Tuesday, February 7, 2023

The Robot Lawyer Was a Super Dumb Idea [Peter Thiel, scourge of lawyers, strikes again!]

So, a 15 year old kid, Michael Browder, gets a parking ticket. So he wrote a bot to contest parking tickets and soon found himself lending it out to his friends. Etc. Starting at about 02:39:

And in 2015, when he was an 18-year-old student at Stanford University, Browder launched the company DoNotPay from his dorm room, reportedly writing the code in under two weeks, working between the hours of midnight and 3AM. And in no time Silicon Valley was calling with generous offers to buy it. Later he spend time as a fellow in a program founded by venture capitalist and Silicon Valley visionary Peter Thiel, which pays students to drop out of college and spend two years building their companies on the theory that "Some ideas can't wait." Records show that at the time Thiel had $1,000 in outstanding parking tickets and a court date coming up soon. And while the bot was originally written to contest parking tickets in the UK and New York, Browder's company soon expanded to include a host of services using tet bots and artificial intelligence.

There's much more in the video, but I just wanted to capture that bit about Thiel. Thiel, you'll remember funded Hulk Hogan in a lawsuit against Gawker. Hogan was suing since Gawker had shown a tape with him having sex with the wife of a friend. Thiel as angry since Gawker had described him as gay. Hogan won the suit and the judgment was so large ($140M) that it put Gawker out of business.

But that's not what this video is about. It's about DoNotPay, which is a larger story about a somewhat questionable company that skates close to the edge of the law. Is it practicing law, or not? The video is skeptical. And, toward the end, reports that DoNotPay has decided to scale back its offerings.

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