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Legal Minds

14 December 2015 / by / in

R2D2

A recent book “The Future of the Professions: How Technology Will Transform the Work of Human Experts” by Susskind and son, has floated the idea that one day the tasks undertaken by lawyers may be taken over by Artificial Intelligence (AI) robots.

R2D2 was a thermocapsulary dehousing assister and astromech droid, but he was also so much more. He had a vast number of tools which could do everything from override computer systems, weld metal, fix a loose screw and he could even fly. In a dispute R2D2 was a key asset, with a small taser that could shock enemies as a matter of defence, and a built in hologram projector to deflect and conceal. All in all, R2D2’s versatility assisted his colleagues out of some pretty dire situations. In many ways he could well have been one of the robots able to replace lawyers.

We say was, because R2D2 has been replaced by a newer model in the latest Star Wars episode, BB8.

BB8 is also an astromech droid. However it seems that the newer model has been streamlined, and in practice BB8 is little more than a navigation or personal companion droid, stylish as his design may be. He has no mechanical repair capabilities, he can’t repair a damaged X-wing due to lack of tools and from a defensive standpoint, all he can apparently do is roll away. If BB8 is the upgrade, it seems unlikely that advocates are to be dispensed with in the near future.

It would be fairly straightforward to programme BB8 with software which would enable him to review documents for the purpose of disclosure, most likely in a fraction of the time and at a fraction of the cost compared with the average solicitor. However, one may be hit with an issue when it comes to providing advocacy if his defence is to roll away and hide. Furthermore, no self-respecting BB8 would compromise his designer aesthetic by donning a Victorian wig and robe…although C3PO could probably give him some pointers in parroting “yes, M’lud and “No, M’Lud” at regular intervals.

Mssrs Susskind must remember that, as in the case of R2D2 and BB8, new technology is not always the answer.

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