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Worry more about AI going wrong, says Slaughter and May

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Magic circle giant highlights pitfalls of new technology

Slaughter and May has released a report that reveals the critical risks associated with the misuse of artificial intelligence (AI), stating that there’s “plenty to lose”. In its foreword, the report stresses these concerns “need to be taken very seriously” — perhaps AI adoption by law firms will be far slower than many currently anticipate.

Leading the discussion on AI risks, the report states:

Unfortunately, while much airtime has been given to the potential benefits of AI technologies, there has yet to be significant attention devoted to the risks and potential vulnerabilities of AI.

Among the red flags raised by the magic circle firm and perhaps the biggest threat posed by adopting new AI technology is if the software doesn’t work.

Computers, like humans, are bound to be stubborn and fail at some point. In the report’s words: “There can be any number of cases of failure, ranging from a typo in source code to a fundamental flaw in the overall design of a system.” These failures can expose businesses to reputational damage as well as hefty fines and financial losses.

If these AI systems do work safely and securely, they can have dramatic social effects (or “social disruption”, in Slaughters’ list of AI risks). There’s a lot of talk among employees, including wannabe lawyers, about robots one day displacing the human workforce. Self-driving cars are an early example — some fear we’ll be taking a permanent backseat soon. Slaughters adds:

We expect the ability of computers to continue to grow. Fundamentally, the human brain is a computer on a biological substrate, and so ultimately we should not expect there to be any tasks performed by humans that remain outside the capability of computers.

It may be that anything we can do, computers can do better. Law firms too are employing robots, to speed things up and keep costs low. It’s possible to get legal robo-advice, and instruct machines to run due diligence on reams of contracts in a fraction of the time that it would take a paralegal to do the same job.

Given its huge potential impact, what happens if an AI system falls into the wrong hands? Slaughters has flagged up the vulnerability of AI to “malicious use” as another potential risk.

Microsoft chatbot ‘Tay’ recently caused the software giant a lot of embarrassment when it started to post offensive tweets through its Twitter account. Tay had the ability to learn from tweets it received in order to decide what it would post. Within hours of Tay’s launch, it started to post racist comments, echoing the malicious tweets sent to it by various tweeters. Within 16 hours Tay was no more.

Slaughters’ message is that AI tech comes with a number of risky strings attached. That’s not to say that the firm isn’t a keen advocate of AI and it has clarified this: “we believe it has truly transformative potential in both the public and private sector.”

The root of these AI worries could stem from Slaughters’ experimentation with Luminance, a University of Cambridge-backed AI system that’s “trained to think like a lawyer”. Last year the magic circle outfit signed a deal with the software’s creators, but while it seems the firm has embraced the futuristic AI systems, its recent cautions could be the fruit of running trials on them.

With more money being pumped into AI research in the next decade than there has been in its entire history, excitement surrounding the idea of robotics is growing. But as new AI possibilities multiply, so too do the risks.

Read the report in full below:

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26 Comments

Anonymous

biological substrate. heh.

(2)(0)

Jones Day Partner

My trainee is familiar with this topic.

(0)(0)

Dignity

Is it really necessary to show a robot in such a distressed state like that? Would you show a picture of an elderly person in a heap at the bottom of the stairs?

I do feel like people haven’t quite got to the level where they embrace the love and warmth of a robot as they would do a human. Until we reach that point, we should be worried.

(5)(2)

Monaco

Distressed? Think about war. People shivering in fear for their own life in trenches. Very real, grisly situations that nobody should be put through. But you think its okay to cry about a robot? This is no starving child in a field, stop being such a flower.

(2)(2)

Alan

War… what is it good for?

(0)(0)

Edwin Starr

Absolutely NOTHING.

(1)(0)

Liberturd Leftie

Say it again…

(0)(0)

Anonymous

Poetry ?

(1)(0)

Consideration for the Nation

This is nothing to do with that?

Just think about Terminator. You need to keep machines on side. Legal Cheek posting that image isn’t helping.

(3)(0)

Alan

I don’t see why you need to make this so political.

Ultimately if it was up to her then all of the working class would be replaced by robots, so that is pretty much that. Done and dusted. Door locked.

(0)(0)

Fingers McGavin

No reason you can’t love a robot like you would a man/woman.

(0)(0)

Anonymous

Worry more about low NQ compensation, say Slaughters junior lawyers.

(5)(0)

Nazir

Butter my baps you LEGEND

(1)(0)

Alaina

Nah, you butter MY baps. Get it right son.

(0)(0)

Larry

I would love a self driving car. My wife is torture in the car, she is always telling me what to do and pointing out stupid things. “Look, look! A deer!” – if I cared about deer darling, we would go to a deer park. She is so stupid, the only time I enjoy driving is when she is asleep (but then I have to put up with the snoring), or, when she just isn’t in the car. She is always gnawing on starburst as well.

(4)(0)

Ingrid

I feel like you are a man who has changed a lot recently Larry, and for the worse. Your wife is a lovely lady and I am saddened how you speak about her like this on a public website. She deserves better.

(0)(0)

Larry's Wife

Thanks Ingrid, you’re so right. I’m divorcing Larry. As it happens a chap has told me he likes the sound of me chewing on his starburst. He is a partner, too, so very successful.

Anyway, I’m off to meet him now. Does anyone know where a firm called Jones Day are located?

(0)(0)

Larry

Good luck finding somebody to drive you. Did you tell the Jones Day Partner that you are in a wheelchair? You’re lucky I put up with you, nobody will want you – especially when they get to know you. You dirty, nasty, disgusting piece of work.

But for the time being we are still living together and stuff, so would you mind picking up some dinner from Co-op on the way home, and could you also pick up some loo roll too? Get the Andrex, not the cheap own-brand stuff.

(0)(0)

Larry's Wife

I was faking being in that wheelchair so you would have to carry me up stairs, dress me and clean my backside after I made stool every day. You told me you liked that kind of thing, and I did it for your gratification, you pervert.

I’m glad I’ve found a new man who tells me his bedroom habits are very normal and mundane.

(0)(0)

Larry

Quit your smear campaign. The only stool incident in bed was the beads incident and that was completely your doing.

(0)(2)

Larry's Wife

Smearing it was your thing Laurence, not mine.

(0)(0)

Larry

I cancelled your credit card 🙂

Larry's Wife

I sent your mother a picture of you in your special leather outfit.

Larry

I did a number two in your Grandma’s urn

Larry

How dare you tell my wife about this, you meddling old fool. Good luck finding somebody to come round and water your flowers down. I hope this hot weather continues and all the rhododendrons perish.

(0)(0)

Liberturd Leftie

EPIC!!

(0)(0)

Comments are closed.