Our society is going digital. What is digital transformation? It is a change towards adopting innovative technology and methods. With instant access to information and the ability to transact electronically, technology has caused the world to shrink. We are more connected than ever before.
Over the past few years Artificial Intelligence (AI) has exploded – especially since 2015. AI is the ability of computer algorithms to generate conclusions without direct human input. The application of these concepts has now become more mainstream. The Internet of Things (IoT), which include inexpensive computational power, exponential growth in the capability of technology and the volume of cheap and accessible data has made more people around the globe purchase smartphones and other gadgets which link them to the web. IoT will only grow greater with time.
Future of Professions
It is only a matter of years until most of our systems, processes and activities go completely digital. There is no doubt that with the rapid advances in automation, robotics and AI, many of the white-collar and blue-collar jobs will face extinction in the coming years. The dispute resolution profession also will not escape this disruptive trend. As estimated by Deloitte, around 39% of jobs would be replaced in legal services and around 6% of jobs are predicted to be replaced in the next 5 years.
A machine is capable of processing, analysing and objectively providing solutions and/or recommendations based on algorithms that can eliminate human error. But it will take some more time to make decisions based on the emotional and unknown – that is what makes us human. AI cannot replace cognitive human reasoning and thinking. A machine will never replace humans, for they are not independent rational beings, at least in the near future (hopefully). They are devoid of compassion, feelings, empathy and life.
But the fact remains that AI will invade many areas and many of the activities and jobs we see now will become obsolete. With the pace in which AI is developing, no one would be able to predict the future; however, we can connect the dots and patterns to get a glimpse of what the future may look like. Disruption continues and all levels of professions and businesses are facing the impact. IBM's Watson has already given a jittery in the medical field. AI is slowly transforming the legal field too and closing in on the work of paralegals, legal researchers and litigators. AI-based technology like eBrevia use natural language processing and machine learning to extract textual data and guide lawyers in analysis. It is said that it can analyse more than 50 documents in less than one minute and 10% more accurately than manual review process. Lex Machina's Legal Analytics Platform has a variety of features that are said to be of assistance to lawyers in furthering their legal strategy.
But the goal of AI is not to replace professionals entirely, but to give them better decision-making tools. AI should integrate with the human element and not replace it altogether.
What does the Future Demand?
The digital world moves fast and into unfamiliar territory creating a need for you to adapt quickly. Today you need to be prepared to learn daily, to challenge how things were done yesterday and get ready to apply new approaches today. If you continue to be a "Luddite", which is now a blanket term used to describe people who dislike new technology, you may find yourself totally unfit to survive in the new world. We have to make a conscious effort to grow in our lives and careers. Over the next decade, AI won't replace professionals, but professionals who use AI will replace those who don't!
We need to understand the seismic shifts that are taking place and quickly adapt. It is about anticipating future trends and client needs by being aware, predictive and flexible to the changing scenario. It is not enough to ask clients what they need today. Henry Ford had said, "If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses". Therefore, innovation beyond client expectation is the key for survival – envisioning to understand what they need tomorrow.
Along with the advancement of AI and robotics, we also need to account for the resultant change in the tech-culture of the society. Future belongs to the world of "digital natives". Digital natives are people born around the time the personal computer was introduced and have spent their whole lives connected with technology. The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) estimated in 2015 that 30% of the world's youth are digital natives and over the next 5 years the number of digital natives will be more than double. They have become so attuned with AI-based life style, that even for simple things and habits in life, they are now dependent on AI-based voice assistants like Amazon Alexa, Microsoft Cortana, Apple Siri or Google Assistant. A recent report by "The Economist" confirmed that most consumers expect a business to be available 24/7. They demand a continuous and quick service. It can be made possible only with AI-assistance.
The Future of Dispute Resolution?
The twentieth century saw the rise of arbitration as the preferred method of dispute resolution in comparison to court litigation, due most preferred dispute resolution method, due to the convenience it gave to the parties, apart from the level of autonomy in the selection and the subject expertise of the arbitrators and the finality and executability of the final award in domestic and cross-border jurisdictions. But the twenty-first century gave more impetus to mediation, which gave absolute autonomy and decision-making power to the parties empowering them with the comfort of not only deciding the outcome of the dispute but also how to handle the same.
A new brand of professionals called "Mediators" evolved, which originated not only from the legal field, but from all fields of professions. Mediators can succeed only with their exceptional ability to craft intelligent, strategic decisions based on available information through the parties, without imposing the same on them. They need to emphasize and demonstrate their creative abilities, their leadership skills and their strategic thinking to a much greater degree. Mediation is both science and art. It comprises of many principles including conversational techniques, negotiation techniques, neuro-scientific and neuro-linguistic knowledge, body-language techniques, hypnosis, etc. The art of compiling this knowledge and applying it at the appropriate time makes mediation process moving and successful.
