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Never Ask A Lawyer To Design Transcendence

An old joke: Q: What's the difference between lawyers and laboratory rats?  A: Lawyers are more numerous, they don't engender as much emotional attachment and there's some things lab rats just won't do. 

Why the legal-beagle rag?  Maybe it's time for a modern re-write of the joke, comparing lawyers to  software engineers and car designers.

Or just blame it on an interesting juxtaposition of articles in the NY Times.  First, armies of expensive lawyers are being replaced by cheaper software.  Software that doesn't get tired, suffer from headaches or demand to be made partner.  Software that slogs through millions of documents, looking for key words, patterns, inferences...the raw materials of legal leverage.

No longer called simply document review (which isn't billable) it's now "inferential analysis" (which might be.)  
"“The economic impact will be huge,” said Tom Mitchell, chairman of the machine learning department at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. “We’re at the beginning of a 10-year period where we’re going to transition from computers that can’t understand language to a point where computers can understand quite a bit about language.”
Thus are armies of lawyers made superfluous, unemployed and angry.  Not exactly what the world needs (at least the angry part), but who am I to argue with progress?  Anyway, one doesn't have to read many legal briefs to wonder what, exactly, lawyers know about language.

Next,  a 50-year retrospective on Jaguar's famous E-Type, a car variously described as feline, predatory, alluring, sexy, voluptuous, phallic and menacing.
"...the person who perhaps brought the most to the car and its legend was Malcolm Sayer, an aerodynamicist who had worked for the Bristol Aeroplane Company in World War II.

Sayer had created the C-Type and D-Type bodies. His attitude toward his art and profession was mystic and secretive, like an alchemist’s."
Somehow I doubt Sayer's skill set - mystical, secretive, alchemical will ever be outsourced to some computer.  Computers may understand  and analyze but they'll never transcend.   Alchemy produces the E-Type.  Design-by-computer produces the Toyota Camry.  There's a lesson in there somewhere.


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