Rise of the machines

According to a recent article in NZ Lawyer, robots replacing lawyers is a “near certainty”. The website cited The Future [Inc] Report, conducted by Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand, stating that approximately 46% of New Zealand jobs will be taken over by machines or automated in the next 20 years. The law is apparently not immune to this development. Some predict that lawyers could be replaced by artificial intelligence sooner than we think.

Many of the tasks that used to be undertaken by in house lawyers have already been taken over by computers in large corporations. For example IBM’s Watson is a highly advanced question answering system, described by IBM as ‘cognitive’.  It has the ability to ‘learn’ and interact with natural human language to develop a relationship with users. Watson will likely pass the bar exam this year, reports NZ Lawyer.

Many believe that while the fate of clients would not rest entirely with AI, it could be likely that the more ‘transactional’ work of lawyers may be done by AI, such as due diligence in takeover deals or drafting of straightforward documents.  Arguably this is the logical extrapolation from existing IT capability, such as discovery software that enables electronic searching through thousands of documents as well as online research tools and databases.

But it’s not just the legal industry affected by the development of new technology. This March Thomson Reuters reported findings from consultancy group Capgemini about the changing environment for insurers.

According to the report, many insurers believe new technology and brands such as Google are becoming a threat to their industry.

Based on interviews with over 150 insurance executives, it is estimated that 40 percent felt threatened by “new, more nimble” companies such as Google. The report revealed that concerns around how to appeal to a new generation of digital natives. Google was seen as a trustworthy household brand. In a survey by Capgemini of over 15,000 customers, only 34 percent of those under the age of 35 reported a positive experience with their insurers. This was over 20 percent lower than their older counterparts.

Some in the industry, however, maintained that there was little risk of brands like Google providing direct competition to the established insurance industry. Nevertheless, the future for insurers seemed to lie in broadening the technology insurers use to reach their consumers. As technology advances, the customers’ own experience and demands change. Nest, a company owned by Google, developed ‘connected home products’ which allow users to remotely control appliances and technology in their homes.  For example, an oven can be switched off remotely which potentially avoid a fire, and a fire claim. Controlling these products and technology being so heavily integrated into modern life, means companies like Google become a “massive part of the insurance value chain, because of what they know about consumers”.