Mar 20 2018

Artificial intelligence, or AI, already is a part of everyday life, and its impact goes beyond Siri and Alexa—companies increasingly are turning to AI to process information, interact with customers and make key business decisions. This growing reliance on AI creates new legal questions, many of which have yet to be answered.

Womble Bond Dickinson’s International Innovation Week continued on March 20 with a firm-wide discussion on “AI in Business - Use and Ethics.” The discussion was led by Womble Bond Dickinson Atlanta Office lawyer Ted Claypoole and Phil Westcott, Co-Managing Director of Filament, an AI consulting company. Womble Bond Dickinson Raleigh Office lawyer Liz Riley opened the session.

“In this world of AI, you are going to get new business models and new opportunities,” Westcott said. For example, companies already are using AI-powered chatbots to interact with customers online. AI also is used for research and discovery, reviewing and analyzing large volumes of documents.

Computer vision can be employed to review video. “This is going to be a huge area,” Westcott said. For example, he said police could use AI to review video security footage to help identify suspects.

Typically, AI used in a business setting will be supervised by people, Westcott said.

“AI is not going to become robots that directly replace humans,” he said. Instead, he envisions artificial intelligence used to address mundane tasks in order to free up people for high-value work.

Claypoole said AI already is forcing the legal system to pose previously unanticipated questions. For example, a self-driving Uber car struck and killed a pedestrian in Arizona earlier this week. AI has no legal status, so who is responsible—the driver? Uber? The programmer?

Other AI-related questions Claypoole posed included:

  • Can artificial intelligence (such as customer service bots) enter into contracts either for you or with you?
  • As in the Uber case, who is responsible for the actions of an AI “decision” when something goes wrong?
  • What is the status of art and designs created by AI? Who owns this intellectual property?
  • How does the legal notion of privacy change in an environment in which devices are constantly monitoring users’ actions and collecting data on them?
  • What are the insurance considerations of using AI?
  • What about the impact of AI replacing or reducing the need for humans in certain job types and the resulting potential job losses?

One thing is certain, though—artificial intelligence, and the legal questions it raises, aren’t going away.

“AI is going to be a constant voice in our head, figuratively or literally,” Westcott said. “You’ll get so used to it that you won’t see it. Like electricity, it will be an invisible service.”

Womble Bond Dickinson will host a number of events on innovative technology, evolving business practices and new ways to engage clients during International Innovation Week, which runs from March 19-23.

Click here to learn more about International Innovation Week at Womble Bond Dickinson. And follow all the action on Twitter using the hashtag #WBDInnovate.

Ted Claypoole is a senior member of Womble Bond Dickinson’s Intellectual Property Practice Group and leads the firm's Privacy and Data Protection Industry Team. He negotiates and prepares data management, business process outsourcing and e-commerce agreements for his clients. Claypoole routinely talks to business and legal associations across the country on data security issues and is a frequent author on the topic.