It was on a dreary night of November that I beheld the accomplishment of my toils. … It was already one in the morning; the rain pattered dismally against the panes, and my candle was nearly burnt out, when, by the glimmer of the half-extinguished light, I saw the dull yellow eye of the creature open; it breathed hard, and a convulsive motion agitated its limbs.
Today’s the birthday of Frankenstein. Sort of. It’s actually the birthday of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, the creator of creature which is at the center of the story.(In an interesting twist of fate, in the book, it’s is the creator who is actually named Frankestein, not the creature). For those of you who never read the book (I didn’t until recently), it’s the story of the creation of a being and the torment of both the creator and the created as a result. Once he created the being, the creator became frightened and repulsed, not understanding what he had done and what the impact might be. He fled, thus setting both creature and creator on a long bad journey that doesn’t end well for either.
Its often been cited as symbolic of the struggle with and dangers of technology although its really less about that than the struggle of the creator/created. But I guess in a way that struggle is similar to the struggles that we, as a society and as lawyers, in particular, are having with the technology we have created and are creating. We fear it, we fear its impact, we hate it and are repulsed by it. We love it.
“AI is a fundamental existential risk for human civilization, and I don’t think people fully appreciate that”. Elon Musk
Somewhat like the creator in the book, Elon Musk, who himself is responsible for technogy in electric cars and space rockets is sounding the alarm about AI saying, “I think people should be really concerned about it,” Musk said. “I keep sounding the alarm bell.”
Similar fears are echoed by Stephen Hawking who says bluntly, “The development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race”. Ironically, Hawking is using a new system developed by Intel to speak that’s based on program that learns how the professor thinks and suggests the words he might want to use next. In other words, AI.
Technology and AI. We fear it. We hate it. We love it.
And this love hate relationship is even more evident in the legal profession. Some lawyers treat technology like Frankenstein. I don’t need it, I don’t want it, I don’t understand it. In other words, I fear it and I ain’t going to learn about it. Some lawyers-often more experienced ones-are so empathic about this that they proudly and publicly brag to everyone their lack of knowledge. As if being a Neathandral is impressive to clients and others. (P.S. It’s not.).
Perhaps its no wonder we have this love-hate relationship with technology: we generally confuse the creator (the Frankenstein of the book) with the created (which is generally called and thought of as “Frankenstein”). The same is true of technology-we create it and then damn the very thing we had created confusing what we are with what we have created. Ruled by fear and remorse, Frankenstein’s creator fled once he created his “creature” without considering what his fear and ignorance would cost in the end. Or what good could come from his creation.
The technology genie (or, if you prefer, the technology “Frankenstein”) is already out of the bottle. Its been created and will continue to develop. As a profession, we can’t flee it or ignore it. We can only embrace it.
Photo 1: Insomnia Cured Here via Flickr
Photo 2: IowaPolitics.com via Flickr