Below is our recent interview with Clive Spenser, Marketing Director at Logic Programming Associates:
Q: Could you provide our readers with a brief introduction to Logic Programming Associates?
A: LPA was founded back in 1981 to exploit research at Imperial College into logic programming, as made possible by the then new programming language called Prolog. Since then, LPA has been developing tools and solutions using Prolog for its customers in various industries and in research. Prolog has always been closely associated with Artificial Intelligence in the form of rule-based systems. These systems tend to model the knowledge of experts and in a soft and flexible way to provide intelligent applications.
Q: You’ve recently joined the Barclays Eagle Labs LawTech incubator in Notting Hill, London; could you tell us something more?
A: Eagle Labs are Barclays spaces to help entrepreneurs and ambitious businesses collaborate, innovate and grow. Eagle Labs aim to cultivate a community of like-minded entrepreneurs and provide them access to a collaborative environment, peer networks, and opportunities to maximise growth. The LawTech Eagle Lab we are joining has a specific focus on Legal Technology, and provides an ideal way for small companies like LPA to meet and work with large law firms in the UK in a neutral and informal environment.
Q: Why law — didn’t you do something in the legal sector previously?
A: Yes, back in 1999, we helped establish a company called Business Integrity Ltd to take to market some innovative work we had done in the area of Document Assembly. Business Integrity Ltd established Contract Express as a premier Contract Automation software package and the company was acquired Thomson Reuters in 2015 for an undisclosed fee. So, we have already had some prior exposure to the unique issues which concern law firms and legal practitioners such as the importance of documents, regulations and explanations.
Q: Who are your clients and what are some of the main challenges you’re helping them solve?
A: We have clients in various sectors, medical, legal, finance and industry. They all share the same goal to build intelligent solutions which are accountable and consistent.
Q: How is the industry different today than it was just a few years ago when it comes to LPA?
A: Over time, the internal research departments have dwindled, so we are now often talking directly to the business users about their specific challenges. The onus is on us to provide tools that they can trust and use without having to access external programming resources.
Q: Can you give us insights into your products?
A: VisiRule is a graphical tool for business users to develop and deliver rule-based and expert systems simply by drawing their decision logic in a code-free way. This is a conscious effort by us to deskill the technology stack which we have developed over the years, and make it accessible and available to a much wider audience. Like MindMap and Visio, VisiRule represents the new wave of problem solving by using a visual and graphical representation.
Q: A lot is talked about AI, where do you see it all going?
A: AI is like water, it has no shape and will permeate everywhere. And yet AI means all things to all people. For us, AI means taking a declarative approach to problem solving and building solutions based on rules and logic. Thanks to the advance of the underlying hardware and the progress made in program interoperability, AI is now a viable and valuable technology, able to connect and augment many conventional programs. Will it take over the world and lead to machines taking over? Probably not in the forseeable future, but then there are now learning algorithms which can learn how to learn better, so who knows for sure.
Q: What are your plans for the future?
A: Try and deploy VisiRule in areas which benefit people, the public as well as commerce. Say, an intelligent legal advisor to help you apply for an immigration visa or renew your parking permit. Also, in healthcare, to build some intelligent advisors which can help individuals construct a personalised diet and exercise plan.