Access to specialized knowledge, information and expertise is heading toward ubiquity.
The Internet, with intelligent search capability, renders virtually every fact, document, video and most other data available to everyone, with just the use of a simple query. Increased processing power is bringing “expert systems” closer to “artificial intelligence.”
There are at least three major aspects to this trend.
- The amount of data and information available increases at a rate exceeding that of Moore’s Law: doubling of information available through the Internet is measured in weeks; not years. There is a limit: Every piece of information on earth. That limit, by straightforward extrapolation, will be hit within the next century — probably sooner.
- The ability to access and retrieve information is moving closer to people’s bodies. So today, the smartphone, which most people carry everywhere, provides the capability to retrieve any piece of information from virtually anywhere at any time. Google Glass and other “wearable” user interfaces are already becoming mainstream. Implants have already started. Absent some major change in human behavior, expect all the current capabilities of today’s smartphones (complete with apps) to be carried internally within the next couple of years, if not sooner.
- The development of artificial intelligence to power expert systems, coupled with the cornucopia of available data, is enabling non-professionals to undertake activities formerly requiring highly trained professionals. IBM’s Watson is an excellent example, providing diagnostic services previously requiring one or more M.D.s, often specialists. Legal and judicial systems are next.
While the implications of this trend are limitless, here are a few that I think will pertain to courts regarding Electronic Content Management (ECM).
- The connection between “content” and its form will largely disappear.
The concept of a “document” will have an entirely different meaning than the one associated with a paper-centric world.
With a few exceptions, migration to electronic content more often means that how the content is rendered (displayed) is largely a function of the interface used. For example, documents are displayed one way on a full-size monitor, another way on a tablet and yet a third way on a smartphone. Soon to come are the watch rendering, the wearable (Google Glass) rendering and even the back-of-your-eyelids rendering.
- Practically All Content Will Be Electronically Stored – Forever.
Already, the debate has shifted from “When should courts destroy their records” to “Given that under no circumstances will society permit court records to ever be destroyed, who should have the right to try to restrict access to old records; and what should that access be?”
- Power Relationships Will Change.
Certainly these systems will have a professional impact within the courts. Moreover, consider how forms, self-help systems and guide books have empowered pro-se litigants over the past 20 years. Expert systems, available on demand, will be much more disruptive to the current court and legal system model.
- Standardization Will Increase
Because expert systems are utterly dependent on both standards and data, laws, rules and procedures will be required that assure the availability of both. Furthermore, because there will be a desire for the systems to ultimately work across jurisdictional boundaries, pressures to develop and maintain robust workflow and content standards and management across all boundaries will increase. The result will be a level of standardization beyond anything existing today, both within the court and across the justice system.