Column

To His Coy Mistress

Had we but world enough, and time,
This coyness, lady, were no crime.

Andrew Marvell

I was going to discuss the implications of Steve Jobs hypothetically attending Law School, but it became too challenging, especially with deadlines. Besides, when an article concludes with a quote from Herman Hesse’s Steppenwolf, like everything to do with Steve, the bar has been raised. The title of The Guardian’s Jean-Louis Gassée article: Steve Jobs: who’s going to protect us from cheap and mediocre now? says a lot.

One result of Steve’s having gone to Law School is that we might have missed out on benefiting from so many technologies in this one lifetime. Now that Steve has gone, it is not so much their invention, but more who will “sell” it to us.

We certainly need all the help we can get, selling IT to lawyers. Brisbane barrister Kate Greenwood predicted at one of our IT & Innovation conferences in 2006 that smartphones would be the on-ramp for older lawyers needing to embrace technology. She had observed senior tech-shy colleagues engaging in “mine is better than yours” banter about their new phones.

They definitely should have more to discuss since the launch of the iPhone 4S (despite it not being the iPhone 5). I am presuming S stands for Siri, and it certainly deserves to be a capital S. Siri is important as Tim Bajarin so succinctly explained in a recent article.

Steve Jobs didn’t “invent” Siri, Apple bought the technology. Interestingly the developers of Siri might have been inspired by Apple’s vision. However, each has heavily invested it, though Apple obviously has more clout. The world is full of great ideas, but it is the belief and commitment to the ‘great’ idea that matters. In the late 1980’s while at a legal IT conference, I recall a senior Apple Australia person retorted to a suggestion that they did not invent the windows GUI (graphical user interface) and the mouse. His response was “But we bet our whole damn company on it”.

So Apple’s release of the iPhone 4S could be very big news for many lawyers. It is the next big step along the path from punch cards, keyboard, mouse and touch. But it is more than simply voice recognition and navigation, and, dare I say it, artificial intelligence (AI), that works. They seem to have done an outstanding job of protecting us from complexity by deeply integrating the components such as UNIX and AI. So sorry, no tech challenges here for those who thrive on the character building alternatives.

Siri seems to be a serious attempt at Apple’s Knowledge Navigator vision where the computer became a helpful assistant, on a very very early iPad.

Following the release of the video in 1987, I played it at “Hands-on” seminars I conducted on how lawyers themselves, could use computers. With over 2,000 Australian lawyers participating in my seminars over a decade, it seems to have helped spawn the not inconsiderable legal-IT innovation “down-under”.

I suggest you check out the official Apple video as well as less slick, but possibly more impressive, Stuff TV video of a real world review of Siri. Like so many of Apple’s products: impressive when introduced; bleedingly obvious in hindsight.

I have an iPhone. It is the “best” camera as it is the most convenient for me, having a 6 year old. However, let Jordan Furlong forever change the significance of the word “convenience” via his article: “The new battlefield: convenience”. You must read it if interested in law as a business, rather than a hobby. Remember, that it is not just you, but also your clients who should be the focus of your convenience-efforts. Steve Jobs didn’t just make all those toys for himself.

A better camera in the iPhone 4S is therefore, important news for some. But for lawyers, it might also mean that with apps such as JotNot it becomes a better hand-held document scanner, which is yet another use for this wonderful appliance.

You don’t need to use a lot of the features from Apple appliances to make them a worthwhile investment. Five years ago I got an iPod. Mine had photos, and audio instead of music. The audio was of thousands of articles on legal IT read in an elegant English accent by Audrey, an AT&T voice. I was able to reclaim many hours of “reading” time, otherwise lost to queues, bus stops, domestic chores and other time-stealers. I suspect Audrey could again become an important person in my life as the voice of Siri and open up all sorts of possibilities.

Compared to many, I am an unsophisticated user of my iPhone. I understand the iPhone can do other things apart from making calls, reading and taking photos. It’s not that I couldn’t master more, but with “time’s winged chariot hurrying near” and Steve’s Stanford University address on connecting dots, love, loss, and death ringing in my ears, I have other priorities. Fortunately, thanks to Audrey and Siri, I might not need to know much about the tools to benefit. They will “think different”, and “just do it”.

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