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TECHNOLOGY, ALTERNATIVE DISPUTE RESOLUTION, AND THE INSURANCE INDUSTRY:
THE FUTURE HAS ARRIVED (REALLY THIS TIME)
By George H. Friedman*

 

Abstract

Over twenty years ago, the author of this paper evaluated emerging technologies and predicted how they might impact alternative dispute resolution (“ADR”).[1]  Four years later, after the emergence of the internet, he updated his predictions to gauge the impact of this new medium.[2]  Now Chairman of the Board of Arbitration Resolution Services, Inc. (“ARS”) – the world’s first completely cloud-based ADR provider – he measures what really happened and predicts the future of emerging technologies on ADR in general and on insurance industry ADR in particular.

 

This paper discusses:

 

  • The past: how accurate were prior predictions about email, imaging, electronic fund transfers, computerization, and the “new” fax technologies? What other unforeseen technologies – like the web, digital audio recording, Wi-Fi, mobile apps, and videoconferencing – came upon the scene and impacted the ADR world?

 

  • The present: how is technology being used to improve the delivery of ADR services today in the insurance industry? What is the impact on the arbitration and mediation processes?

 

  • The Future: Where will we be ten years from now? Will cloud-based arbitrations and mediations overtake “brick and mortar” case filings?  Will the in-person hearing become a thing of the past?  What new technologies will emerge and how will they impact ADR?

 

Past Predictions and Present Realities

 

            Going back to check on past predictions – especially technology prognostications — is always fraught with peril and is often comical.  On the latter, a magazine published in 1950 made some bold predictions about the future.  It’s humorous to see not only how the authors overreached, but also what they didn’t see coming.  For example, we must have missed the advent of jet-propelled turbo cars.[3]  On the other hand, it seems that we have exceeded greatly the prediction by former IBM chairman Tom Watson who in 1943 said “I think there is a world market for maybe five computers.”[4]

 

The Future

 

            Now we come to the author’s favorite part: predicting the future.  Why?  Because, while you can certainly disagree with him, you can’t definitively say he’s wrong unless you claim to be a visitor from the future.  Bearing in mind that his predictions from 1993 were precisely on target, but that there were lots of things most of us just didn’t see coming, the author predicts that within the next five to ten years web-based ADR will overtake “brick-and-mortar” arbitration case filings.  Why?  The dramatic and rapid advances in technology will make the choice an easy one, much like Amazon and other web-based entities have challenged brick-and-mortar shopping as the preferred method of commerce.[5]  Put differently, why drag yourself to a hearing and wait around for snail-mail when you can accomplish the same things via the cloud in a fraction of the time and cost?[6]  And consumer demand will drive the shift to cloud-based ADR

 

Last, while phones will continue to continue to shrink in size and expand in functionality, the concept of a phone you hold in your hand will become viewed as a transitional technology, just like what happened with fax machines.  The author predicts that one day soon, phones will be worn as wristwatches and the web will stream to “heads-up” displays on eyeglasses.  And maybe audio will come with the glasses.  Oh wait…that’s already happening![7]

 

Conclusion

 

More than fifteen years ago, the author made the following prediction:

 

For years, commentators have predicted that the future would bring the benefits of online technology to our paper-laden method of resolving disputes. The future, quite clearly, has arrived.[8]

 

This time he really means it!
For more, read the full article as published by The Journal of American Law – Fall 2014 here.

 

 

* George H. Friedman, an ADR consultant and now Chairman of the Board of Directors of Arbitration Resolution Services, Inc., retired in 2013 as FINRA’s Executive Vice President and Director of Arbitration, a position he held from 1998. In his extensive career, he previously held a variety of positions of responsibility at the American Arbitration Association, most recently as Senior Vice President from 1994 to 1998. He is an Adjunct Professor of Law at Fordham Law School. Mr. Friedman serves on the Board of Editors of the Securities Arbitration Commentator.  He holds a B.A. from Queens College, a J.D. from Rutgers Law School, and is a Certified Regulatory and Compliance Professional (Wharton-FINRA Institute).  He is a frequent speaker and author on alternative dispute resolution, with articles appearing in publications such as The National Underwriter, and The Insurance ADR Manual.

 

[1] Friedman, George, Arbitration as an Effective Means of Resolving Construction Disputes, in Wiley 1993 Construction Law Update (O. Currie, N. Sweeney, eds.) 169, § 9.24  pp. 201-2.

 

[2] Friedman, George, Alternative Dispute Resolution and Emerging Online Technologies: Challenges and Opportunities, 19 Hastings Comm. & Ent. L.J. 695 (1996-1997), available at http://heinonline.org/HOL/LandingPage?collection=journals&handle=hein.journals/hascom19&div=30&id=&page= (fee) <visited 12/11/2014>.

[3] Francis, Devon, Will We Drive Turbo Cars?  156:6 Popular Science 98 (June 1950), available at http://www.rover.org.nz/pages/jet/jet2.htm <visited 12/24/2013>.

 

[4] See http://www.rinkworks.com/said/predictions.shtml <visited 12/11/2014>.

[5] See Retailers, Are You Ready? Cyber Monday Overtakes Black Friday (Nov. 30, 2012), available at http://blogs.teradata.com/teradata-applications/retailers-are-you-ready-cyber-monday-overtakes-black-friday/ <viewed 12/11/2014>.  Also Cheng, Andria, UPS, FedEx Forecasts Suggest Black Friday Weekend will Again be Key for Retailers, Marketwatch.com (Oct. 25, 2013), available at http://blogs.marketwatch.com/behindthestorefront/2013/10/25/ups-fedex-forecasts-suggest-black-friday-weekend-will-again-be-key-for-retailers/ <viewed 12/11/2014>, and Cyber Monday to be Busiest Day Ever for FedEx, CNN Money (Oct. 24, 2013), available at http://money.cnn.com/2013/10/23/pf/fedex-cyber-monday/ <viewed 12/11/2014>.

[6] See Friedman, George, “Road Trips” in Consumer Arbitration: there Must be a Better Way (Sep. 15, 2013) available at https://www.arbresolutions.com/road-trips-consumer-arbitration-must-better-way/#.VIn7E_ldX84 <visited 12/11/2014>.

 

[7] Id.  See Oremus, Will, The Dick Tracy Watch is Real, Slate (Sep. 4, 2013), available at http://gizmodo.com/5994737/here-are-google-glass-tech-specs (glasses) <visited 12/11/2014>, and http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-10-24/samsung-pursuing-glasses-that-answer-calls-in-google-challenge.html <viewed 12/11/2014>.

 

[8] Friedman, supra n. 2, at 716.