In their new book, Benjamin Alarie and Abdi Aidid explore how society can harness artificial intelligence (AI) to make the law “radically better” and achieve a vision of the law as fully comprehensive and predictable. Keep reading for a sneak preview of Chapters 1 and 2 of their book, The Legal Singularity.
Exploration of Chapter 1: Introducing the Legal Singularity
The first chapter of The Legal Singularity introduces the concept of the “legal singularity,” a future vision of the law as fully comprehensive and predictable. As described in the book, the legal singularity is a stable and complete legal order, capable of addressing and resolving practically all types of legal uncertainty in real time and on demand. The legal singularity is distinct from other ideas of singularity and embodies the future evolution of legal systems.
The book examines the impact of technology, especially AI, on legal systems and society, as these advancements drive us toward the legal singularity. This technology will upend existing legal practices, enabling us to construct a deeper and more responsive legal system. Legal prediction algorithms will allow for quick, accurate legal advice and decisions, giving everyone a clear understanding of their legal rights and obligations in real time.
While advocating for technological advancements to create a more adaptable legal infrastructure, the book also emphasizes the need to exercise caution to prevent unintended consequences. The primary challenge when integrating AI into law is to ensure that our legal systems and institutions align with our societal values in novel situations and circumstances.
Although Canada’s legal system is robust and effective by historical standards, there is ample room for improvement. The book cites barriers such as court inaccessibility, complex laws, bewildering legal procedures, and potential unfairness in legal outcomes. Technology could offer solutions to these issues.
The opening chapter concludes with a statement of the final goal of the book:
[The Legal Singularity] is neither solely an academic work nor a blueprint for further technological growth. Instead, we offer a framework for future discussion and elaboration among all members of the law’s epistemic community: the scholars who embrace legal technology or question it; the lawyers who think it augments their practice or threatens it; and the judges, law students, and engaged citizens who are wondering how the future might look.
We at Blue J embrace the challenges inherent in using AI to bring clarity to the legal field. Our upcoming tax chatbot, Ask Blue J, will provide real-time answers to tax questions, furthering our mission of democratizing access to justice and promoting a transparent legal system. We understand the importance of careful development and responsible usage of these tools to ensure that they contribute to a more just and accessible legal system. As such, we eagerly anticipate further engagement with the legal community to promote the ethical and effective integration of AI.
Exploration of Chapter 2: The Nature of Legal Information
The second chapter of The Legal Singularity begins with the 1765 case of Entick v Carrington, where Lord Camden’s famous dictum that “law must be found in our books” established the precedent about precedent. Ironically, there is no definitive text of the decision in Entick, which highlights the fact that our access to legal information is not guaranteed.
Today, common law and civil law legal systems rely heavily on textual components such as codes, statutes, and case law. Lawyers use these authoritative texts to make arguments and provide advice. However, in the past, ancient societies rarely codified their laws due to cost. The second chapter of The Legal Singularity explores the evolution of legal systems, and how the proliferation of legal publications led to four significant developments: modern legal precedent; law as a public affair; more rigorous legal education; and the modern legal profession.
The chapter explains that legal information serves the purpose of informing legal prediction. Knowing the law requires predicting how a future court will likely apply the information. Viewing legal information as inputs in a prediction process enables thinking of it on a continuum of predictiveness, rather than in binary states of information/non-information. This theory of legal prediction allows lawyers to advise clients on risks based on a sound appraisal of potential negative outcomes.
The Legal Singularity traces the history of legal information from the analogue era of physically browsing law library books to the digital era of searchable electronic databases. Digital legal research not only improved information retrieval, but it also had four major impacts: increased expectations; a new relationship to legal precedent; improved capacity to make legal predictions; and improved public engagement with case law. However, the book is quick to note that access to legal information remains limited and expensive, hindering public scrutiny of, and engagement with, the legal process.
Today, in the early days of the computational era of legal information, computational legal tools use artificial intelligence to synthesize abundant sources of legal information with great speed, low cost, and high accuracy. Predictive legal technology tools are a key feature of this computational era and apply statistical techniques to legal information to model likely outcomes.