Artificial Intelligence and Law…

By Abdullah Abdurrahman Esq & Amachundi A. David, Esq

Introduction. 

Artificial Intelligence is not a myth. The Oxford Dictionary defines Artificial Intelligence as a computer system able to perform tasks normally requiring human intelligence. This is why artificial intelligence has emerged in every area and subject which was considered exclusive to human intelligence. We humans refer to ourselves as Homo sapiens due to our mental capacities. We have tried to understand how we think; that is, how a mere handful of cells and organs can perceive, understand, predict, and manipulate a world far larger and more complex than itself. The field of artificial intelligence, or AI, goes further still as it attempts to go beyond merely understanding to building intelligent entities. Artificial Intelligence encompasses a variety of subfields which range from general purpose areas i.e. learning specific tasks such as playing chess, proving mathematical theorems, diagnosing diseases and writing of poetry. Artificial Intelligence methodically automates intellectual tasks which makes it relevant in any intellectual human activity. It is noteworthy that artificial intelligence has been defined from the practical perspective by some authors. In this vein, the definitions have emphasised on systems which think like humans, think rationally, act like humans and act rationally. According to Haugeland, artificial intelligence is ‘the exciting new effort to make computers think . . . machines with minds, in the full and literal sense.’ Further, it entails the automation of activities that we associate with human thinking, activities such as decision-making, problem solving, and learning according to Bellman. These definitions of artificial intelligence emphasised on systems that think like humans.

Subsequently, authors like Winston and Charniak and McDermott defined artificial intelligence emphasising on systems that think rationally. In this regard, artificial intelligence is ‘the study of mental faculties through the use of computational models’ and further ‘the study of the computations that make it possible to perceive, reason, and act.’ Further, in defining artificial intelligence with emphasis on systems that act like humans, Rich and Knight stated that it is ‘the study of how to make computers do things at which, at the moment, people are better’ while Kurzweil10 defined the concept as ‘the art of creating machines that perform functions that require intelligence when performed by people.’

Finally, with emphasis on systems that act rationally, Poole et al11 viewed artificial intelligence/computational intelligence as the study of the design of intelligent agents while according to Nilsson, artificial intelligence is concerned with intelligent behavior  in artifacts.

Based on the foregoing definitions, it can be gleaned that artificial intelligence is aimed at problem solving, decision making, facilitating learning, research and the performance of given tasks among others. This is achieved by adopting the model of human intellect which will require practical knowledge of neuro-science, biology, information technology among others.

 Brief Historical Overview of Artificial Intelligence

Artificial intelligence has a history which dates back to more than half of the last century. Artificial intelligence is one of the newest sciences which commenced immediately after World War II. It is noteworthy that the name artificial intelligence was coined in 1956. Etymologically, there are two periods in the history of artificial intelligence which are the early and later periods The early period was between 19551980 while the later period was between 1985-2010. During the early period, the focus was on tasks that humans found difficult to perform such as chess, geometry, physics and so on.  During this era, remarkable success was recorded introducing artificial intelligence to the aforementioned tasks. The later period was characterised by focus on easy human tasks which were nearly impossible for computer systems.15 Further, two eras (the 1980’s and 1990’s) emerged. In the 1980’s, it was apparent that computers lacked common sense of the world. According to historical facts, it was not easy to give same to the computers in the same way that high level, expert knowledge of a specific domain is given. Subsequently, in the 1990’s, situation and embodied artificial intelligence (SEAI) emerged and was recognised as a prospective low path to intelligence. Therefore, computers will only acquire common sense about the world by experiencing it and having to survive in it.

It is a fact that contemporarily, scientists in other disciplines frequently cite artificial intelligence as the field most people would like to be in. This is because unlike other fields which are almost fully researched and developed, enormous opportunities for further innovative research, findings and prospects abound in artificial intelligence.

Further, artificial intelligence consists of broad and various subfields which range from general or multi-purpose areas such as learning and perception, to specific or particular tasks such as playing chess, proving mathematical theorems, writing poetry and diagnosing diseases. The utilitarian value of artificial intelligence makes for systematisation and automation of intellectual tasks. Hence, artificial intelligence is potentially relevant to any field of human endeavor and intellectual activity. In this vein, the foregoing makes artificial intelligence a practically universal field.

