of information, Daniel founded Ravel Law to accommodate the dramatically growing world of legal information.

“Ravel’s team of PhDs and technical advisors from Google, LinkedIn, and Facebook, has coded advanced search algorithms to determine what is relevant, thereby enhancing legal research’s effectiveness and efficiency.

“Ravel provides insights, rather than simply lists of related materials, by using big data technologies such as machine learning, data visualization, advanced statistics and natural language processing.”

Not surprisingly, Ravel Law has worked closely with law students to develop and market itself:

“We work with schools because students are always the latest generation and have the highest expectations about how technology should work for them.” Students have given the Ravel team excellent feedback and have grown into a loyal user base over the past few years. Once these students graduate, they introduce Ravel to their firms.”

Ravel Law offers data visualization/mapping. For an article on why you should care, see this Above the Law article from a couple days ago.

The Future of Law (20): Some Final Meta-Thoughts

The “meta” of something is its higher abstraction, the bigger picture behind the smaller ones. In scholarship, a meta-analysis is an analysis of all the analyses of a topic. Each separate analysis collects and analyzes data. The meta-analysis analyzes all the analyses.

Now that we’ve looked at various individual current trends and projected them into a vision of the future of law, what’s the meta of them? What’s the big picture?

Our futurist approach has been mostly based on trend analysis:  seeing what already is, then guessing where it’s going, meanwhile keeping in mind that we are not passive recipients of the future, but powerful agents of its creation.

If we want to be, that is. If we make the effort.

Some of us want to be, and will. People in this group will engage with the dynamics of change deliberately, consciously, intentionally, mindfully — taking action to shape current trends into the future they want.

Some of us don’t want to be, and won’t. This group will be the change resistors, daring those responsible for disruptive innovation to prove that the trends represent change for the better as the resistors judge it to be.

The first group will feel the energy of personal and cultural transformation moving through themselves and their lives. The second group will wonder what ever happened to the world they once knew. Together, both groups will create what Thomas Kuhn called the state of incommensurability between old and new legal paradigms

Regardless of our response, the future is ours, whether we choose to advance or resist it.

All this will happen on countless individual stages, but what’s the big show that will play out on the biggest stage? What’s the meta of the future of law?

The answer lies in the nature of the law itself. The law is itself a meta-reality — one of those gigantic, archetypal organizing principles of human life. The law enfolds and expresses our humanity, creates cultural and societal and national context. Those who live and work in the law are unavoidably its guardians and tutors, stewards and caretakers. We will create the law’s future, one way or another.

When we create the law, we shape and guide our humanity.

When we do that, we create our world.

And most of all, we create ourselves.

The law:  our humanity, our world, ourselves. There’s a lot at stake here. May we craft the future with care.

The Future of Law (19): Don’t wait, create!

“The best way to predict the future is to create it.”

The quote has been ascribed to a lot of different people, including Peter Drucker and computer scientist Alan Kay. But according to the Quote Investigator,

“The earliest evidence appeared in 1963 in the book “Inventing the Future” written by Dennis Gabor who was later awarded a Nobel Prize in Physics for his work in holography:

“We are still the masters of our fate. Rational thinking, even assisted by any conceivable electronic computers, cannot predict the future. All it can do is to map out the probability space as it appears at the present and which will be different tomorrow when one of the infinity of possible states will have materialized. Technological and social inventions are broadening this probability space all the time; it is now incomparably larger than it was before the industrial revolution—for good or for evil.

“The future cannot be predicted, but futures can be invented. It was man’s ability to invent which has made human society what it is. The mental processes of inventions are still mysterious. They are rational but not logical, that is to say, not deductive.”

I.e., we can speculate — as we’ve been doing in this series — about where present trends might take us, but it’s useful to remember that “we are still the masters of our fate.” We can shape where those trends take us by engaging with them, and thus we can invent the future — the future we want, not just the one that will happen to us.

