Robots With A Story To Tell

c3po_r2d2Robot Stories: How storytelling narratives will be part of machine learning in the not-too distant future as told from the perspective of the robots. This is the second in a series of instructional cartoons on predictive coding; what it is now, and what it could be. The first was Bad Robot! A Story of Ethics and Predictive Coding in the Not-Too-Distant Future. The cute robots have now been named by readers in Vote For Your Favorite Robot Names where the winning names were: BYTE and SWITCH. These are much funnier names than the old Star Wars storytellers, C3PO and R2D2, or the senior partners at the law firm of Robot, Robot & HwangApollo Cluster and Daria XR-1029.

For background on the storytelling approach to document review in general, not just predictive coding based review, see the prior guest blog by Bill Hamilton and Larry Chapin: Storytelling: The Shared Quest For Excellence in Document Review. This is one of several methods that can and should be used to enhance the quality and consistency of document review. I have heard that a few document review teams are already using some narrative techniques. This animation considers more advanced applications in the context of machine learning. For best effect open the video to full screen and pause to allow the streaming video to download.

Perhaps some review companies and software companies are interested in these ideas and are ready to put them into action in a machine learning context? If so, please contact me as I have several more ideas on how to do that.

7 Responses to Robots With A Story To Tell

  1. rightspeech says:

    As a professional storyteller for over 20 years, and having written a great deal on the interpretative nature of our personal narratives, the notion of using stories to both interpret a common set of facts (and arrive at very different conclusions) and using narrative structures to filter through data and information to give it a particular interpretation is quite familiar. Fundamentally, all experience is ultimately an interpretative affair. Have you ever gathered with siblings and reminisced about an event in your childhood to discover that your stories about that event are quite distinct and often contradictory. It all has to do with point of view (a core concept in the development of any story) and the issue of significance which lends weight to how we see the behavior of others. A strict father could be interpreted by one child as oppressive and stultifying whereas another sibling might see the same behaviors as a sign of his love, and providing just what he or she needed as a child. Same environment, but very different consequences for how these two siblings live their lives and the stories they tell about their past, and no doubt their present.

    While documents carry a certain weight that we often ascribe to be the “facts” of a case, they too were constructed based on the points of view of those involved, and may or may not be significant based on those perspectives. Something that may be viewed as an inconsequential matter by one party could be seen by someone on an opposing side of a case as a decisive “fact” that substantiates their claim.

    When moving into the realm of story as a means of interpreting and representing our case before a court of law, as well as a method for searching through reams of information for support of our view of things, we must understand why story as a means of communication is so intertwined with the way we as humans make meaning in our lives. There is substantive cognitive and neurological research being done that demonstrates the power of stories. It turns out our brains are wired for them as a way of processing information. Cognitive psychologists call this “narrative schema.” It turns our our brains are always scanning for stories–just as the robots rapidly scan through the mounds of data presented to them. And we’re “subconsciously” looking for information presented in this order:

    1 Introduction of setting and characters
    2 Explanation of state of affairs
    3 Initial event
    4 Emotional response/statement of goal by protagonist
    5 Complicating action
    6 Outcome
    7 Reactions to outcome

    When info does not fit this template, our minds tend wander and turn off, When the info does follow this path, we pay attention in a very different way. (Attorneys may be the exception in the human race, having trained their minds to move through mounds of data analyzing and looking for tidbits that support a thesis, but I would suggest that even you are looking for a pattern to things to help you make sense of it all, and to tell a story that supports your client’s interests.)

    Could we teach machines to search through documents for information that is organized in the above pattern, or better yet, organizes the data to fit this pattern–most probably yes. My guess is that the team who can do so, and do it simply (less is often more!) so that a judge or a jury can say, “that makes sense and feels like the more cogent interpretation for what happened,” the more success you will have.

  2. craigball says:

    Hi Ralph:

    Much of my work tends to involve IP theft cases, usually in the classic/cliched scenario of an employee alleged to have absconded with proprietary data. Particularly in the initial stages of these cases, the most important evidence tends *not* to be subsumed in “documents” per se (although e-mail and messaging may be crucial in establishing the culpability of a new employer or the involvement of confederates). Often, the most revealing evidence exists only as data or metadata, not within common productivity formats.

    Accordingly, I wonder whether the training set will be effectively established by pursuing the story line, ‘What documents do the plaintiffs have? Let’s make these our initial training set.’

  3. […] last blog, Robots With A Story To Tell, illustrated the use of narrative to improve legal search and review. This blog goes a bit further […]

  4. […] For further background on the role of narrative and legal review see the prior e-Discovery Team guest blog by Lawrence Chapin and Bill Hamilton: Storytelling: The Shared Quest For Excellence in Document Review. For my own video cartoon vision of one possible future of the role of story and artificial intelligence in legal search see: Robots With A Story To Tell. […]

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