The practical application of machine learning to e-discovery, commonly referred to as predictive coding, has begun to move from just a debated topic, to an applied technology. As developers of machine learning explain the efficiencies of their processes, law firms and review companies have the same natural reactions that most do when learning about an industry changing technology. These reactions include the initial confusion of how this complex technology works, the doubt of putting decision making into the hands of computers and the concern of potentially having jobs replaced by the new technology. As discussion of the projected impact of this technology has begun to find its way into the mainstream media, it is the jobs impact issue that seems to be getting a lot of ink these days, perhaps highlighted by the concerns of an economy that is still seeking traction.
Take for example the recently released book – Race Against The Machine: How the Digital Revolution is Accelerating Innovation, Driving Productivity, and Irreversibly Transforming Employment and the Economy, by Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee. In a Yahoo! news blog interview of McAffee, the research scientist for MIT’s Sloan School of Business suggests that a busboy might have less anxiety about job prospects than a lawyer due to advances in technology. This is a comparison that seems a bit far-fetched and one that preys directly on the fears of an uncertain economy.