ILTACON 2017 - The year AI got real


In this first of three blogs about our impressions of ILTACON 2017, we look at the hot topic that is AI. In the next few weeks, we'll cover security and advances in document and transaction management.

The year AI got real

Reflecting on our time at ILTACON 2017, the main buzz was definitely around Artificial Intelligence (AI). Everyone is interested in it and wants to learn about it, but most of all they want to understand how they might be able to use it. It’s like the tech and business community knows it’s going to be huge, but don’t exactly know how yet.

This has left AI straining on the leash of everyone’s imaginations.

AI is on everyone’s radar, but it means many different things to different people. General consensus, from the folk we saw and spoke to at the event, was that they thought of it as machine learning, which “…provides systems the ability to automatically learn and improve from experience without being explicitly programmed.”

Many of the most interesting conversations were around how AI could impact the way attorneys practice law. Not so much the legal firms leveraging AI themselves, but how they adapt to their clients adopting these types of new technology. How will AI impact litigation; M&A; regulation? These were the types of questions people were asking.

But, there has been a definite shift in the conversation too, because there was a sense that this is the year AI got real.

How to intelligently use AI

In Tuesday’s keynote at ILTACON, IBM’s Brian Kuhn, the co-founder of IBM Watson Legal, presented a data science angle we found very compelling. Throughout and in conversations after, there were attendees and thought leaders offering hints and tips about where best to actually implement AI and which use cases make most sense when it comes to making lawyers more effective. People were talking about AI representing “augmented intelligence” and we found that definition really resonated for us.

Some see AI as a threat to business services professionals, lawyers, for example. Some are concerned about moving too quickly and ending up with a Betamax. Some have started to seize the opportunity.

The iManage RAVN demos at ILTACON were probably the most powerful we saw. They showed some pretty amazing machine learning that felt practical as opposed to magical. They showed their first integrations of the RAVN AI platform into their classification products, as well as iManage Work 10.1, which now uses RAVN AI to deliver more powerful search functionality.

For our part, AI does indeed form one of the cornerstones of Workshare’s long-term vision for the future of document comparison. In his Solution Spotlight, our CTO, Barrie Hadfield, explained how AI (and augmented intelligence) will be able to dramatically shift the scope from simply comparing two versions of something to truly understanding these changes at a context and content level. The impact of these changes as a document moves between systems and reviewers across whatever methods they use to create, share and access different legal matters is where AI can be applied intelligently.

Audere est facere

AI remains the trend that everyone is interested in and at ILTACON it drew the biggest crowds, but how do we square this away with the fact many attorneys are still very hesitant to even move into the cloud, let alone into AI?

Workshare conducted a survey (at our extremely beautiful) booth, and the legal professionals we spoke to had real trust issues around migrating to cloud-based document production and storage. They wanted and used on-premise applications. The tech folk – CIOs and CTOs – are keener to break into using the cloud more widely.

But, it raises interesting questions about whether we will trust machines and machine learning to execute activities and tasks for us securely in the future when we don’t trust cloud-based applications now. And, if attorneys and legal firms don’t trust AI enough to execute tasks, but all their clients increasingly adopt it, could there be a machine that overtakes them?

Our Parthian shot

We’ll leave you with this short video and our predictions for the future in 2027. But now we have to go, those new robots aren’t going to program themselves you know… oh...wait a minute.