Alibaba Goes for It

But while Google slowly rolls out [their interactive voice chat service] in a limited public launch, Alibaba’s own voice assistant has already been clocking overtime. On December 2 at the 2018 Neural Information Processing Systems conference, one of the largest annual gatherings for AI research, Alibaba demoed the AI customer service agent for its logistics company Cainiao. Jin Rong, the dean of Alibaba’s Machine Intelligence and Technology Lab, said the agent is already servicing millions of customer requests a day.

Alibaba already has a voice assistant way better than Google’s

Anyone jealous that Alibaba can just roll this out and start running? While Google manages PR and privacy concerns? Anyone feel growth slowing?

When tech comes to health

Apple Watch’s ECG feature is making the news, as it should.* I’m not tracking it, and don’t plan to, but this should spawn a lot of innovation from the plaintiffs’ bar in the complaints we see against Apple. Wrongful alerts leading to economic and health harms, negligence for not alerting (what constitutes a proper training set? And when is that training a form of negligence? What’s the duty? – so much fun stuff), does it reach to wrongful death?

*Full disclosure, I used to work at Apple but never advised on this feature.

The Complexity of the Legal Domain

How to comply with legal rules? It’s even worse in other countries.

Speaking personally, I recently spent about a year living in Spain (helping out our Barcelona office) and I read everything I could on Spain visas before I went but I knew that I still didn’t know enough to do it on my own. So I hired a really good and really expensive Spain immigration lawyer and in about three hours she totally set me straight and I walked out of her office knowing exactly what to do and I did it and it worked. 90 percent of what I had read about Spain visas on the internet was true but ten percent that was either dead ass wrong or had changed recently changed or just did not apply to our specific situation. Had I gone with just what I had learned on the internet, I likely would have been booted out of Spain in 90 days. Despite all that I had learned by going through all of this, when it came time for another American lawyer in my firm to take my place in Spain, he too went to this same Spain immigration lawyer and he reported back to me the same result. She saved him huge amounts of time and huge amounts of problems.

And the whole point of this excerpt is that China is way worse.

Link

Impactful Legal Technology

One of the simplest (conceptually) but potentially most impactful areas of legal technology is just easier access to data and services that are already available. From Business Insider, a story on DoNotPay:

First Joshua Browder went after parking tickets, building a bot that helped hundreds of thousands of users challenge their fines.

Then, the 21-year-old student broadened his focus, expanding into everything from landlord disputes to chasing compensation for lost luggage on flights.

In 2018, Browder  took aim at Equifax after a data breach exposed the personal data the firm held on tens of millions of Americans, and his app DoNotPay was used to help file 25,000 lawsuits against the company.

See also Bad Landlord? These Coders Are Here to Help.

Can software tools help non-experts effectively navigate domains that experts have created and maintained? First step: access the underlying data.

Legal Tech by Students

I know very little about CodeX – The Stanford Center for Legal Informatics, but I vow to you dear reader that I will start looking into this.

I fear the technology they are building is probably not quite on point.  I have this theory that legal technology sucks (legal definition) because it is built by people who don’t practice law – or at least practice law in the practical way outside and in-house lawyers do.

And, by the time those outside and in-house lawyers have the practical experience to make a decent legal product, they are making too much money to just give it up for a startup.

It’s a weird feature of law.

Timing and a prediction

My belief is that Trump now sees his trade war with China as costing him votes because of it’s purported negative effect on the stock market.  Trump now needs to rev up the stock market for his 2020 race.  Self preservation at its finest.  If he wins, assume the trade war will commence post reelection.

I do not think a new trade deal with China (if one is cobbled together) will be better than what we had.  But it will stabilize the economy and boost the stock market.

That said, I do think any new deal will have language protecting US intellectual property.  But this is a hollow pledge because most of the intellectual property worth protecting was stolen long ago.

Your Lawyer’s Email Advice is Wrong

What do your lawyers tell you about email? Don’t write bad emails, right?

Here’s a bad email:

“OMG we totally infringe this patent.”

And the response:

“Hey guys, the lawyers told us not to discuss patents on email. Let’s take this discussion offline.”

So now it looks like discussion, offline, about how much they infringe the patent. And that’s probably not what happens.

It’s fine to email. The mistake is speculating and exaggerating in email.

The truth is the author has no idea if they infringe the patent. They are expressing a fear. Infringement is a legal analysis and almost always requires a full technical investigation.

Email is fine. But don’t fucking speculate. Don’t panic. State the facts and loop in your lawyer.

Cryptocurrency Hype Cycle Part 3

The hype cycle of cryptocurrency may be hitting another inflection point. I tend to believe it’s going to stay down for some time.

The Economist reports:

Economists define a currency as something that can be at once a medium of exchange, a store of value and a unit of account. Lack of adoption and loads of volatility mean that cryptocurrencies satisfy none of those criteria. That does not mean they are going to go away (though scrutiny from regulators concerned about the fraud and sharp practice that is rife in the industry may dampen excitement in future). But as things stand there is little reason to think that cryptocurrencies will remain more than an overcomplicated, untrustworthy casino.

Hackers steal tools from NSA, hack everyone with them

From the New York Times:

Hackers exploiting data stolen from the United States government conducted extensive cyberattacks on Friday that hit dozens of countries, severely disrupting Britain’s public health system and wreaking havoc on tens of thousands of computers elsewhere, including Russia’s ministry for internal security.

Link

There are really only two things that need to be said about this, both said well by others:

  1. “Remember last year when a whole bunch of people wanted Apple to create a special version of iOS for the U.S. government, under the promise that it would never escape their safe hands and get into the wild?” John Gruber, Daring Fireball (link)
  2. “Either everyone gets security or no one does.” Bruce Schneier (link)

The point is there’s no such thing as a security backdoor that “only I can use.” If you want systems to truly be secure, they must truly be secure.