Developments in Artificial Intelligence.       

The fact has been stated that artificial intelligence is a broad field with a universal outlook and application. Further, it is applied to a lot of things which include the following:

  1. Problem Solving and Planning: This deals with systematic refinement of goal hierarchy, plan revision mechanisms and a focused search of important goals;
  2. Expert Systems: This deals with knowledge processing and complex decisionmaking problems;
  3. Natural Language Processing: Areas such as automatic text generation, text processing, machine translation, speech synthesis and analysis, grammar and style analysis of text among others come under this category;
  4. Robotics: This deals with the controlling of robots to manipulate or grasp objects and using information from sensors to guide actions among other things;
  5. Computer Vision: This topic deals with intelligent visualisation, scene analysis, image understanding and processing and motion derivation;
  6. Learning: This topic deals with research and development in different forms of machine learning;
  7. Genetic Algorithms: These are adaptive algorithms which have inherent learning capability. They are used in search, machine learning and optimisation; and
  8. Neural Networks: This topic deals with simulation of learning in the human brain by combining pattern recognition tasks, deductive reasoning and numerical computations.

Further, artificial intelligence is applicable to several areas which include the following; Autonomous Planning and Scheduling, Game Playing, Autonomous Control, Diagnosis, Logistics Planning, Robotics, Language Understanding and Problem Solving.

Finding a Sustainable Synergy and Prospects for Nigeria.

Artificial Intelligence has become quite a hot topic. There are flashy news stories about creative machines, self-driving cars, robots which can hold complex and extensive conversations amongst other inventions. The recent popularisation of Artificial Intelligence has also made us aware of the fact that humans are no longer the only source of creative works.  Artificial Intelligence is necessary in Nigeria, where the amount of data we deal with has grown exponentially and the increase in this data in law means more time spent in analysing data. This can be observed in our ever growing judicial precedents and countless volumes of law reports. As grey areas in the law are constantly being developed every day. The good news is that Artificial Intelligence and advances in machine learning have enabled software to complete data-intensive tasks and recognise patterns in data. There are several benefits of using artificial intelligence in legal practice in Nigeria the first being the most important metric in business which is to generate higher revenue. It has been established by several reports that businesses that invest in artificial intelligence have seen results that are translated into increased revenue.

Another major advantage of artificial intelligence is over we humans. Artificial Intelligence produces more accurate and higher quality work because it can work faster and longer, neither does it get distracted thereby producing more with fewer error in its work. One of the most talked about benefits of artificial intelligence in law is that it saves time. This is because computers are much faster than humans in processing certain types of information. Computers find and fix errors in documents, conduct legal research and analyse documents for errors, gaps in information and inconsistent language. Some of the tasks that artificial intelligence can accomplish includes document review, proofreading, and legal research which can be tedious and mind-numbing for lawyers. Allowing a software to do these lower-level jobs reduces lawyers’ stress and lets them focus on creative work, intellectual analysis, and strategic problem-solving. The end result is that they are happier and suffer less from stress and burnout. Artificial Intelligence has the less obvious benefit of allowing lawyers more time to talk to clients and develop deeper relationships with them. They are able to keep clients better informed and spend more time explaining their legal strategy. In addition, artificial intelligence lets them achieve better results in their work and leads to greater client satisfaction.

