AI Approaches the Professionals
by Yvonne von Jena | November 23, 2017
Recently Maclean’s published an article on the expected impact of AI entitled, Is Canada ready for the radical change artificial intelligence (AI) will unleash? It’s an interesting question, and the answer is one with “Orwellian scenarios” with AI much “closer than most people realize”.
In a study published this spring, Yale and Oxford political scientists surveyed hundreds of AI researchers on their estimates of how long it would take before machines could outperform humans doing tasks ranging from writing student term papers to handling retail sales and even performing surgery. The answers, though guesstimates, are sobering:
The authors even asked the respondents to guess how long it would take before AI technology outperformed AI scientists (about 80 years).
According to Maclean’s, Canadian policy makers and tech investors say the stakes are considerable. More and more corporate leaders and government officials have come to view AI as a wealth-creating sector to which they want to hitch their economic development wagons:
Tech investor Mike Serbinis, CEO of League, which is an online health benefits firm, and a Vector board member, adds that AI algorithms are already improving fraud detection and credit risk evaluation for insurance companies and financial institutions. “That’s the meat and potatoes, the low-hanging fruit,” he says. The machine-learning revolution is now starting to surface in fields like the law.
First, consider how machine learning is being applied in the legal profession. Maclean’s provides the example of Blue Jay Legal, which is a start-up established last year by University of Toronto law and computer science professors that offers a service based on an AI system trained to read and interpret legal decisions in tax law. When a client is looking to challenge a Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) decision about a complicated tax treatment, the firm’s software will provide a report on the likelihood that an appeal to federal tax courts will succeed or fail.
In a related Maclean’s article Big law is having its Uber moment, it points to a study earlier this year by accounting giant Deloitte predicted that, in the U.K. alone, more than 100,000 lower-rung legal jobs could be replaced by automated systems over the next two decades.
Yet others point to opportunities and benefits for lawyers and consumers. Benjamin Alarie, a law professor at the University of Toronto, does not foresee a wave of lawyer layoffs coming down the pipe, although he concedes law firms will have no choice but to adapt. The changes (and benefits) he predicts are as follows:
In addition, players like Facebook and Elon Musk are working on having computers enter and/ or pull information straight from our brains, as noted in our blog entitled The Neural Network. For now, this is all very ‘sci fi’. As per Yoshua Bengio, a University of Montreal computer scientist that co-founded Element AI, the way computers and humans interact “will change significantly in the coming years. But it’s not a solved problem.” Yet.