E-DISCOVERY IS OVER: The big problems of e-discovery have now all been solved. Crises Averted. The Law now has bigger fish to fry.


We did it. We survived the technology tsunami. The time of great danger to Law and Justice from  e-Discovery challenges is now over. Whew! A toast of congratulations to one and all.

From here on it is just a matter of tweaking the principles and procedures that we have already created, plus never-ending education, a good thing, and politics, not good, but inevitable. The team approach of lawyers and engineers (vendors) working together has been proven effective, so have the new Rules and case law, and so too have the latest methods of legal search and document review.

I realize that many will be tempted to compare my view to that of a famous physicist in 1894 who declared:

There is nothing new to be discovered in physics now. All that remains is more and more precise measurement.

Lord Kelvin (1824-1907)

Then along came Einstein. Many attribute this humorously mistaken assertion to Lord Kelvin aka William Thomson, 1st Baron Kelvin. According to Quora, scholarship shows that it was probably said by the American physicist, Albert Michelson, behind the famous Michelson–Morley experiment on the speed of light.

Still, even mindful of the dangers of boasting, I still think that most of the really tough problems in electronic discovery have now been solved.

The time of great unknowns in e-discovery are past. The rules, principles, case law, procedures, software, methods, quality controls vendor services are now well-developed. All that remains is more and more precise measurement.

The Wild West days are way gone. Certainly new problems will arise and experiments will continue, but they will not be on the same level or intensity as before. They will be minor problems. They will likely be very similar to issues we have already addressed, just with exponential magnification or new twist and turns typical of the common law.

This is a tremendous accomplishment. The crises we all saw coming around the corner at the turn of the century has been averted. Remember how the entire legal profession was abuzz in emergency mode in 2005 because of the greats dangers and burdens of e-discovery?  Yes, thanks to the hard work and creativity of many people, the big problems have now been solved, especially the biggest problem of them all, finding the needles of relevance in cosmic-sized haystacks of irrelevant noise. TARcourse.com. We now know what is required to do e-discovery correctly. EDBP.com. We have the software and attorney methods needed to find the relevant evidence we need, no matter what the volume of information we are dealing with.

We have invented, implemented and perfected procedures than can be enhanced and altered as needed to accommodate the ever growing complexity and exponential growth. We expect that. There is no data too big to handle. If fact, the more data we have, the better our active machine learning systems get, like, for instance, predictive coding. What an incredible difference from the world we faced in e-discovery just five years ago.

This success was a team effort by thousands of people around the world, including a small core group who devoted their professional lives to solving these problems. My readers have been a part of this and you can pat yourself on the back too. The paradigm shift has been made. Maybe it was the Sedona vortexes?

Now that the tough parts of e-discovery are over, the rest of the ride is downhill. Some of my readers have already moved on. I will not retire, not just yet. I will keep up the work of e-discovery, even as I watch it transition to just teaching and politics. These activities have there own unique challenges too, even if they are not really all that impact-full in the big scheme of things. Plus, I find politics disgusting. You will see tons of dirty pool in our field soon. I cannot talk about it now. We have some renegades with authority who never solved an e-discovery problem in their life. Posers with power.

But what is that new turbulence I hear in the distance? It is a bizarre new sound with vibrations never experienced before. It lies far outside of well trodden paths and sounds both discordant and harmonious, sirens-like at the same time. It lies on the outer, cutting edges of law, science and technology. It sounds like a new, more profound Technology and Law challenge has emerged. It is the splashing of bigger fish to fry. I am hearing the eerie smarts sounds of AI. A music of both exuberance and fear, utopia or extinction.

The Biggest Challenge Today is the Ethics of Artificial Intelligence.

Following my own advice of the Hacker Way approach I have given this considerable thought lately. I have found an area that has far more serious challenges and dangers than e-discovery – the challenges of AI Ethics.

I think that my past hacks, my past experiences with law and technology, have prepared me to step-up to this last, really big hack, the creation of a code of ethics for AI. A code that will save humanity from a litany of possible ills arising out of AI’s inevitable leap to super-intelligence.  I have come to see that my work in the new area of AI Ethics could have a far greater impact than my current work with active machine learning and the discovery of evidence in legal proceedings. AI Ethics is the biggest problem that I see right now where I have some hand-on skills to contribute. AI Ethics is concerned with artificial intelligence, both special and general, and the need for ethical guidelines, including best practices, principles, laws and regulations.

This new direction has led to my latest hack, AI-Ethics.com. Here you will find 3,866 words, many of them quotes; 19 graphics, including a photo of Richard Braman; and 9 videos with several hours worth of content. You will find quotes and videos on AI Ethics from the top minds in the world, including:

  • Steven Hawking
  • Elon Musk
  • Bill Gates
  • Ray Kurzweil
  • Mark Zuckerberg
  • Sam Harris
  • Nick Bostrom
  • Oren Etzioni
  • 2017 Asilomar conference
  • Sam Altman
  • Susumu Hirano
  • Wendell Wallach

Please come visit at AI-Ethics.com. The next big thing. Lawyers are needed, as the web explains. I look forward to any recommendations you may have.

