Rational Roundup #3 – AI and Decision Making

This week’s Rational Roundup focuses on different ways (future and current) in which artificial intelligence (AI) may serve to improve human decision making. In addition, we have unfortunate news for anyone with a tendency to bend the truth occasionally.

Will AI replace judges or lawyers? “Hopefully not in my lifetime,” many readers will think. But while it is difficult (if not scary) to imagine a world where algorithms decide on our fate, recent advances in the field of AI are certainly impressive. By way of example, we were excited to learn that a new AI method has predicted decisions of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) with an accuracy of 79 %. The method, developed by researchers at University College London (UCL), the University of Sheffield and the University of Pennsylvania, made its predictions by automatically analysing extracted case information published by the ECtHR. All of this was possible with the help of a machine learning algorithm. It could be “a valuable tool for highlighting which cases are most likely to be violations of the European Convention on Human Rights,” said Dr Nikolaos Aletras, one of the researchers behind the project. To get the details, click here.

If you believe that using AI to predict judicial decisions reliably is pure science fiction, our second piece on AI may be more your thing – or not. Sidney Perkowitz, professor emeritus at Emory University, looks at predictive policing, which is intended to forecast where and when crimes will happen. The system is already in use in some parts of the US. It is based on statistical analysis of crime data and mathematical modelling of criminal activity. As our more sceptical readers will appreciate, the author looks at both the methodology behind predictive policing and its moral implications. The full article can be read here.

Leaving the realm of AI, our third pick of this week is on the effects of lying. It will come as bad news for believers in the phrase “white lies don’t harm anyone.” Why? Well, according to a recent paper, lying may take you down a ‘slippery slope’. Researchers at UCL found evidence suggesting that telling small lies desensitises our brains to the negative emotions that are associated with lying. This desensitisation may encourage us to tell bigger lies in future, the researchers argue. So, the next time you are tempted to tell an enhanced version of the truth you may wish to consider the long-term consequences for others, and for you. Follow this link to read more about the study.

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Christian Tenkhoff works as an Associate in the Trade Marks & Designs Department of international law firm Taylor Wessing in Munich. You can follow him on twitter here.

 (Photo courtesy of pixabay)