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lundi 12 mars 2018

Legal.IT Conference 2018 : Technological revolution – Rethinking Human Excellence in the Smart Machine Age




By Jessica Vona, student, Université de Montréal
& Annie-Claude Trudeau, Lawyer, BCF Avocats d'affaires

“Society is on the leading edge of a technology tsunami. Advances in artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things, virtual reality, robotics, nanotechnology, deep learning, mapping the human brain, and biomedical, genetic and cyborg engineering will revolutionize how most of us live and work”.

These are the opening sentences of Edward D. Hess and Katherine Ludwig’s new book “Humility is the new Smart, Rethinking Human excellence in the Smart Machine Age”.

Being trained lawyers, they draw on extensive multidisciplinary research to argue that we need to completely shift our definition of what it means to excel in the new era upon us.

Indeed, this new age will be characterized by drastic economical and social changes driven by technological advances, likely to fundamentally change the job market as we know it. Some experts refer to this as the fourth industrial revolution[i] or the Smart Machine Age and believe that it could be as disruptive and transformative for us as the Agricultural Age was for our ancestors[ii].

In 2013, Oxford University published an alarming study predicting that 47% of total US employment could be automated by 2033[iii]. The legal field will not be spared. New tools like Ross[iv], the artificial intelligent program that can produce comprehensive legal research in matter of seconds, or chatbots like Donotpay[v] that can now help anyone fill out transactional forms for maternity leave, landlord contract violations, parking violation and more, are just the tip of the iceberg of the new technology’s potential to surpass lawyers in many of their traditional tasks.

This new reality raises the question of how professionals, and more precisely lawyers, can thrive in the age of Smart machines. According to Hess and Ludwig, we will need to excel at critical, creative and innovative thinking and at genuinely engaging with others, all things that machines can’t do well, at least yet. To achieve high levels of success at these skills, the authors recommend engaging in four key behaviours: quieting the ego, managing the self (one’s thinking and emotions), reflective listening and otherness (emotionally connecting and relating to others).

The importance of Quieting Ego in order to excel

As Hess and Ludwig perfectly explain:

“we all have limited resources, both physical and psychological. If we expend most of our energy on being self-focused, protecting our egos, and trying to look smarter than everyone else in the room, then we won’t have enough energy to do the tough work of thinking critically and innovatively and focusing on and really listening to others, which we know is the key to better learning, thinking and relating[vi].

According to them, the most effective way to quiet our ego is through practicing mindfulness as a way of being more aware and attentive to our environment. For more on the impact of mindfulness practices on human performance, you can read Mindfulness for Beginners by Jon Kabat-Zinn and Focus, the hidden drive of excellence by Daniel Goleman.

Managing self and social sensitivity as a way to better collaborate

Managing our emotions and thinking allows us to engage in the higher-level thinking and behaviour required in the Smart Machine Age. It also allows us to be more socially sensitive, which involves perceiving social cues and contexts in conversation, reading other people’s emotions and being empathetic. These skills have been found to be key to effective collaboration, which will be crucial in the smart machine age as we will depend more than ever on collective intelligence for innovation and problem solving. For lawyers, it also means being receptive to the client’s emotions and thoughts and understanding how to wisely respond to them, something that machines cannot do well.

Hess and Ludwig shed light on two other important skills – reflective listening and otherness – which are deeply intertwined with managing one’s self; according to them, the combination of these skills enable the best kind of human collaboration.

Smart organisation

The book’s last chapter is dedicated to organisations and how they will thrive in the Smart Age Machine. Hess and Ludwig believe that “leaders and managers will be needed to create the right conditions that enable the highest levels of human performance and orchestrate the connectivity and integration of technology and humans in order to create value in constantly evolving environments”[vii]. This means that an organisation’s competitive advantage could likely depend on how well its employee overcome their natural proclivities to be confirmation-biased, and emotionally defensive thinkers.

Further readings

As technology evolves, it will become increasingly important to come up with new ways of staying relevant as humans. Accumulating knowledge will not be good enough anymore. Professionals and lawyers will need to focus on quieting their ego, managing the self, listening reflectively and successfully engaging with others in order to collaborate and think critically and creatively. These are the skills that will underline human excellence in the Smart Machine Age. 

If you are interested in the subject you might want to read the following books:

Amy C. Edmonton, Teaming: How Organizations Learn, Innovate, and Compete in the Knowledge Economy (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass 2014)

Martin Ford, Rise of the Robots: Technology and the Threat of a Jobless Future (New York: Basic, 2015)

Tony Wagner, Most likely to Succeed: Preparing Our Kids for the Innovation Era (New York: Scribner, 2015)

Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee, The Second Machine Age: Work, Progress, and Prosperity in a Time of Brilliant Technologies (New York: Norton, 2014) 

La Conférence Legal.IT 
Si vous désirez en savoir plus, de nombreux événements sont offerts à Montréal et ailleurs. Notamment, le Comité Technologies de l’information (CTI) du Jeune Barreau de Montréal a le plaisir de vous convier à la 12e édition de la Conférence Legal.IT, un évènement qui se déroulera le 23 mars 2018 au Centre des Sciences de Montréal. La conférence est un incontournable pour les professionnels œuvrant dans les technologies. En plus des conférences, Legal.IT est aussi l’occasion pour les professionnels, créateurs numériques et investisseurs engagés dans l’innovation de se rencontrer et de discuter. Les conférences seront également suivies d’un cocktail.

Pour vous inscrire, cliquez ici.



[ii] Hess, Edward and Katherine Ludwig. Humility is the new Smart, Rethinking Human excellence in the Smart Machine Age. Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 2017, p. 1
[vi] Hess, Edward and Katherine Ludwig. Humility is the new Smart, Rethinking Human excellence in the Smart Machine Age. Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 2017, p. 78
[vii] Hess, Edward and Katherine Ludwig. Humility is the new Smart, Rethinking Human excellence in the Smart Machine Age. Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 2017, p. 155

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