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Q&A: Brian Schrader on Artificial Intelligence in eDiscovery

Blog Posted in: eDiscovery | Technology |
May 3, 2018

by Mark MacDonald

Artificial intelligence (AI) is a term that is thrown around a lot lately. People are wondering what it means, how it will be used and how it will impact our jobs. Some eDiscovery tools – primarily those in the analytics space and assisting with technology assisted review – are employing AI, or at least an early version of it.

In light of this, along with rapid development on the machine learning front in recent years, we sat down with our President and CEO Brian Schrader for a conversation on the future of artificial intelligence. Check it out below!

Mark: Brian, how do you envision the future of artificial intelligence – for eDiscovery, especially?

Brian: As eDiscovery professionals, our BIA team keeps a close watch on the rapidly developing AI area, routinely utilizing advanced software platforms that incorporate machine learning across multiple areas of our practice. But, if we’re honest, many technologies in eDiscovery today that use the term “AI” aren’t really using artificial intelligence at all. Rather, they are statistical or analytical platforms that group, organize and present files and data in a way that helps you see similarities, trends and outliers.

That’s important to note because most of these platforms – while smart – rely heavily on constant human interaction and training, such as the technology assisted review platforms in the litigation industry. That’s not to say that the platforms aren’t useful – they very much are – it’s just that they’re not artificially “intelligent” in the true sense of the word.

That said, I know that our team is excited to see continued developments on this front, and we look forward to the time when true AI technology becomes an integral part of every project. Our hope is that people – especially those of us involved with data management, eDiscovery or forensic work – will be able to use a variety of cost-competitive, true AI solutions that don't just automate and simplify processes, but actually manage, learn from and improve upon those processes.

And we look forward to a time where AI actually mimics how our experts work today – learning new facts, methods and processes, and then using that knowledge on every subsequent project. To have an AI-based solution that can build upon its own experience the way our experts do – that truly will change the way we all work.

Mark: So, we have a little more waiting to do for true AI solutions. What’s holding them back?

Brian: The main thing holding AI back – that holds any new technology back – is the willingness to embrace it. And unfortunately, the legal industry tends to be more conservative when it comes to technology advancements than most, making adoption of AI in the legal sphere all the more daunting.

Whether the technology is actually AI or a version of machine learning that requires human interaction, there is a nervousness about using it. Do we trust a computer to do something that we've always entrusted to highly experienced, educated and trained professionals? But, as with any significant technological change, experience and time will help overcome fear and anxiety.

Just like with other forms of automation and advancement, people will come to accept the fact that, when used correctly, AI and machine-learning technologies can perform tasks quicker and at least as well as – if not better than – humans.

The other thing holding AI back is cost. It's new technology that is not always fully proven and accepted, and it can be expensive. But in the end, once AI technology becomes more commonplace, it will likely save time and money, and it will allow us to do our jobs better.

Mark: What do you say to people worried about AI stealing their jobs?

Brian: I don't think AI will suddenly replace all the jobs in our field, or in most other fields, but it will force us all to learn new things and adapt.

Don’t get me wrong, AI will replace some jobs just like assembly lines, machines, computers and robots replaced humans in everything from factories to accounting firms since the dawn of the industrial age. But with each new technology comes a world of new possibilities and opportunities.

I prefer to think about how AI will improve our daily work life by taking on the more mundane, tedious tasks, freeing up time to spend on other, more interesting, engaging and important tasks. And especially for those that stay on top of the changes and new technology, their jobs will become more essential – and even higher paying – not less.

Mark: It still seems like many – in our industry and in others – fear AI. Should they?

Brian: It’s not surprising that some fear the growth of artificial intelligence. Fear of the unknown and fear of change generally are quite common, and artificial intelligence is both.

What’s more, it’s been hyped as something that could not just take your job, but morph uncontrollably into something that takes over the world. And with warnings coming from the likes of Stephen Hawking and Elon Musk, not to mention an unending string of movies, TV shows, video games and more capitalizing on that, who can blame people from fearing the possibilities that the collective minds of the world dream up? It’s all entirely understandable and expected.

People used to fear things like the automobile, the telephone or the computer. The word “sabotage” has its roots in the act of workers throwing their clogs (or sabos) into the new-fangled automated machines in an effort to stop the progress they feared would steal their jobs. That was more than 100 years ago, and plenty of people today still work in manufacturing – assisted by those machines that now enable them to more efficiently and effectively make better products with less risk to workers. If we’ve learned anything from history, it’s that progress cannot be stopped so easily – nor should it.

I’m confident that we’ll deal with this new fear in much the same way we have in the past: eventually embracing that new world, creating new things that we never imagined and hopefully improving lives along the way.