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Shaping Canada's Future through Law and Advocacy in the Era of AI and the 4th Industrial Revolution

  • November 30, 2023
  • Yoann Emian

We find ourselves at a pivotal moment in history as the Fourth Industrial Revolution unfolds before us however it is easy to underestimate its significance because we are immersed in its transformative currents. The Fourth Industrial Revolution is a period characterized by the convergence of our most advanced technologies, forging powerful tools that amplify the inherent capabilities nature has bestowed upon us. Deep learning, genomics, cognitive computing, DeepDream, scene reconstruction, object detection, event detection, activity recognition, video tracking, object recognition, motion estimation, visual servoing, 3D scene modeling, image restoration, biotechnology, the Internet, and 3D printing, all supported by artificial intelligence, are the engines of this revolution.

For an innovation to qualify as a catalyst for an industrial revolution, it must meet four essential criteria. First, it must bring about a profound change in methods of production and manufacturing, much like the steam engine revolutionized factories and transportation during the first industrial revolution. Second, it must trigger economic upheaval marked by accelerated growth, increased productivity, and the transformation of existing industries, leading to the creation of new sectors and markets, as illustrated by electricity and the oil industry during the second industrial revolution. Third, it should have social and demographic consequences. The novelty must reshape employment patterns, promote education and training, stimulate debate, and foster social mobility, even catalyzing significant labour migration movements. Fourth, it must leave a lasting technological footprint, similar to the computer revolution during the third industrial revolution.

Canada at the forefront of AI-driven transformation

In the past four decades, artificial intelligence has become a cornerstone of modern life and a driving force behind the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Canada is at the forefront of this transformation, with significant contributions in AI, green technology, and startups. Canada's progress in these areas is underpinned by a strong venture capital sector that has been driving Canada's economic growth, with investments increasing from $1.8 billion USD in 2014 to $9.4 billion USD in 2021. This surge was supported by government initiatives like the Venture Capital Action Plan and Venture Capital Catalyst Initiative. These programs played a crucial role in revitalizing Canada's venture capital landscape and enhancing its innovation ecosystem.

The venture capital and AI landscapes are rapidly evolving, profoundly affecting various sectors including the legal field in Canada. The development of AI, led by Canadian pioneers like Geoffrey Hinton (the Godfather of AI), Ilya Sutskever (co-founder of OpenAI), Alex Krizhevsky (designer of AlexNet), and Aidan Gomez (contributor to the transformer project at Google), has seen applications in diverse areas like machine translation, document summarization, document generation, named entity recognition, biological sequence analysis, writing computer code, and video understanding. This growth presents both opportunities and challenges, significantly impacting the Canadian legal landscape. As AI becomes more integrated into society, it raises complex issues for lawmakers, including concerns about disinformation, privacy breaches, biased decision-making, AI militarization, economic inequalities, democratic erosion, monopolistic practices, job losses, and ethical dilemmas. Addressing these issues requires concerted efforts from policymakers, technologists, and legal professionals to navigate the intricate interplay between AI advancements and societal impacts.

The role of the legal community extends beyond traditional boundaries

We must anticipate the evolution of collaboration between humans and thinking machines and prepare for its impact on our daily lives, especially in our work. AI has already infiltrated various fields. Scientists from different disciplines, from genetics to physics, entrust AI with data analysis, yielding precise conclusions and accurate models. AI controls automation systems, manages machine maintenance, and optimizes processes in areas ranging from transportation to energy distribution. AI has become indispensable in the financial sector, aiding traders, fund managers, and bankers in navigating complex economic landscapes. Furthermore, advanced chatbot versions are used in mental therapy to support patients and facilitate preliminary diagnoses.

In this evolving landscape, the role of the legal community extends beyond traditional boundaries. Lawyers have become pioneers, navigating the complex nexus of technology, law, and society. Discussions on AI, data protection, and fair economic policies require concerted efforts from lawyers to advocate for modernized regulatory frameworks. This proactive involvement goes beyond professional duty; it represents a societal responsibility to ensure that as Canada progresses in this technological era, its legal frameworks evolve in parallel to protect the interests of citizens and the nation's economic integrity.

