Client Alerts
June 27, 2024

News of the Death of Workers’ Jobs at the Virtual Hands of AI is Greatly Exaggerated

Stites & Harbison Client Alert, June 27, 2024

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is being touted as having the potential to save humanity or destroy it. On the saving side, there is the possibility for drug discoveries, disease (e.g., cancer) diagnosis for early detection and cure, and energy discovery and efficiency. On the downside, think of movies from the 1960s-1990s like 2001: A Space Odyssey’s Hal 9000, WarGames' Joshua, and Terminator 2: Judgment Day’s Skynet, bringing the potential end to humanity, as fictional examples of what might happen if AI goes rogue.

Time will tell if either extreme is the eventual outcome of AI. For right now, less dramatic issues pertaining to AI are likely to be more immediately important to most of us not involved with public policy or computer software engineering.

In our personal daily lives, we interact with basic AI all the time if we use Amazon’s Alexa or iPhone’s Siri. In our professional lives, AI is being incorporated into business software, automating tasks that were originally only performed by humans. The premise of the software from the vendor’s point of view is to drive down overhead costs to its users. However, the workers who traditionally performed the duties now to be accomplished by AI are understandably concerned that their jobs will be eliminated.

It seems very reasonable to believe that some “jobs” or tasks will be eventually done by AI and not by human beings. It also seems equally unreasonable to believe that there will be wholesale elimination of complete professions due to AI. Instead, a more likely outcome of AI implementation is that many professionals will perform new or different tasks in the future with AI handling the prior human performed tasks.

If we use history as a guide, as new disruptive technologies are developed and adopted, the need for humans to perform work does not disappear, merely the tasks performed by humans change. For example, the widespread use of the printing press did not end the need for humans in the publishing industry. However, the invention of the printing press may have led to many calligraphers rushing out to learn new skills, i.e., typesetting.

In the legal profession, legal research performed by young attorneys was greatly enhanced by use of computer databases like Westlaw® and LexisNexis®. But, computer legal research did not eliminate the need for young attorneys, only the eventual decline in legal research being conducted by flipping pages of physical books. What computer legal research did permit was the addition of more time to be devoted to matters that required human thought and analysis, leading to better, more thorough legal review and the crafting of better solutions and work product.

Similarly, AI has the potential of removing mundane tasks that may lead to mental exhaustion. Implementing AI allows one to devote mental acuity to legal analysis and generation of novel and creative solutions.

What might the near future of AI implementation in legal services be? AI is well suited for analyzing and summarizing large amounts of data. AI is less suited for generating new ways of analyzing problems and unique solutions. Furthermore, AI is ill-suited to come up with creative, clever ideas, thoughts, or solutions. Therefore, the likely benefit of AI for legal professionals will be to perform mundane tasks historically done by humans, and as a result, free up one’s mind to concentrate on producing better, new, and more creative work products that only humans can do.

At Stites & Harbison, we leverage technology to provide creative and unique solutions for our clients.

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