I was at the International Federation of Computer law Association’s conference recently. An interesting, albeit obvious observation made by Professor Richard Susskind, talking about the pace and direction of technological change, was this; that in Silicon Valley, no-one sits back and says “job done – we can stop now”.
If we think about how Silicon Valley businesses have changed the world and moved into the space of other businesses – hotels with Airbnb, taxis with Uber – which of us can say that our businesses are sacrosanct, and that we do something so special that it can’t be disrupted by technological innovation. How well, then, are we ourselves equipped to innovate and change. Do we think our businesses are well set – job done?
In our own sector, we dispense advice, and we carry out transactions. One of the points about big data and artificial intelligence is not necessarily that machines and technology will be able to do what humans do, better than humans; but that they can do things differently because of the volume of aggregated data and of outcomes. Lawyers may have a feel for how certain types of cases are resolved in court, and advise on those; but an individual lawyer cannot know and cannot analyse every case to know what has actually been decided, regardless of what knowledge of the law might tell them.
What, then, can we do? We are in the age of Industry 4.0 – at every stage in all our lives people have been saying that the pace of change is getting faster. It has been true and it’s becoming more true, because the fast changes of the future are built on those done and planned; and because no-one is saying “job done” where these changes are sparked,
As individuals and as businesses, we can keep up, or we can decide it’s too hard. The latter, though, really isn’t an option for businesses who have a future (except in some very niche areas). Keeping up is very hard, and we will not have the resources to keep up which Silicon Valley can bring to bear. Not to do so, or strive to do so, appears to be a very dangerous option.
Written by Paul Berwin, Senior Partner and Commercial Lawyer at Berwins Solicitors