I have done the basic research for AI Ethics, at least the beginning big-picture research of the subject. The AI-Ethics.com website shares the information that had biggest impact for me personally. The web I hacked together also provides numerous links to resources where you can continue and customize your study.

I have been continuously improving the content since this started just over a week ago. This will continue as my study continues.

As you will see, a proposal has already emerged to have an International Conference in Florida on AI Ethics as early as 2018. We would assemble some of the top experts and concerned citizens from all walks of life. I hope especially to get Elon Musk to attend and will time the event to correspond with one of SpaceX’es many launches here. My vision for the conference is to facilitate dialogue with high-tech variations appropriate for the AI environment.

The Singularity of superintelligent AIs may come soon. We may live long enough to see it. When it does, we want a positive future to emerge, not a dystopia. Taking action now on AI ethics can help a positive future come to pass.

Here is one of many great videos on the subject of AI in general. This technology is really interesting. Kevin Kelly, the co-founder of Wired, does a good job of laying out some of its characteristics. Kelly takes an old-school approach and does not speak about superintelligence in an exponential sense.


6 Responses to E-DISCOVERY IS OVER: The big problems of e-discovery have now all been solved. Crises Averted. The Law now has bigger fish to fry.

  1. Bill Speros, Atty Consulting in Evidence Management says:

    Ralph, you write that “[t]he time of great unknowns in e-discovery are past. The rules, principles, case law, procedures, software, methods, quality controls vendor services are now well-developed.”

    Yes, as you discuss there have been compelling improvement in ediscovery-related technologies—though in my experience (helping producing parties) not as compelling as infomercials claim. And, yes, many businesses and their attorneys have improved ediscovery-related techniques.

    What is at least as important than those improvements to technology and techniques, however, is the concurrent softening of (“rules” and “case law”) standards.

    Reminds of me of the old joke (back when Microsoft owned compelling market power):

    Question: How many Microsoft engineers does it take to change a light bulb?
    Answer: One Engineer. That engineer changes the standard to dark.

    Even as some ediscovery-related technologies and techniques improved, the legal standards grew less demanding and more forgiving (see esp., FRCP 37(e)). Consequently, ediscovery project requirements diminished: whereas prior rules and case law emphasized illuminating facts, now they’ve changed the standard to dark.

    Or, at least, to dusk.

    • Ralph Losey says:

      Politics will not only continue, it will intensify. You keep fighting the good fight. We all know it only takes one engineer to change the light bulb. We know how to do it. If the politicians insist on a team of five, well that’s their problem. It is too late for them to go dark. The common law is pretty flexible as you know.

  2. netzer9 says:

    Reblogged this on Legal Career Center.

  3. Ralph, it appears to me, the innovation in practice of law has been minimal to date. E-discovery has only automated, with technology, the existing practice of law and innovation has yet to, in an earth shattering sense, alter the practice of law and the client facing marketplace for legal services.

    The exponential growth in the volume of ESI has driven the need for technological innovation whereas the real costs of providing legal services has continued to expand. There is enormous opportunity vis a vis improvements in legal process that can be driven by innovative use of technology hence reversing the cost of the delivery of legal services. That’s when the real assault on the legal industry by technology will begin.

    You mention AI ethics as a challenge to the innovators lining up on the battlefield ready to re-engineer the practice of law. AI will, when ready, be the legal industries initial “goto” when clients are considering legal options. This will change everything, providing the innovators with a massive crack in the legal fortress to re-engineer legal processes and drive the way disputes are resolved, legal information is used, risks are assessed, and new options for developing a legal strategy and resolve business or personal conflicts are decided.

    It took a century for manufacturing to be re-engineered by innovation. It continues today with AI infused robotics. The legal industry will succumb to re-engineering innovation in half the time, maybe another three decades. By 2050, a law degree will require an undergraduate degree in engineering, operations research, or computer science, the top lawyers will work closely with AI’s to be competitive and manage legal risks and outcomes.

    IMHO, we haven’t seen anything yet!

    • Ralph Losey says:

      I dont disagree re practice of law in general. But discovery has led the way. We are now augmented with active machine learning. We followed the evidence. We followed the technology, with patience waiting on technology I might add. The technologists sometimes led, and more lately have followed the cutting edge lawyers. We have not automated. We have transformed. The rest of the legal profession is way behind. Help them. I see your web cites to the right processes, so you are well on your way.

      AI-ethics is not really a legal issue. Not in my view. It is not part of re-engineering the law, something I know a lot about after 40 yrs. AI-Ethics is a very multidisciplinary endeavor and law and lawyers only play a small part, but I hope, it will be a productive and important part. I know the rest of the field is not especially happy to have us involved at all.

      Your conclusion, a good one, says “the top lawyers will work closely with AI’s to be competitive and manage legal risks and outcomes.” That is exactly what I do already, and I’m hardly alone. I suspect you already do too. But that chnged practice is limited to ESI discovery. That was the big problem. We fixed it and changed ourselves forever in the process. I cannot really go back to the old law. My head is in the future. But there is still work to do in the rest of the profession, and of course even moping up work in discovery. Good luck dealing with lawyers, but you seem to have already found your way with that.

      As Gibson said, the “Future is already here …” you know the rest I’m sure. It is a way of life, but it can be alienating.

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