Artificial intelligence: will we soon be judged by algorithms?


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Info or intox ? China has reportedly developed an algorithm capable of performing the work of a prosecutor. He would be able to examine the evidence, summon citizens to court and even propose sanctions according to the alleged faults (speeding, credit card fraud, etc.). In the West, experts are skeptical about the effectiveness of such a program. “In the field of artificial intelligence (AI), false promises abound, warns Karim Benyekhlef, professor of law and director of the cyberjustice laboratory at the University of Montreal. The databases on which the algorithms are based always have flaws. To adapt them to the field of justice, they would have to be able to establish a causal link between two facts, or to take into account the socio-economic context in which an accused evolves… However, all this remains largely outside scope of a set of lines of code.”

This does not prevent AI from making a spectacular breakthrough among lawyers, insurers or within the legal departments of large companies. “France is even one of the most advanced countries in this area, assures Louis Larret-Chahine, CEO and co-founder of Predictice, a company that develops the algorithms used by these professionals. “Thanks to our tools, our customers can know if their arguments are relevant or if they have a good chance of winning in court”, explains the entrepreneur. The AI ​​also indicates what compensation a litigant can receive depending on the type of case. Often, this makes it possible to negotiate more effectively.

A huge testing ground

“This “predictive justice” feeds many fantasies. However, we are not in a science fiction film such as Minority Report, comments Louis Larret-Chahine. In France, AI remains confined to a decision-making support role. And for ethical reasons, we do not apply it to criminal law, but to other less sensitive areas, such as social law or real estate.” Nevertheless, this leaves a huge field for experimentation: 4, 2 million court decisions are rendered each year in our country and a 2016 law provides for their free access in the long term, enough to feed many AIs.

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“Vigilance is essential. As the algorithms become more important, they will have to be audited regularly”, insists Karim Benyekhlef. Because even if they are presented as decision aids, they can lead to biases. For example, if a program estimates that, in 85% of cases, case law goes in such a direction, this can influence a judge!” The police also have the possibility of using AI to gather evidence. With possible deviations if some tools are making their way to court, like those claiming to be able to identify people from DNA remnants with a “high” percentage of success.


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“Technology should not inspire us with blind confidence, concludes Karim Benyekhlef. In the United States, judges have managed to distance themselves from lie detectors. Hopefully they can do the same with algorithms.”


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Artificial intelligence: will we soon be judged by algorithms?


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