Information Inflation and the Law

Thanks to our friends at Spada’s new Swordplay site for links to an article at the Richmond Journal of Law & Technology on INFORMATION INFLATION: CAN THE LEGAL SYSTEM ADAPT which asks, how do vast quantities of new writing forms challenge the legal profession, and how should lawyers adapt?

It’s written by George L. Paul, a partner in Lewis and Roca, LLP and Jason R. Baron, Director of Litigation at the National Archives and Records Administration.

The piece is well worth your attention.

Let me quote their provocative conclusions:

No one knows if, or when, civilization’s new inflationary period will end. Are we merely in the early years of an inflation phenomenon? Will the present-day rate of acceleration continue apace, or, as might even be possible, will the rate of acceleration increase? Will things flatten out or level off?

Some computer scientists forecast essentially more of the same, which itself should give pause. Others imagine science fiction-like futures, where computer power in the form of artificial intelligence has approached or exceeded the capacity of the human mind, and/or has been harnessed by trans-human beings with machinery incorporated into their living circuits.

However, whatever may be the limits of machine or artificial intelligence, in the near term future lawyers must not be afraid to embrace creative, technological approaches to grappling with the problem of knowledge management. Emerging solutions to lawyers’ search problems over the coming decade and beyond could likely include a synthesis of “intelligent search engine” applications culled from the areas of artificial intelligence, neural networks, and other forms of information filtering and machine-learning techniques. Nor should lawyers discount the possibility of one day employing even more advanced science fiction sounding search techniques, derived from current research in the fields of nanotechnology, including quantum computing and bioinformatics.

Information inflation reflects the fact that civilization has entered a new phase. Human beings are now integrated into reality quite differently than before. They can instantaneously write to millions. They engage in the real time writing of instant messages, wikis, blogs, and avatars. Accordingly, the flux of writing has grown exponentially, with resulting impact on cultural evolution.

All this affects litigation. Vast quantities of new writing forms challenge the legal profession to exercise novel skills. This means litigation must become more collaborative. It means more use of computer technology. It means there will be new legal rules. And the future of litigation as we know it is at risk unless law and its practice coevolve with information.

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