Highlights From the Technology Quarterly

Last week’s Economist magazine included their periodic Technology Quarterly supplement – always one of my favourite issues. With its focus on “augmented reality”, it included a number of great articles for anyone interested in how technology can change the way we work, communicate, and collaborate. And it even had a few articles about how law plays into all of this!

The lead article, Getting Serious, discusses the potential and problems showing up as virtual environments meet the real world. Virtual worlds have been successfully adapted for business purposes, particularly training. A British company has developed a simulator to help accountants develop skills by interacting with virtual clients. While the software was developed for use by a large accounting firm, there’s probably no reason it couldn’t be used successfully by law firms to train their budding lawyers and articling students in the same skills. Of course, when any problems break out, lawyers are the first to get involved, and the article discusses litigation that has been started over the trade in virtual goods, taxation of virtual commerce, and virtual scams and fraud artists.

A second article, Spreading the Load, discusses how distributed projects rely on volunteers donating both their computers and their brains to assist in tasks that require either a lot of processing power or a lot of brain power. While the article doesn’t mention any legal applications, it’s easy to imagine a research tool that harnesses the contribution of thousands of lawyers to improve search results. While active contribution may be too much to ask of busy lawyers, a system could relate keyword searches with cases that are displayed for longer times, printed, or returned to a few times to develop a ranking of usefulness. I’m sure these kind of projects are well underway at the legal information giants, and it will be interesting to see what comes up in the future.

Finally, Cyberlawyer 2.0 is a great discussion of Lawrence Lessig’s career, writings, his campaign to have copyright law in the United States reconsidered and reshaped, and his struggle against the industry lobbies in getting Congress’ ear.

Other articles that may be of interest include:

  1. Playing Tag (about the potential of combining mobile phones with social networking sites)
  2. Don’t Invent, Evolve (about a new way of developing software that relies on natural selction of randomly mutated parameters to create programs that are better at accomplishing complex tasks)
  3. Reality, Only Better (about the potential uses of superimposing computer graphics on the real world rather than on screens)
  4. Watching as you shop (similar to Jordan Furlong’s column earlier this week, discussing what retailers are doing to better know their customers)

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