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Opinion

Hype or Boring? Everyone let’s calm down.

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There’s nothing like a melodramatic battle to distract us from what’s important. I’ve watched one unfold recently, energetically fought with hashtags and press releases.

In the red corner,  we’ll call our fighter ‘AI Hype’. AI Hype is going to take over your job and make you millions whilst simultaneously predicting serendipitous legal flights of fancy. 

In the blue corner is ‘Back to Basics’, bringing the user back to the centre. Covering a wide range of concepts from the ubiquitous ‘Legal Design’, ‘#bringbackboring’, to design thinking, this is a seasoned campaigner.  ‘Back to Basics’ fights the endless parade of Solutions Looking for Problems; in other words,tech that (mostly) looks good but will gather expensive virtual dust.

So which fighter should you back? Frankly, this is  the wrong question to be asking. It’s like putting a baker and a fisherman in a cage fight, when they would be much better making a delicious tuna sandwich together.The reason you’re being forced to choose between them is because both fighters are suffering from their own hype. Unsurprisingly, the answer lies somewhere in the middle. Cut through the fluff and silliness and you can take advantage of the best of both viewpoints.

We all know putting the user first is Design 101. Listening to your users is essential to design. Calling it ‘boring’ is a misnomer at best. Invest effort here instead of galloping ahead into ‘design jam/sprint/thinking sessions’ and the outcome is guaranteed to be better. Buying a new shiny service straight from the hands of the next ex-lawyer-turned-entrepreneur-start-up that waltzes through your door is a heinous crime to the #bringbackboring crew – and they’re right.

Swing to the other extreme, and you’ll think that AI is the path to new heights of legal brilliance. Except, it’s not. Keep in mind that most things that are billed as AI aren’t at all. AI and machine learning are very much related, but they’re not the same – and there is very little real AI on the planet right now.

Ultimately though, whether it is AI or machine learning is irrelevant. Tech built on this premise might look cool in a demo, but unless it’s solving a well-understood and substantive problem for you, you’ll never reap any benefit anyway. If you need to use tech to solve your problems,  a thorough understanding of what you are trying to achieve is your best weapon to cut through the hype and make intelligent decisions.

To utilise AI or machine learning to their full potential, start by getting back to basics. It’s neither boring nor magic. Ironically, human understanding is the only way to ensure effective use of machine capabilities, not the other way around.

Rae Digby-Morgan

Rae Digby-Morgan is a service design and innovation specialist at Wilson Fletcher, a business innovation consultancy that helps established companies design the strategies, services and experiences needed to succeed in the digital economy.

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