In the era of AI, what would be the mediator's role? As stated earlier, in the near future AI may not replace cognitive human reasoning and thinking and they would be devoid of compassion, feelings, empathy and life. We are still quite some time from robots being so advanced that they can replace complex tasks such as persuading or negotiating, communication, emotional and social intelligence, creativity, innovative thinking, empathy, critical thinking, collaboration and cognitive flexibility, which will become the most sought-after abilities. So one can expect that Mediation would be a sought-after profession!
But with the digital natives, you can't afford to be just human, you need to be human with super-human capabilities. You need to be available 24/7 and you need to be available at their finger-tips. The new smart will be determined not by what or how you know, but by the quality of your thinking, listening, relating, collaborating and learning. The interactions with technology are becoming more conversational and more relational. Subsequently the devises we use are increasingly expected to interact with its users the way people interact with one another.
We are approaching a new world order, which will function vastly different from what we know today and it will be unwise to try and govern it with the same mindset that worked for us over the last few centuries. Today we need technology that work with us, that supports us to make minimal errors and improves the outcome, so as to make the lives of human better. AI and automation promise to be the biggest technological shift in our lifetime. AI is augmenting our capabilities, allowing us to do more, with better accuracy, in less time.
Peacegate – Opening the Gate to Harmony and Efficiency is Dispute Resolution
Peacegate is a digital initiative of the Indian Institute of Arbitration & Mediation (IIAM), empowering people to resolve disputes by way of negotiation, mediation or arbitration. It is a first of its kind attempt to bring in automation and AI and to make dispute resolution process by negotiation, mediation and arbitration available to people in their smart phones and helping mediators and arbitrators to do mediation and arbitration with automated and AI-assistance to make minimal errors and with high efficiency. The App has the options for Online Negotiation, Online Mediation, Mediation through Centre, Online Arbitration and Arbitration through Centre. The App is available on Play Store for android devices and on App Store for apple devices. The web version is available in www.peacegate.in.
If you prefer to opt for Online Negotiation, you can enter the mobile number of the person with whom you would like to negotiate and an SMS invitation / notification will be issued to the other side. On acceptance, you will receive a notification and negotiation can be commenced online. The entire conversation in the chat room gets deleted on exiting the chat room, maintaining complete confidentiality/ privacy of the process. If the other person refuses to communicate, or if the negotiation fails, you can end negotiation and can opt to refer the dispute for mediation. You can also opt for mediation directly, without opting for negotiation.
In mediation, you can have the option to mediate the dispute with the assistance of a mediator online, or can choose a mediation centre from the App – the App will provide the list/ map of various mediation centres near you and on selecting the mediation centre, you will get the list of mediators enlisted in the centre. You can go through the profile of the mediator and select the mediator. Once the mediator accepts his appointment, the App will initiate the process by registering the dispute, allotting the number and will issue the "Invitation to Mediate" to the opposite party by SMS/Email, with copy to you and the mediator, with the details of venue, date and time. The App will also help the mediator to block the date and time and book the room in the centre for mediation. The App also helps the parties and the mediator to reschedule the meeting through the App itself. The registration fee and mediation fee can also be paid online through the App, by card, net-banking or wallet payment. The App will also provide the details of pending mediation, where you can get the details of all parties, lawyers (if any), Mediator(s), Mediation Centre, Proceedings/Status of mediation etc. You can contact the parties, lawyers, mediator(s) or mediation centre over phone or by email through the interface of the App.
The App will guide the Mediator to conduct mediation as per the approved process of mediation and help the mediator to issue reports and certificates. The App will also function as a Record book to indicate the progress and stage of the mediation and can also work as a log book indicating the hours of mediation. The Settlement agreement will also be generated by the App itself making sure that all mandatory legal requirements of a settlement agreement are satisfied, so that the human error is eliminated.
For maintaining the accreditation and credibility of mediators, the App will also allow the mediator to collect the feedback form from the parties and the App will submit the same to the Reviewer for preparing the Mediator's Feedback Digest [As per the guidelines of the International Mediation Institute (IMI)]. The mediator can also obtain the Skill Evaluation form from the Co-Mediator and Lawyers through the App itself. The parties also have the option to invoke complaint process against the mediator, in case of any violation of ethical issues or code of conduct. Similarly, the App will assist the Arbitrator to conduct online arbitration as per the approved process and help the arbitrator to issue procedural orders, notices and reports. The App will also function as a Record book to indicate the progress and stage of arbitration. The Arbitral Award will also be generated through the App.
Peacegate also helps mediators to start their professional mediation practice. The mediator can use his space to conduct mediation and affiliate with Peacegate to make it an Approved Mediation Access Point (AMAP) and Mediator's profile and office space will be integrated in the App for availing mediation service by users. The App will also serve as a virtual office assisting and guiding the mediator on all mediations registered through the App. With uniform mediation standard, quality and competency services and uniform complaint and grievance mechanisms, the App will provide credibility and accessibility to mediation.
