December 9, 2014 By Joseph P. Farrell

Just when you think it is safe to poke your head out of your hole to see if the White Witch's spell of Winter stills lies over the land of Narnia, or that the Banquet at Belbury has come happily to its unending and that the National Institute for Coordinated Experiments (NICE) is no longer in business, you discover that last week's Robocop story is now supplemented with this week's robolawyer and even, yes, robo-judge, and we can thank a regular reader here, Ms. M.W., for sharing this interesting bit of technlogism and scientism run amok:

Your Lawyer May Soon Be an Algorithm

Granted, the target here is not immediately the attorney (or for those of you in the U.K., the solicitor as well) as such, but the well-known phenomenon of the legal secretary, law clerks, and paralegals who do the actual grunt work while the attorneys get to dress up in tailored suits, robes, and wigs, and do the actual courtroom theater part of it:

"The kind of roles AI could take over in law are evident, and computers have already carved a niche in some tasks. The most obvious are routine tasks like combing through documents—something a human’s eyes and brain find tiresome after a while but a computer has no problem with.

"That could be as simple as searching tons of documents for keywords, but more intelligent tools can go fu​rther, taking in context and sentiment. “Predictive coding” algorithms are increasingly used b​y lawyers to help in the discovery process—when they’re trying to unearth evidence to support their case. For example, imagine combing through a corporation's massive data stores, most of which is probably irrelevant, in search for signs of financial malfeasance. Algorithms are able to sort through for relevant docs based on initial samples given by a human.

"The main attraction for companies is obvious: an algorithm doesn’t require a salary and reasonable working conditions, and it can process information a lot quicker. The Jomati report suggests rough figures: a very junior lawyer doing this kind of work might cost $100,000 a year. An AI bot might cost around $500,000, with that price set to fall as the market becomes more competitive. “Even at this price they would be worth the cost as they can work 24 hours a day, 7 days a week with no downtime, thereby eclipsing the chargeable hours of the most workaholic lawyers,” the authors write."

Now I blogged some time ago about this program:

"But even before a case gets rolling, AI can play a part in getting the legal cogs turning. Talking to Slate​ earlier this year, legal technology scholar Daniel Katz proposed that AI may help complainants decide whether it’s worth going to the hassle and expense of bringing a lawsuit—by predicting if they’ll win.

"Katz, who works at Michigan State University, recently published a ​paper in which he claimed a computer model was able to successfully predict US Supreme Court decisions 70 percent of the time. The model used “only data available prior to the date of decision,” effectively comparing similar cases in order to forecast the logical outcome."

That's right, there are now legal predictive algorithms able to predict case outcomes, and already Germany (of course) is trying it out in actual practice:

"And in other initiatives, AI is actually helping to make those decisions. A New Scie​ntist article last year described a German application that makes automatic decisions about child benefit payments"


Oh Brave New Courtroom! And we can easily see how all this is going to be sold to the public:

"AI making legal decisions is a compelling idea. Not only is it more efficient, but couldn’t it somehow be more just to place decisions in an entity unable to be swayed by bias or emotion"

But why stop at being swayed by bias or emotion? Why not argue that AI robolawyers and robojudges should supplant all courtroom procedure, especially at the municipal level, small claims courts, and so on?Why, it would be the perfect solution to all the corruption in the system, wouldn't it? After all,  how does one bribe a robot? You broke the law, you get to go to a private prison and work at slave wages. It's the perfect way to keep the system functioning, and reduce labor costs! (And having sold such a dubious idea to the general public, you can rest assured that the very wealthy will see to it that their few-and-far-between appearances before a judge will be before a human judge, with human attorneys... and you already know why...)

Of course, we can already hear the squealing from the legal profession, the subtleties of the law are the result of human interaction and evaluation, as well they should be. No program of AI can and will be successful in accounting for human emotional responses. And so on.

And they'd be right... and perhaps it will be from law and jurisprudence that we will begin to hear and see the needed pushback against the dystopian transhumanist faith in scientism and technologism.

See you on the flip side...