Neota Logic co-founder and chief strategy officer, Michael Mills is quoted in the following Legaltech News article on AI pioneer, Marvin Minsky.
Marvin Minsky Recalled as ‘Pioneer’ in Artificial Intelligence
His passing highlights the many connections between his work in AI and the field of law
Ed Silverstein, Legaltech News
MIT’s Marvin Minsky, described as a “pioneer” in the academic discipline of artificial intelligence (AI), died this week. Those who followed his work, including legal and technology scholars, recognize his key importance to these fields.
“Marvin Minsky is one of the fathers of AI,” Roland Vogl, executive director of the Stanford Program in Law, Science & Technology, told Legaltech News.
Similarly, Michael Mills, co-founder and chief strategy officer at Neota Logic, said, “Minsky was a brilliant pioneer thinker about intelligence, natural as well as artificial.” He added, “His ideas and his challenge always to ask the hardest questions have influenced software design for 60 years.”
This week, the MIT Technology Review said of Minsky, “He often took a philosophically positive view of a future in which machines might truly be capable of thought. He believed that AI might eventually offer a way to solve some of humanity’s biggest problems.”
“For those who worked with Minsky, were taught by him, or simply met him, though, his restless creativity, wit, and curiosity will not easily be forgotten,” the article added. “Nor will his passion for a problem that will likely enchant us for some time yet.”
With his passing, the many connections between his work in AI and the field of law are being highlighted. In fact, Vogl said, “The AI and law field is important for the legal community because it helps us improve our understanding [of] legal reasoning.”
“He [Minsky] described AI as the ‘the science of making machines do things that would require intelligence if done by man,’” Vogl further explained. “So all manner of intelligent behavior is in the realm of AI, including learning new concepts and reasoning by analogy, which is key to legal analysis. … AI work in the legal context is focused on understanding certain key aspects of legal reasoning and building IT systems useful for legal practice, teaching, or research.”
Back in 2005, Minsky said, “You don’t understand anything until you learn it more than one way,” recalled computer scientist Carl Hewitt, who was once one of Minsky’s students. This too provides similarity with legal reasoning.
Vogl also added that advanced neural networks, known as “deep learning systems,” are “proving very useful in a variety of settings, particularly speech and image recognition.”
“IBM’s Watson, for example, uses some deep-learning techniques and is being trained to help lawyers make better decisions. Some start-ups are working with IBM to help deploy Watson in legal settings (e.g. ROSS). Many companies are using machine-learning techniques in e-discovery (e.g., predictive coding), and contract analysis. These techniques help lawyers do research and provide more context and deeper insights,” Vogl said.
When it comes to a connection with the law, he noted, “AI in general and in the legal context typically involves the motivation to understand the workings of human intelligence and to create useful computer programs and computers that can perform intelligently.”
On a practical level, Vogl pointed out that many law firms are working with vendors using machine learning and predictive coding for e-discovery. Others, are investing in companies that try to leverage Watson in legal settings. In-house departments are using companies like Seal Software or Beagle or LitIQ to understand their risks in their contract portfolio or to improve contract drafting quality. But he also added that “we’re just at the beginning.”
There is a further practical reason why AI would help law firms and lawyers in general. “Machine learning, expert systems, and other AI techniques enable lawyers to devote more of their time to more valuable (and interesting) work,” Mills explained. “Mining documents in discovery and due diligence, answering routine questions, sifting data to predict case outcomes, drafting contracts—all are faster, better, cheaper with the assistance of intelligent software…. Artificial intelligence is hard at work in the law—for example, in legal research, e-discovery, compliance, contract analysis, case prediction, and document automation—though often there is no AI inside label on the box.”
Moreover, Vogl pointed out that for decades AI and law researchers have been striving to create programs that can:
- Reason with cases (both real and hypothetical) and analogies.
- Reason with rules.
- Combine several modes of reasoning.
- Handle ill-defined and open-textured concepts.
- Formulate arguments and explanations.
- Handle exceptions to and conflicts among items of knowledge, like rules.
- Accommodate changes in the base of legal knowledge, particularly legal concepts, and handle non-monotonicity, that is, changes in which previous truths no longer hold as more becomes known.
- Model common sense knowledge.
- Model knowledge of intent and belief.
- Perform some aspects of natural language understanding.
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