AI Assistants and Natural Intelligence Assistants

By Scott Frey posted 05-08-2018 19:42

[Some notes for a future article on AI assistants and information professionals:]

Even 500 years ago, it was impossible for one person to read everything that was published in the world.  See  Today, I doubt that all the information professionals in the world could collectively read (or watch or listen to) all of the published media in the world.

Librarians assist; but librarians also need assistance.  So we use search engines for databases, in order to find relevant materials.  We also ask questions to people with expertise in information in general or subject matter in particular.  And we do professional reading and attend professional events in order to learn how to better assist.

But I think we as librarians, and society in general, have reached the point where we need -- and are starting to get -- assistance from artificial intelligence.  AI seems to be everywhere now.  The common thread among Mark Zuckerberg's recent Capitol Hill testimony ( and this week's Microsoft Build and Google I/O conferences ( was AI.  Moreover, AI is starting to permeate the law library ( and law practice (

In the future, perhaps librarians will be called "natural intelligence assistants."  We will use our "natural intelligence," abetted by artificial intelligence assistants (whether general like Alexa, Cortana, Google Assistant, Siri, or other chatbots, or law-specific like CARA, Clerk, EVA, Fastcase's AI Sandbox, Lex Machina, or some legal chatbot of the future), to assist people in finding the information they need.  We will be "intelligence assistants" in that we connect people with information to supplement their preexisting knowledge and in that we advise them how to better find information (in significant part via AI assistants).

[As long as the AI assistants don't team up with Terminator robots to destroy us NI assistants, we should be fine.]