i·ro·ny /ˈīrənē/ noun – a state of affairs or an event that seems deliberately contrary to what one expects and is often amusing as a result.

Dear Reader, your first question is likely, who’s Moravec? Followed shortly thereafter by, what does he have to say that could be considered ironic?

We’ll get there. But first, let me introduce you to Moravec’s paradox… Is Moravec’s paradox different than his irony? Yes, it is.

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Moravec’s Paradox (named after Hans Moravec, a computer scientist and roboticist) is a concept in artificial intelligence and robotics that highlights an interesting and somewhat counterintuitive observation about the difficulty of programming certain cognitive functions into machines.

The paradox goes like this:

It is relatively easy to program machines to perform tasks that require higher-level cognitive skills in humans, such as solving complex mathematical problems or playing chess at a grandmaster level.

On the other hand, it is exceptionally challenging to program machines to perform tasks that humans often consider basic, such as visual perception, motor skills (walking, picking up objects), and common-sense reasoning.

The paradox arises because humans tend to underestimate the complexity of low-level skills and overestimate the difficulty of high-level skills when it comes to AI and robotics. It might also explain lawyer’s anxiety about machines taking their jobs.

One new study, by researchers at Princeton University, the University of Pennsylvania and New York University, concluded that the industry most exposed to the new A.I. was “legal services.” Another research report, by economists at Goldman Sachs, estimated that 44 percent of legal work could be automated. Only the work of office and administrative support jobs, at 46 percent, was higher.

So what then is Moravec’s Irony? Well, it’s a phrase that I’ve coined, but let me go on.

One of the hats that I wear is as an AI LegalTech entrepreneur. My company LawDroid has created an AI legal assistant that helps lawyers be more productive. I have a lot of conversations with customers and people interested in AI applications.

What I’ve discovered through these conversations is that some lawyers aren’t happy unless AI provides a ‘push button perfect’ solution, where the AI practically reads their minds and completes tasks with no input or effort on their part. You might say that the Avianca / Schwartz hallucination hullabaloo happened because of this wrong-headed mindset.

For example, we’ve created a Generative AI workflow where a lawyer can upload an opposing counsel’s motion, extract the legal arguments, draft counter-arguments, extract legal citations and then create summaries of the cited cases. But that’s not enough for some lawyers. They would not be satisfied unless the AI automatically generates an opposing motion, replete with legal citations (Shepardized of course), factual discussion (synthesized from multiple data sources) and properly formatted on pleading paper, with the push of a button.

Now here’s the irony:

These lawyers, who insist on AI performing flawlessly and autonomously with the push of a button, are the same lawyers who fear AI replacing them.

Go figure.

What do you think?

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