Artificial Intelligence also has the potential to make the discovery phase of the litigation process proceed more quickly. Since this can be one of the most timeconsuming aspects of a case, these systems could potentially help parties resolve their disputes more quickly throughout any arbitration or litigation. This momentum has picked up pace in Nigerian practice as LawPavilion Business Solutions, the foremost legal technologies company in Nigeria is set to release Nigeria’s first Artificial Intelligence Legal Assistant, Case Analytics and Practice/Case Management Software into their legal software solutions. According to the Managing Director, Ope Olugasa he declared that Artificial Intelligence is having broad and significant impacts across a variety of industries. “Lawyers and the legal profession should not be left out in this new wave that bears many benefits. Today, in developed countries of the world, Artificial Intelligence (AI) is beginning to transform the legal profession in many ways as lawyers are already using AI to do things like reviewing documents, ensuring compliance, which is a very front burner issue for multinationals and transnationals, analysing contracts to determine whether they meet predetermined criteria, performing legal research and predicting case outcomes.” Further, he stated that “Our AI is called ‘TIMI’, which is a Chabot for now, with more complex implementations coming shortly. It works like a consultant that lawyers can chat with. It converses with you and helps you get things done faster. It has been programmed to walk the user through the Civil Procedure Rules of Nigeria Courts.”

He further stated that “We are starting with the Civil Procedure Rules because from our research, as a foremost Law Reporting Company in Nigeria, we have come to realize that 48 percent of the cases in the Appellate Courts are not based on the substantive suit; but on procedural issues. This means that a lot of lawyers are erring on the side of procedures in Court, which is chiefly governed by the Civil Procedure Rules of the various Courts. TIMI has been developed to ensure that its users never again err on the side of procedure.”26

Another practical area artificial intelligence is making strides in the legal profession is through the introduction of virtual law firms. Virtual law firms are on the rise especially in developed countries such as the United States and the Britain. Artificial Intelligence can take the concept of virtual law firms to the future wherein attorneys and clients need not meet or even be in the same jurisdiction. This was essence when a law firm Riverview Law partnered with the computer science department at the University of Liverpool. In which it launched Kim, a virtual assistant designed to help legal teams make quicker and better decisions. Karl Chapman, Riverview chief executive, says Kim features includes being able to suggest the best order in which to renegotiate a series of corporate contracts.

However, due to the rapidly advancing area of artificial intelligence and legal practice, there is the need for a holistic and comprehensive legal and regulatory framework for this area of expertise. Artificial Intelligence is developing fast and needs to be regulated as there is little or nothing on the regulation of Artificial Intelligence in the world and Nigeria particularly. The European Union is currently trying to ensure that a new category of persons ‘electronic persons’ are created to cater for artificial intelligence and robots. This is laudable as it will create a platform to attribute rights and obligations to Artificial Intelligence. The National Office of Technology Acquisition Promotion (NOTAP) Act is currently the basic regulation of new technology in Nigeria and it only deals with the registration and contractual nature of foreign technology. This legislation is in need of a review as it is too skeletal to regulate the constant evolving nature of technology and artificial intelligence. Another issue which necessitates the need for regulation is the fact that Artificial Intelligence is displacing a lot of workers as AI systems can now perform functions which were performed by a handful of humans. One industry which has witnessed this takeover is the banking industry. Most banking functions are now performed by machines and according to a McKinsey study from late 2017, up to 800 million workers worldwide may lose their jobs to AI by 2030 in the global banking industry. This definitely raises the need for intervention of the law to bridge the potential gap that a shift to AI might cause.

Conclusion. 

From the foregoing, it can be concluded that there is the need for a synergy of artificial intelligence and legal practice in Nigeria as the two concepts can be combined to take legal practice to a whole new level and reflect global best practices and standards. The combination of both concepts can yield higher productivity and better results. It is noted that the lack of a comprehensive regulatory and legal framework for artificial intelligence is a gaping hole in the realisation of this sustainable synergy between both concepts. That notwithstanding, there exists some level of synergy which is limited to legal research and practice as seen with LawPavilion. However, there is a need for expansion of artificial intelligence into other areas of legal practice in Nigeria. Consequent to the foregoing, there will be need for dynamic laws regulating same. Further, there has been concerns over artificial intelligence displacing a lot of workers in the legal and non-legal market thereby leading to higher levels of unemployment especially in the banking sector. Therefore, policy makers and regulators need to take proactive steps in order to prevent mass loss of jobs in the legal market which characterised the banking industry. This can however be regulated and the concern for massive job losses curbed by a holistic and comprehensive legal and regulatory framework aimed at the enhancement and promotion of a sustainable synergy between artificial intelligence and the legal practice.

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