Strategic Planning: If you want to know my best guess as to what’s most likely to happen next year, connect the dots from 2016 to 2017 and draw a straight line to 2018. If you want to plan for 10 years for now, good luck; I promise that between now and then there will be a major disruption/discontinuity such as a war, economic crash, tech innovation like the Internet or AI that will make your plans look silly. Planning for the next five years, however, is a very useful exercise; but rather than developing a detailed plan and sticking to it, you should plan on the basis of the scenarios most likely to influence your business and markets and update your plan at least annually as those scenarios take shape and evolve.

One of the forces most likely to impact any scenario between now and the end of 2022 is AI, and this is the time of year when many are confidently predicting how AI will evolve and impact our businesses. My favorite prediction about AI is from Stephen Hawking, to wit: “(t)he rise of powerful AI will be either the best or the worst thing ever to happen to humanity. We do not know which.”

Regarding marketing, “(a)ccording to more than 345 CMOs, CEOs, and marketing experts, artificial intelligence is set to be the most transformative technology in marketing in 2018.” Here are more marketing-related predictions.

This speculation may be fun, but rather than taking any specific scenario seriously, one should consider as many as possible, and prepare for those most likely to occur. AI’s impact on jobs/employment is getting a lot of attention. I saw five such posts this morning, for instance here, and a good overview here. Two scenarios seem most likely — either AI will eliminate many jobs, causing a substantial increase in unemployment, or AI will replace mundane tasks, freeing people to make better use of their time by engaging in higher value tasks. (I love Gartner’s way of phrasing this latter possibility, “(r)obots ‘are here to give us a promotion,’ not take away jobs.”) Perhaps both will occur.

I believe the most likely impact of AI over the next five years will be a substantial widening of wealth inequality, both across and within countries. Recent discussions of this rift can be found in the NYT, HuffPost, Forbes, CNBC and The Guardian, among many others.

Nonetheless, some future job impacts of AI are certain (using the “straight line” prediction I mentioned above). For instance, according to Governing, “One of the biggest effects AI will have on government relates to jobs. It will almost certainly replace some workers, such as call center agents whose job is to answer questions and help complete discrete types of transactions.” For instance, in Mississippi, Alexa can answer questions about taxes, vehicle licensing, and the phone number for a state agency. In Utah, teenagers can solicit help reviewing questions that might be on a driver’s test. In Los Angeles, residents can get detailed information about city-sponsored events. And Las Vegas’ digital assistant can answer queries about parks, upcoming elections and the status of building permits.

 

  • According to Jones Day, “… investment in AI technologies likely will lead to an increase in AI-related patent litigation, and the introduction of a nonhuman actor into a traditional patent infringement analysis means that litigants will face unique issues stemming from the dynamic nature of AI technology.”

 

  • Thomson Reuters surveyed 207 in-house attorneys regarding “knowledge of and comfort with the use of artificial intelligence in the profession,” The results are not encouraging in terms of swift implementation of AI. (I wonder what the results would be had they also surveyed non-lawyer heads of corporate legal ops.) Still, they conclude that “(c)orporate counsel will eventually need to accept and adopt AI tools because, ready or not, they’re already here.”

 

 

  • As one might expect, Artificial Lawyer rounded up an illustrious group of AI experts from law firms and service providers to assemble very interesting lists of 2017’s biggest news and predictions for 2018. The details are here (spoiler alert — there was some hype in 2017!).

 

  • Also from Artificial Lawyer, ” LawDroid, has been awarded a contract to build a voice-activated legal aid bot in the US in a major ‘real world’ test of the technology and its access to justice (A2J) capabilities.” (That’s what I want for Christmas — significantly better A2J through AI!)

 

  • Press release: “Gridsum Holding Inc. … has launched its AI-driven, Software as a Service (“SaaS”), Intelligent CRM Solution for the China market.” “The solution will also leverage Blockchain technologies … to accelerate and automate the often cumbersome contractual processes associated with sales and customer support; facilitate customer loyalty program modules built into the solution; support our clients’ ecommerce; and integrate over the longer term into corporate ERP systems to effectively turn the supply chain into a “demand chain” profit center”