Bob Tennant, CEO of Recommind, was one of the panel members at a discussion at the recent Bloomberg Technology Conference.
Whether one likes it or not, technology is increasingly performing functions with the potential to replace humans, and the subject tends to generate fear on that account. It has the potential also, however, to enhance the work of people with appropriate skills, removing drudgery and allowing more considered use of results in the time freed up by release from that drudgery.
The message is an important one for lawyers and for those engaged in compliance and regulatory activities. For many people it offers career opportunities rather than threats.
Bob Tennant gives an example of an FTC document request which involved reviewing 5.6 million documents in a very short time. That task, he says, would have taken 100 people three months to do; using Recommind’s technology the job was completed by 7 people in 30 days. Years ago ago, he says, the FTC would have simply made a more limited request reflecting a reality which now changed.
That leads to a discussion about the changing nature of work (that is, as between the old job-for-life and the new world of multiple employers), as well as about efficiency gains and what their implications are. The technology, Bob Tennant says, makes it possible to focus staff on high-value tasks where they can add value.
There must necessarily be casualties here, both among individuals and among companies. How should we prepare for this future? What (if any) is the role of government in this? Another speaker says. realistically that “Lots of kids play baseball, but you don’t all get to the major leagues”. There is much more to this discussion than just how law firms and others survive and make a profit and about which individuals thrive in the new world.
Whatever your role, and whether corporate or personal, the long-term deliberations of government are an uncertain basis on which to plan a future. It is not given to all of us to be “major league”, but there are tiers below that where we can find a place if we have the requisite skills and adaptability. The starting-point is to recognise that the world of work is changing. The Bloomberg discussion is worth watching.