You have hopefully seen something in the Terminator franchise? The key concept of the franchise is that a piece of technology takes control and works to destroy the human race. This is a common theme throughout science fiction from yesteryear through today. With the advancements in AI recently science fiction is fast becoming reality every year AI may soon be making decisions that could impact humans in a big way.

AI As A Judge?

Estonia is not a country that most people normally think about when one thinks of the most technically savvy countries in the world. Most people probably can’t find the small Baltic state on a map and don’t feel bad. There are only about 1.4 million people that live in the country, fewer people than live in Philadelphia. Despite that, they may have the most technically advanced justice system in the world.

The country has made huge strides in digitizing, streamlining and modernizing government functions and services. Just about anyone is able to access government services and it is at the forefront of digital technology with ID cards. They have also implemented AI into some government functions like with satellite image analysis, helping to find jobs for the unemployed and in the justice system.

An AI system is being created to help clear a backlog of small court cases (less than $8,000). Pre-programmed algorithms will allow it to be fed documents and analyze them before providing a binding judgment. This will free up human judges for larger or tougher cases but the decisions will be able to be appealed to a human judge.

AI Politicians?

Judges may not be the only people who will be sharing a working space with AI. According to a recent survey of citizens of eight different European countries roughly 25% of those surveyed wanted AI politicians. Many Europeans are certainly frustrated with their leaders (imagine that!), particularly as the Brexit saga swirls in the UK. 33% of citizens polled in the UK as well as in Germany wanted an AI politician and 43% of respondents in the Netherlands also indicated their affirmative support.

What Is Holding This Back?

The main reason that this technology is being held back is bias in the algorithms. Human bias is a huge factor when passing judgment or creating laws and it is also present with the people who program the algorithms. Data will be needed to train the AI judge or politician and if that data is biased or incorrect the AI system may not be as objective as we would hope. It would leave us with a system worse than what we have now.

At the same time it is very difficult to capture the nuances of human society. Human society is complex and important factors may not be able to be completed integrated. To include everyone is a daunting task and one that may not be ready for real life, much less being given the ability to set policy or pass judgment.

Why Would People Want This?

Why would someone want this? Europeans are tired of their politicians, a sentiment we can certainly empathize with here in the US. A non-biased system would be believed to be able to pass better judgments or create fairer policies for all. Not only that but judgments would be rendered quicker (and if they are fairer fewer appeals will be necessary reducing the backlog in the court system) and policies can be crafted and analyzed much quicker. Decisions would be made without emotion and in a much quicker manner, potentially saving lives in a disaster or during a war (or maybe even averting a war too!).

Considering it can take months if not years for a case to pass through the court system any way of speeding it up should be investigated. An AI system would be able to be programmed to know legal precedent and would be able to create a judgment in less time than it takes to hear oral arguments today. AI can also be programmed to know the laws on the books to aid in crafting or revising laws and would be able to create the legislation in a fraction of the time. Considering as well that the time it takes legislation to go from its initial state to being placed on the desk of the chief executive to sign also takes months this could also make government more efficient.

Government more efficient? That is something that every politician pays lip service to but does very little beyond that. AI may be about to take their jobs too. Hopefully politicians too can Learn To Code. This could be the best thing to happen to government since the Bill of Rights. It could also lead us into a Terminator-esque dystopia. Let’s hope it is the former. Futurama’s Santa was not someone to trifle with.

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