Friday, November 27, 2015

Watson Law

An article about a talk by Ms. Kyla Moran, IBM senior consultant with the Watson Industry Leadership group at a Legal Futures Annual Conference in London, England has me thinking…


IBM Watson applies what is known as “cognitive computing” (see footnote at end) in its system. Many of us remember how “Watson” defeated the USA television Jeopardy game show champions in 2011.  Needless to say since that time they have been working on additional problems such as the law.

This brings us to Ms. Moran’s talk. In her talk according to the article she states:
“One possible use lawyers could put the technology to was to do a ‘psychographic’ profile (the study of values, opinions, attitudes, and so forth) of a judge to see how they might react to different types of argument in court, and even what time of day would be ideal to present them.”
“She explained that the way Watson works is not to attempt to give ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ answers to questions put to it, but to rank answers on a scale of confidence, providing suggestions based on probability. Content answers are recommendations supplied in “infinite shades of grey”, she said. 
Watson was not artificial intelligence, but “augmented intelligence” which needed “a human brain to interact with the system in order to make it work… both in programming it and using it”. It would help lawyers to ensure they did not miss information crucial to their work, such as legislative changes.”
I find this very interesting as there are many questions, both legal and factual that may benefit from the ability to list alternative answers in degrees in a scale of confidence.  It might also be interesting for courts to run their own 'psychographic profiles" to possibly better understand themselves before others do it for them?
But many would argue that it is extremely difficult for courts to electronically work with information presented since it is often in paper handwritten form.  I would retort that as time goes on that more original data will be sourced from data systems, e-mail, and social media.  For example, contracts for residence rental will have most of the key data stored in the property management database.

Also handwriting optical character recognition (OCR) is improving as my local automatic teller machine (ATM) does an excellent job of reading my wife’s handwritten checks.  Since many court and legal forms have a definite structure as to what the answers should be in each field, OCR reading can benefit from a smart interface that can help to guess what the answer is.  Maybe that smart interface is Watson?

As I noted above, a lot to think about.

*Definition from -
“Cognitive computing is the simulation of human thought processes in a computerized model. Cognitive computing involves self-learning systems that use data mining, pattern recognition and natural language processing to mimic the way the human brain works.”

1 comment:

  1. The concept of “infinite shades of grey” was discussed maybe 10 years ago under the catch phrase of fuzzy logic. Judges and other court personnel are human beings that react to a very long list of external factors that could influence their opinions. This would indeed capture some of the factors but there are many more.