Lawyers must engage in these dialogues and understand the implications of AI and technology on law and societal norms. Challenges such as job displacement due to automation call for a reevaluation of labour laws, while the power gap between the public and private sectors, especially regarding data access and AI training capabilities, requires a strong legal framework to ensure fairness and justice. Through informed advocacy and collaboration with technologists and policymakers, lawyers must be ready to navigate the complex realm of AI, ensuring that as technology advances, so does justice.

Ensuring integration of AI across sectors adheres to ethical and legal standards

Within the healthcare system, the deployment of AI broadens horizons with its predictive analytics, diagnostic capabilities, and personalized medicine approaches. Sybil and Cyto-AiSCAN can detect early signs of cancer. These advances promise substantial improvements in healthcare delivery. However, they also raise complex issues concerning data privacy, consent, and algorithmic bias. Here, the role of legal professionals specializing in medical law becomes crucial. They should serve as the pivot to ensure that the integration of AI into healthcare adheres to ethical and legal standards, thus protecting the rights and interests of patients.

Transitioning to the employment and labour sector, the AI narrative unfolds another tale. The automation of routine tasks through AI tools like ChatGPT is a double-edged sword. While one edge sharpens efficiency and productivity in workplaces, the other casts a shadow of job displacement. Practitioners in labour and employment law are at the forefront of this narrative, advocating for policies that counter adverse employment impacts. Their advocacy should aim to smooth the transition of workers into new roles amid evolving workforce dynamics, ensuring fairness and equity in employment practices.

In the financial sphere, the infusion of AI significantly aids in risk assessment and asset management, marking a step toward improved financial operations. However, this step requires a strong legal framework to uphold transparency, accountability, and fairness. Lawyers with a strong background in financial regulation should be the torchbearers in creating and enforcing such legal frameworks. Their expertise is pivotal in preventing AI-induced financial misconduct, providing a safety net for individual investors and the broader economic ecosystem.

The AI narrative extends to the education sector, where its integration into educational platforms rewrites conventional teaching and learning methods. AI promises a realm of personalized learning experiences, transcending the one-size-fits-all model. However, this promise is not without concerns, especially around data privacy, accessibility, and algorithmic fairness. Legal professionals should assume the responsibility of ensuring that AI-driven educational technologies comply with legal and ethical standards. Their diligence should foster a fair educational environment, ensuring that the benefits of AI in education are accessible to all.

An indispensable synergy between law, advocacy, and economic policies

The domains, sectors, and legal fields delineated herein represent merely a fractional glimpse of the extensive impact Artificial Intelligence is poised to exert on both our societal framework and the legal landscape. What about intellectual property disputes in business law arising from AI-created content? Potential biases and errors in immigration decision-making due to AI's involvement? The risk of falsifying evidence in civil litigation through AI-generated documents or images? Wrongful convictions in criminal law through flawed evidence analysis? AI's role in misrepresenting financial assets or personal information in family law cases? Influence on property appraisals and market predictions, impacting real estate law? AI's involvement in complicating tax evasion detection in taxation law? The impact on estate planning and trust management, potentially causing disputes in trusts and estates law?

It is imperative for legal professionals to ascend to the exigencies of this transformative epoch, contributing assiduously towards forging a more secure and propitious future for the Canadian society. The evolving contours of the Fourth Industrial Revolution underscore the indispensable synergy between law, advocacy, and economic policies to guide Canada through the global economic landscape. The collective efforts of the legal community, policymakers, and industry players are essential to ensure that Canada not only stays afloat but also skillfully navigates these global currents.

By fostering informed advocacy, developing strategic economic policies, and establishing a forward-looking legal framework, Canada can significantly enhance its economic resilience, global leadership, and societal well-being in this dynamic industrial era. As Canada looks toward the future marked by this industrial revolution, collaboration among the fields of law, technology, and economics will continue to be crucial in navigating the dynamic complexities of the global economy.

About the author

head-shot photo of author Yoann EmianYoann Emian is a law graduate from both the Civil Law and Common Law Sections of the University of Ottawa. He is registered as a licensing candidate with the Law Society of Ontario and the State Bar of California. His areas interest include entrepreneurship, startups, venture capital, and private equity. He serves as the newsletter editor for the OBA’s Student Section. In his personal time, he is an advocate for mental health, children's rights, and the rights of marginalized groups.