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19.Confessions of a cyber conveyancer

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Now we’re officially past the point when we should be wishing people a happy new year, it’s time to get back to the real world.  The good news is the initial signs from the property market are that it’s nothing like the car crash that the media have been predicting.

So no surprises there, then.

Even better news is that in addition to those green shoots of property optimism, we’ve seen technology that is going to change all our lives, and yes, that does include conveyancers.

I’ve always described technology as being a cruel mistress, but now is the time to forget any preconceived ideas that might conjure up, because this stuff is more akin to a Glenn Close’s, bunny-boiler kind of thing, in Fatal Attraction.  Exciting and frankly, a little terrifying in equal measure.

Go on then, spill the beans

Sticking to the movie theme, if you’ve seen The Imitation Game, you’ll know that Alan Turing possessed one of the most brilliant minds of our time.  In 1950, he invented the concept of the “Turing Test”, which in basic terms measured technology effectiveness.  The idea was that if a human could communicate with a machine but didn’t realise it, the test was passed.

At the risk of understating its importance, this is a pretty vital concept, but 70 years later, the general consensus was that we are still decades away from it being passed.

Or are we?  Over Christmas, when everyone else was fighting over the last “Purely Purple” ( yes, that’s what they are called ) Quality Street, we’ve been studying technology that could be a challenger and considering its impact on the lives of conveyancers, and we’re quite excited.

Instead of bleating on about abstract concepts, in true “Confessions” style, I wanted to share a real world situation to show why it could be pretty important.  I’ve been trying to sell my house ( turns out its quite tricky ) and on Tuesday received the following email from my agent.

Good morning, hope you are both well.  I have a buyer with no chain and could be proceedable with cash.  Would you be happy for me to show them 5th 6th or 7th Jan?

Paula Edwards

I figured, what the heck, let’s see how the computer might respond, so I asked it to reply to this email.  This is what came back.

“Hello Paula

Thank you for reaching out. I am happy to allow you to show the property to your buyer on any of the dates you mentioned. Please let me know if there is anything else I can do to facilitate the process.”

Really, is that it – a quick email?

Interesting, huh?

Which is probably one of the biggest understatements you will ever read.  This is not just “interesting” but revolutionary.  This simple email response is a glimpse into what I’ve been banging on about for years – how, if given the right data and ability to understand context, computers are going to revolutionise our world, and yes, that includes conveyancing.

The key points are.

  • it read the entire document to see who the reply should be addressed to
  • without any context beyond “buyer” and “chain” it recognised this as concerning a property purchase
  • it recognised multiple dates and how to respond appropriately

If you read the email again, you’ll see that the technology deduced the answers with minimal contextual information.  Supposing we had given it information about the property and you should start to see how important this is.

When is this happening?

Let’s start 2023 by removing any doubt – we are living in the future, today.

Forget all those bleaty whinges from a few years ago when people were complaining we didn’t have the hoverboards promised in “Back to the Future”.   We would do well to remember the words an inspirational person once told me that “fortune favours the brave” and embrace this technology, not fear it.  Over the next few months we’re going to be spending a lot of time explaining why the question should not be “why are you using artificial intelligence” to instead “why are you NOT using it?”

Now, if only I could get that vision of Glenn’s boiling pot out of my mind.


Peter Ambrose is the owner and Managing Director of The Partnership – a boutique legal provider specialising in the delivery of transparent and ultra-efficient conveyancing services.

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