The Terminator has a lot to answer for

By Matthew Briggs In About TLS

With the first trial of online dispute resolution (ODR) in the UK’s courts and tribunals, the justice system seeks to grasp digitisation as an opportunity to maintain and improve access to justice. But some people will undoubtedly find the changes hard to swallow.

In 1984 James Cameron introduced us to The Terminator – a muscle-bound robot from the future hell-bent on destroying the human race, all whilst looking cool in a leather jacket and pair of sunglasses. A cinematic classic it may have been, but The Terminator has done very little for human-computer relations in the 30+ years that have followed.

In fact, you’d be hard-pressed to find a science fiction book or film that portrays computers or artificial intelligence in a positive light. The Matrix. Total Recall. I, Robot. All have been full of digital foreboding and impending cyber-doom.

Investigate the unknown. Don’t fear it
Our relationship with technology has often been one of fear – a fear of the unknown; a fear of faceless, automated systems that we believe take control from us.

This can be seen in the response from many who oppose the introduction of self-driving cars. Despite the fact that this innovation will almost certainly reduce the number of deaths (2,000) and serious injuries (80,000) that occur every year on UK roads due to driver error, polls have shown that up to 60% of people expressed concerns about travelling in a driverless vehicle.

We find this type of response understandable, but also frustrating at times. Nevertheless, it is the responsibility of technology to prove itself beyond reasonable doubt in order for it to be adopted.

From the concept of Internet banking to insurance comparison websites, scepticism has always been a hurdle that can only be overcome through good, solid proof and the normalisation of the new. Once it becomes part of the furniture, so to speak, technology simply becomes part of our daily lives – just look at how many of us now find it hard to imagine life without smartphones and mobile devices.

As the first trials of online dispute resolution begin, those who have championed the idea of an “online continuous hearing” such as Sir Ernest Ryder have suggested that “Digitisation presents an opportunity to break with processes that are no longer optimal or relevant.”

While it is important to be aware of the potential drawbacks associated with digital technologies, we should not simply ignore the benefits they offer merely because we wish to maintain the status quo.

As Sir Ernest said in a recent speech, the justice system should “build on the best that we have to eliminate structural design flaws and perhaps even the less attractive aspects of litigation culture.”

This resonates with us at The Law Superstore as we too believe that the inevitable move towards a more digitally savvy era should facilitate an honest appraisal of all those aspects that do and don’t work in the existing legal constructs.

Just like the ODR, we are not just trying to deliver something that is not only more accessible for the end user but is better at solving problems for both the profession and for the people it serves.

As artist Michael John Bobak said, “All progress takes place outside the comfort zone."

If you would like to find out more about The Law Superstore, you can visit or join us at one of our roadshows around the UK, via Eventbrite.

This article was first posted on LinkedIn

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