03 July 2017

Roads, bridges, and big-data

Published on 03 July 2017

By Conrad Karageorge 

When we think of infrastructure, we so often think of the physical; bridges, roads, and telephones poles, engineering feats necessary for us to do anything in modern society.

But nowadays, it’s not just the physical that underpins our every activity. The internet may perhaps be the biggest example of this. Without the internet, modern society crumbles. So it is for internet infrastructure so it will be for big-data.

At this point we should define what data actually means, data is anything and everything that can be recorded; numbers, words, actions, documents, videos, if you can observe an action or thing, and record its properties, it’s data.

So why is data so important now?

While last century data was important, it was mostly academics and statisticians doing algebra in dusty campuses and office buildings. This is because big-data is almost impossible to collect physically.

That’s all changed now due to the internet.

It is now much easier to gain access to data due to the ability to train bots to monitor website activity. This allows for significant data collection, previously unable to be physically recorded. This information is then stored, sorted and analysed by premade algorithms.

This mammoth amount of data can be used to predict and target ads for products, to customer needs and wants. It can also be used to build new products which are scientifically determined by data to be loved by a customer or their demographic and then marketed at the exact time a customer wants to buy it.

Without access to underlying data, none of this is possible. Without data, companies can no longer operate competitively. And this isn’t just for marketing, data is for everything from setting interest rates to preventing tiredness in car drivers.

It’s no longer a nice to have, it’s a need to have.

So what does this mean for the law?

Good question: the practice of law is one of the areas where data will make the biggest impact. This is already occurring in evidence gathering; eDiscovery is so prevalent in litigation now that the ‘e’ has become redundant. But that’s the internal, I believe the bigger impact will come through the generation and analysis of public big-data.
It’s one of the hallmarks of a good legal system that information is available to all, with the result being that most government or legal decisions are accessible in one format or another. The problem is that all this data is built on last century infrastructure, old web 1.0 formats. It’s like a soviet era bridge, you’re not going to risk it, it isn’t safe or reliable. The bots can’t work on this data yet; so we can’t access the benefits…yet!

That’s kind of where we come in. One of my jobs is to collect legal data from hundreds of different sources and correlate it into a single place. To fix the bridge so bots can drive over it.

If we can achieve this, we can begin to understand how the law is affecting everyone, and in what capacity. From there we can use this data to craft new solutions, to better advise our clients and provide this advice exactly when people need it. Big-data builds a more just society.

If you’re tired of hearing about how AI will kill your job, don’t worry, until we update our data infrastructure, this isn’t happening. You can’t build trains without tracks, we can’t build tomorrow’s legal system without today's data.


About the Author

Conrad Karageorge

Conrad Karageorge is Managing Director of legal data-analytics company Jurimetrics.