What’s In A Number? The U.S. Census Poverty Report & How Game Theory Is Replacing Lawyers

Economists use complex computer models to predict upswings and downturns in the global economy, and as a basis for problem-solving when it comes to crises and joblessness.

Via similar predictive technology, on Tuesday, the government released data that confirmed how dire the economic situation continues to be.

According to a poverty report by the U.S. Census Bureau, last year’s poverty rate of 15.1 percent was the highest level reached in America in 17 years.  Approximately 46 million people were classified as poor in 2010, with the median annual income dropping by more than two percent to $49,445.

The key factor attributed to the economic decline was a continued lack of jobs (we’re not surprised, either). You’d think the nation’s best minds and technology could uncover numbers and trends that are a little less obvious.

And they can.

Less noticeable, behind the scenes, some sectors are, in fact, experiencing some growth. In comes, the technology sector.

The problem is, innovation in technology may actually help to continue joblessness in America. Here’s why.

Take, for instance, an invention by Bruce Bueno de Mesquita. He created a computer software that simulates what economists call “Game Theory.” Game theory predicts how events will unfold by using the presumption that individuals or companies act in their perceived best interest.

Bueno de Mesquita runs a consulting agency that uses this system of game theory-based numerical modeling, and he’s quite successful at it.

“Most decision-making advice is political, in the broadest sense of the word—how best to outfox a trial prosecutor, sway a jury, win support from shareholders or woo alienated voters by shuffling a political coalition and making legislative concessions,” The Economist reports on Bueno de Mesquita’s practice.

Although a consulting agency would need to provide costly training and expertise to operate these computer programs, the software can solve problems at far higher speeds and efficiency than the average human being.

In the field of law, you can only begin to imagine the immediate and concrete applications of this.

“’[Mediation and negotiation] software is now emerging.’ Barry O’Neill, a game theorist at the University of California, Los Angeles, describes how it can facilitate divorce settlements,” writes The Economist.

“’A husband and wife are each given a number of points which they secretly allocate to household assets they desire. The wife may inform the software that her valuation of the family car is, say, 15 points. If the husband puts the car’s value at 10 points, he cannot later claim that he deserves more compensation for not getting the car than she would be entitled to.’”

What’s clear is that the economy is in poor sorts, and economists are working toward solutions to end poverty via better technology, innovation, and efficiency.

What’s not so predictable, however, is the discovery that improving technology and its resourcefulness—particularly for legal services—may work to reduce the number of lawyers and professionals, not increase it.

So, are avatar lawyers really too space age for today, or are they rapidly becoming a reality?



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