Predictions 2018 – 7

December 7, 2017

From Roger Bickerstaff

Looking back at my predictions from 10 years ago it is
pleasing that my predictions for 2007 on the increasing use of the open source
software in the mainstream business environment and the increasing
virtualisation of Tech solutions has occurred in practice. That may be pleasing
but it is galling that I did not pick-up at the time on the Tech everywhere/all
the time phenomenon. I’m writing these predictions on an airplane journey and
virtually everyone awake on the plane is focussed on some form of Tech device
of one sort or another. I didn’t see that coming.  

Looking forward over the next year and beyond, the
implications of the increasing combination of Tech everywhere/all the time and
artificial intelligence (in its various guises) will be profound on all of us
in ways that are equally hard to predict. Many of these developments will be
beneficial. From a personal perspective, as I get older and increasingly
forgetful this is already less important as electronic aids provide access to
more or less every fact that I need to know. But the wider impact of automation
on society and the professions (including legal services) will be significant,
widespread and (I believe) rather faster than most people expect.

In the shorter-term, as lawyers we need to grapple with the
regulatory and risk/liability implications of the inherently probabilistic
nature of AI in a legal framework which remains essentially deterministic. This
is the everyday work of Tech lawyers – we deal continuously with the legal
implications of Technology developments. In the longer term, the significance
of AI means that, as Tech lawyers who have a good understanding of the issues,
I believe we have a responsibility to consider the development of a legal
framework governing the wider economic and social implications of the widespread
use of AI. It could be a ‘brave new world’ but it could be disastrous.

This makes the concerns of the predictions of 10 years ago
seem narrow and parochial. They are. Whilst most of us continue to deal with
the narrower business/legal issues on a day-to-day basis, we also need to think
more broadly and take leadership on these issues.

These are exciting and challenging times for Tech lawyers

Roger Bickerstaff is a Partner at Bird & Bird and SCL