The year is 2020.
The Apocalypse, so anxiously and fearfully awaited on December 21, 2012, failed to happen. The world sighed relief, but it was a doleful sigh, full of melancholy and quiet despair.
Of course, there was no particular paradigm shift or technological innovation that brought us to this point of no return. The Second Great Depression of 2014 left its indelible mark on the global economy; an economy that could not withstand the turbulence of artificial supply and demand. Something had to give.
There were no warning signs that portended the technological singularity. The philosophers among us, were ridiculed; disenfranchised; forgotten. The legislators, chastened by an ever-growing protest movement, succumbed to the whims of the Techno-Elite and the vicissitudes of the politics of compromise. The lawyers, faced with their own economic mortality, succumbed to the Techno-Regulators. “We are all lawyer now” was the message sent on AppNet; the social media juggernaut that soon controlled all industries; banking, financial, manufacturing; its tentacles pressing all buttons; monitoring all communications; deciding wants, desires, and needs based upon government-regulated protocols in the “supranational interest”.
No one was immune to the mass delusion; the crumbling myth of professional status, the word “fiduciary” became an epithet, used by children in the virtual schoolyards and late night talk show hosts on the V-Chip Channel implanted in everyone’s frontal cortex. “Trust us”, said the Social Medials, the new high priests, in a world dominated by a constant electronic signal wired into our brains. The lawyers, rendered more or less obsolete by constitutional amendments to the “right to human or meta-human counsel”, fell to their knees as the middle-class breathed its last, dying breath.
Many knew this day would come, but all buried their collective heads in the sands of billable time; oblivious to the inexorable march of technology.
On March 21, 2020, the X-1 Roboadvocate came off the assembly line with great fanfare. Dignitaries and the homeless alike clamoured to watch the spectacle, as each shiny, metallic component was added on the exo-skeleton, until the final stage of derma-skin was applied to the outer shell. Someone whispered “it looks like a cross between a Terminator and a Kitchen-Aid refrigerator”! “Let’s hope it doesn’t make ice cubes”, retorted another.
Yet, the X-1 was more than a machine. It boasted 1 tetra-byte of memory capacity; and a Jennings RAM processor capable of 1 trillion processes per millisecond. Each X-1 had the entire Library of Congress loaded into its memory sub-systems. Specialized software and proprietary algorithms made it capable of analyzing the most complex legal problems; cross-referencing any laws, regulations, ordinances, cases, law review articles; and V-Chip posts; all within nanoseconds approaching the speed of light.
It did not take long for the slumbering bar associations and law societies to awaken from their hibernation, but by then, it was far too late. Their protestations and recriminations rang hollow. The progression from regulation to deregulation to capitulation had moved too rapidly to halt the inevitable. “We are the trustees of the future”, read the banner draped over the statue of Lady Justice in front of the courtrooms of the nations. There was no trial by ordeal, nor by fire, nor by combat. The few lawyers who refused to yield, by upgrading their cranial implants to interface with the X-1, were considered quaint; nostalgic; misguided.
The last trial conducted by two human lawyers, was an auspicious event. As the parties and their counsel were ushered into the courtroom, they each noticed the inscription over the Grand Legal Chamber entrance which read:
“Deus ex machina, Deus ex causidicus”
All of the main stream media outlets (and by “all” of course, meaning owned and controlled by AppNet and its affiliates), plugged into the virtual reality stream to witness the end of an era. The case itself was unremarkable, involving an acrimonious dispute between two rival neighbours over the disputed height of a mutually shared fence. The judge, Justice David Redd, of the North American Unified Court, asked the opposing lawyers why they had not chosen to settle the case, or use the online dispute resolution system available to all litigants that had not yet purchased an X-1. The lawyers stood up, together, and looked at each other, and then one of them, Samuel Cogley, spoke: “Your Honour, we are Lawyers. We have learned the Law as much as the Law can teach us. We seek justice for our clients; how one defines justice at this point is immaterial. Your decision will determine our clients’ respective rights and obligations. We are in your hands.”
The well of the courtroom was empty, as usual, as all trials were now public and broadcast globally on AppNet servers.
Then a strange thing happened.
The judge, appeared pensive, listening intently to both lawyers arguments. Then suddenly, Judge Redd stood up and began to gesticulate wildly; his arms flailing with uncontrollable abandon. The court clerk, nodding off, was jolted into action, and rushed towards the bench to lend assistance to His Honour. The judge then spoke in a disembodied monotone:
“Reboot, protocol 10100101. All systems reconfiguring. Please stand by.”