Another important feature of Peacegate App is providing the parties with an AI-assisted virtual guide called "Peegee". When it comes to disputes, people are more often confused. It is not always the access to justice that matters in resolving a dispute. More than that, it is about access to information and support to help people with options and possibilities that can be used to resolve disputes. "Peegee" will help parties to analyse their dispute and identify the best possible mode of dispute resolution through AI. The Conflict Analysis Report is a system towards access to justice, where a person's dispute is analysed, the criteria for effective dispute resolution is applied, and the appropriate match is made between the dispute and mode of dispute resolution and thereby suggesting the most suitable manner of resolving such disputes.
The Way Forward
There is no doubt that many traditional systems are being swept away by the tsunami of new, more cutting-edge technology. In the book, "The Future Computed: Artificial Intelligence and its role in society", released by Microsoft, it is mentioned that technology – including mobile devices and cloud computing – has fundamentally changed the way we consume news, plan our day, communicate, shop and interact with our family, friends and colleagues. And two decades from now, what will our world look like? It is said by 2038, personal digital assistants will be trained to anticipate our needs, help manage our schedule, prepare us for meetings, assist as we plan our social lives, reply to and route communications, and drive cars.
So, as Dispute Resolution Professionals, we also need to adapt to the technological revolution. The best way to expand our intelligence is to expand our wisdom. Intelligence is enriched by wisdom. Intelligence can be defined as general cognitive problem-solving skill; wisdom can be understood as the use of intelligence so as to bring better outcomes and benefits to other people, ourselves and the natural world. As we all tread towards a future interlaced with AI, there is an increased demand for a more human touch in AI. We have to incorporate AI and coexist with machines that will become invaluable partners in solving real problems. Let us become a better brand and better version of ourselves. Let us welcome the new age of dispute resolution!
This article was written in December 2019. We saw a different world order after December 2019. A pneumonia of unknown cause was detected in Wuhan, China and was reported to the World Health Organization Country Office in China on 31 December 2019. In January it was identified as a novel corona virus and the outbreak was declared a Public Health Emergency of International Concern on 30 January 2020. On 11th February the WHO named the disease as COVID-19 and on 11th March it was confirmed as a pandemic by the WHO. Now COVID-19 is affecting more than 209 countries and territories around the world. As on 9th April, 15,24,375 cases and 88,965 deaths have been reported all over the world due to this rare disease and the entire globe has practically gone into a total lockdown for almost a month. And we are not yet sure as to what is in store for us and as to when things would go back to normalcy.
Now, during a complete lockdown many things which we considered significant seems to be not so vital and things can be viewed through a different lens. It would be a good time to reflect about human relationships, conflicts and justice and as to how important conflict is and how we should deal with it. We would realise that what we fight for or seek to achieve may not be as that important as we perceive. According to UN Reports, the global economy could shrink by up to 1 percent in 2020 due to the COVID pandemic, a reversal from the previous forecast of 2.5 percent growth. Millions of people around the globe are facing the prospect of losing their jobs. Looking at the now well-known Johns Hopkins dashboard online it seems that COVID-19 is here to stay longer and could affect us deeper than what we were ready to accept. There is going to be an inevitable global slowdown in business and consequential economic downturn.
The concept of justice and the access to justice will also be a different ball game. The luxury of time and money will not be available to people. Similarly, the prospects of bringing everyone connected with a dispute along with their advisers or lawyers to one single place to redress the dispute can also be difficult, not only because of logistical and travel restrictions, but also due to financial constraints.
As Eckhart Tolle has said, Adversity is a wonderful opportunity because it forces you to go deeper. There can be no doubt that mediation can play a positive role in both preventing and amicably resolving disputes, but online could prove to be a better option. As Dispute Resolution Professionals, this would be the appropriate time for us to adapt to the technological revolution and shift our focus on online dispute resolution methods. I urge all of you to experiment your dispute resolution option with Peacegate. As the political slogan says, "Workers of the world, unite! You have nothing to lose but your chains!", ADR professionals unite, there is nothing to lose!
As an epilogue I would just narrate a small episode – in March 1876 Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone, but later during the same year when the news reached Britain, the Chief Engineer at the British Post Office said, "The Americans have need for the telephone, but we do not. We have plenty of messenger boys.". Let us not have the audacity to say the same thing. Times are changing!
Anil Xavier is the President of Indian Institute of Arbitration & Mediation and the Vice-President of India International ADR Association. He is practicing as an advocate in India since 1991. He is the Chairman of the Accreditation Committee of the Asian Mediation Association (AMA) and a member of the Ethics Committee and Independent Standards Commission of the International Mediation Institute (IMI), at the Hague, Netherlands. He is the first IMI Certified Mediator (International Mediation Institute) from India and is empanelled as an International Accredited Mediator with the Singapore International Mediation Centre, Singapore, Florence International Mediation Centre, Italy, Mainland-Hong Kong Joint Mediation Center, China, Japan International Mediation Center in Kyoto, Japan and International Dispute Resolution & Risk Management Institute, Hong Kong.