The Legal Singularity, with Benjamin Alarie

The Legal Singularity, with Benjamin Alarie

London Futurists · 2023-08-23

The legal profession is rarely accused of being at the cutting edge of technological development. Lawyers may not still use quill pens, but they’re not exactly famous for their IT skills. Nevertheless, the profession has a number of characteristics which make it eminently suited to the deployment of advanced AI systems. Lawyers are deluged by data, and commercial law cases can be highly lucrative.

One man who knows more about this than most is our guest in this episode, Benjamin Alarie, a Professor at the University of Toronto Faculty of Law, and a successful entrepreneur.

In 2015, Ben co-founded Blue J, a Toronto-based company which uses machine learning to analyze large amounts of data to predict a court's likely verdict in legal cases. Blue J is used by the Department of Justice in Canada and Canada's Revenue Agency.

Ben has just published “The Legal Singularity: How Artificial Intelligence Can Make Law Radically Better.” And here at the London Futurists Podcast, we do like a singularity.

Selected follow-ups:

Topics addressed in this episode include:
*) Much of lawyers' work is data-heavy and involves prediction, so it is amenable to radical improvement with AI
*) Other reasons why, in principle, the legal industry should be an early adopter of AI technology
*) Reasons why the world is sometimes slow to adopt an innovation that technology makes possible
*) Automating the processes of disclosure and discovery
*) Two implications of automation for commercial earnings by law firms
*) Selling "the machine service" rather than "the human time"
*) A different kind of prediction: predicting what is likely to happen inside the inscrutable minds of judges
*) Judging as a "full body exercise" - involving the gut, heart, and compassion
*) Two "mountains of information" that legal decisions can nevertheless be reliably predicted in many cases
*) AI algorithms are more scalable, to wider use, than the limited time of expert human QCs (Queen's Counsel lawyers)
*) Even QCs can improve their performance if they take into account the advice of an AI system like Blue J
*) "Human plus machine beats human" - and can beat machine too
*) Once systems like Blue J are more widely used, the proportion of certain types of legal cases that come to trial may decrease; however, the proportion of other types of case coming to trial may increase
*) Entertainment industry workers are on strike in Hollywood, fearing disruption from AI technologies; why aren't lawyers on a similar strike?
*) What kinds of change in the legal profession would merit the term "singularity"?
*) A potential future in which law is a solved problem, with new laws being generated on demand whenever the need arises
*) The creation of laws that are fairer, more efficient, and better all round
*) Potential drawbacks in the run-up to the legal singularity
*) The 2013 movie "The Congress"
*) Estimates for when the Legal Singularity might occur - and for when people will realize that it is coming soon

Audio engineering by Alexander Chace.

Music: Spike Protein, by Koi Discovery, available under CC0 1.0 Public Domain Declaration

London Futurists

Anticipating and managing exponential impact - hosts David Wood and Calum Chace

Calum Chace is a sought-after keynote speaker and best-selling writer on artificial intelligence. He focuses on the medium- and long-term impact of AI on all of us, our societies and our economies. He advises companies and governments on AI policy.

His non-fiction books on AI are Surviving AI, about superintelligence, and The Economic Singularity, about the future of jobs. Both are now in their third editions.

He also wrote Pandora's Brain and Pandora’s Oracle, a pair of techno-thrillers about the first superintelligence. He is a regular contributor to magazines, newspapers, and radio.

In the last decade, Calum has given over 150 talks in 20 countries on six continents. Videos of his talks, and lots of other materials are available at

He is co-founder of a think tank focused on the future of jobs, called the Economic Singularity Foundation. The Foundation has published Stories from 2045, a collection of short stories written by its members.

Before becoming a full-time writer and speaker, Calum had a 30-year career in journalism and in business, as a marketer, a strategy consultant and a CEO. He studied philosophy, politics, and economics at Oxford University, which confirmed his suspicion that science fiction is actually philosophy in fancy dress.

David Wood is Chair of London Futurists, and is the author or lead editor of twelve books about the future, including The Singularity Principles, Vital Foresight, The Abolition of Aging, Smartphones and Beyond, and Sustainable Superabundance.

He is also principal of the independent futurist consultancy and publisher Delta Wisdom, executive director of the Longevity Escape Velocity (LEV) Foundation, Foresight Advisor at SingularityNET, and a board director at the IEET (Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies). He regularly gives keynote talks around the world on how to prepare for radical disruption. See

As a pioneer of the mobile computing and smartphone industry, he co-founded Symbian in 1998. By 2012, software written by his teams had been included as the operating system on 500 million smartphones.

From 2010 to 2013, he was Technology Planning Lead (CTO) of Accenture Mobility, where he also co-led Accenture’s Mobility Health business initiative.

Has an MA in Mathematics from Cambridge, where he also undertook doctoral research in the Philosophy of Science, and a DSc from the University of Westminster.

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