As Dr. Gabor points out, the process by which we do that is “rational but not logical.” We looked at the mindfulness trend earlier In this series. In that spirit, how about we might try a mindfulness approach to creating the future for ourselves? If you’re game, here’s a simple exercise in four steps:

  1. Pick one of the predictions I’ve made. Go ahead, we’ll wait. Is there one in particular that has a lot of energy for you, so that when you read it you say, “Oh yeah!” Or if there are several, is there a theme that runs across them? Don’t over-think – just go where you feel a tug – the stronger the better.
  1. Express it as a goal or intention — something you are committed to making happen. Complete this sentence, filling in the blank: “My response to this prediction is to create ________________.” Maybe it’s a career or practice shift, or something personal. It doesn’t matter what your goal is. What matters is your commitment to it.
  1. Beatify it. Yes, you read that right. No, we’re not making anyone a saint here, we’re using “beatify” in the sense of “extreme blissful happiness.” Yes, you read that right, too. What we’re after here is to take your goal/intention and take it to an extreme level of emotional reward/satisfaction. What would creating it give you that you don’t have now and would really like to have? How would it revolutionize you, your career?
  1. Watch where your thoughts go with this. What ideas and feelings come up?. Be prepared to write fast and take good notes — the energy of the idea that grabbed you plus your commitment to it will pop the cork on your creativity.

That’s it. Have fun with it. Use it for as many predictions as you like. And then…

Welcome to the future — the one you’re creating.

The Future of Law (Part 6): What’s Trending?

We’re looking at trends in the law, and wondering out loud where they might be going. Since we’ve been talking about the democratization of knowledge, we’ll let Wikipedia tell us about trend analysis:

“Trend Analysis is the practice of collecting information and attempting to spot a pattern, or trend, in the information. In some fields of study, the term “trend analysis” has more formally defined meanings.”

The anonymous article writers (they’re from the U.K., I’d guess, because they spell “behaviour” with a “u”) tell us that some kinds of trend spotting are all about the numbers:

“In project management trend analysis is a mathematical technique that uses historical results to predict future outcome. This is achieved by tracking variances in cost and schedule performance. In this context, it is a project management quality control tool.

“In statistics, trend analysis often refers to techniques for extracting an underlying pattern of behaviour in a time series which would otherwise be partly or nearly completely hidden by noise. A simple description of these techniques is trend estimation, which can be undertaken within a formal regression analysis.”

We learned regression analysis in the MBA program. I used it for years in my practice. It told me our revenues were somewhat seasonal. I might have figured that out some other way….

And then there’s Investopedia’s definition of trend analysis, which is a cousin to project management. Both try to predict the future by what happened in the past — driving forward by looking in the rearview mirror. Good luck with that.

Finally, Wikipedia sort of gives up and says

“Today, trend analysis often refers to the science of studying changes in social patterns, including fashion, technology and consumer behavior.”

That’s more like what we’re doing in this series, although I wouldn’t call it “science.” Art on a good day; guesswork any other.

Finally, here’s a trend analysis term I’d never heard until Wikipedia told me about it:  coolhunting. That sounds like those messages I get online:  See what’s trending on Facebook! See what’s trending on Twitter!  Usually it’s some celebrity’s off-camera or off-field drama. I always wonder if I’m supposed to care.

The point is, someone cares, about all of this. And if that someone cares enough to jump into a trend, and enough other people do the same, then we’ll all need to care, because the trend just moved from outliers to early adopters to mainstream. At that point, we’re all going along for the ride, like it or not.

Trends aren’t destinations, they’re movements of human energy. As soon as people start engaging with the trend, they affect where it’s going — shaping, redirecting, resisting, thwarting, or bulldozing it through. Trends are collective; we’re not the only ones steering the ship. If we jump onboard, there’s no assurance we’ll end up anywhere we think.

In the coming installments of this series, we’ll continue to look at changes in “social patterns, including fashion, technology and consumer behavior” (well, maybe not fashion) that are affecting the law, and make predictions about them.  Think of these not as possible outcomes, but as energies. Some will accelerate in size, speed, and impact — those we’ll need to reckon with. Others will fade away — like all that momentary coolness on Facebook and Twitter. Along the way, some of us might want to dive in and see if we can shape some of these trends the way we’d like.

Kind of like the rainstorm game I used to play as a kid, damming up water pouring along the gutter.