Judge Dread

Clearly, I was spoiled for news stories to cover last week. Even this week, and more specifically today, a lot of things I’m interested in have been cropping up.

Trump‘s been in the news a bunch, but I’m not going to spend any time on the details of that. I mean, who’s got the bandwidth to constantly maintain the rage?

Seriously. How has he not had a stroke?
A: This guy?

No, the most interesting thing I learned about Trump this week keyed into my interest in the amount of time we spent at work.

[Waste your time at work with the Apoplexy Tiny Letter.]

Apparently, Michael Cera plays the Young Donald Trump. You know Trump would love that, right? The character playing his acoustic guitar like a manic pixie dream boi?

From my days as an attorney, the thought of a 20-hour week seems like a crazy dream. Six years later, I’ve got to think that it still is. Surely Trump’s various activities have added – on average – around ten hours to the working week of every lawyer in America.

I've got a story about this guy. Ask me some time.
Rudy Giuliani realises why he’s lost his mojo

When I would dream about the day that the legal bar-based closed shop would collapse and my job would be shipped off to an emerging economy, I always reckoned that becoming a barber would be a good gig. Of course, I got the sack and had a stroke before I could achieve that impossible dream.

BWAH-HA-HA-HAH!
‘We have mastered scissors anyway, you bouffant-ed fool!’

Around six years too early, it seems. This morning on the Today Programme, they were talking about how algorithms are infiltrating the law and A.I. is playing an increasing role in the legal world. Not just in checking contracts – some of the more advanced NYC firms were already punching the provisions of term sheets into templates and spitting out early drafts of complex agreements when I was practicing. No, they’re talking about algorithms predicting court outcomes, and even making judgments. The Lord Chief Justice of England apparently doesn’t believe that lawyers and judges will be replaced by algorithms. Nevertheless, Today said,

some lawyers are warning that the U.K. should put protections in place to make sure that algorithms aren’t one day allowed to make court rulings.

I'm having to type "I can't even" in these a lot these days
Even Judge Judy knows there’s not a unified U.K. legal system, Today Programme.

Interestingly, a legal clerk told the programme that A.I offers the opportunity – for example – to categorise documents for a huge public inquiry like Grenfell, and allow it to move forward more quickly. Which I thought was interesting, because Hillsborough was back in the news this week, too. Apparently in ten years time, a quarter of all legal jobs will be in danger and Book Festivals around the world will be populated by former lawyers who think they can write.

Aw, mate. You should have gone with an interrobang?!
‘Nailed it!’

Experiments using algorithms to reach judgments haven’t gone well, it seems. The algorithms follow precedent, one contributor explained:

Precedent is inherently biased – that becomes clearer and clearer as it’s exacerbated by the algorithm.

The barrister Sarah Vine followed up on that point, emphasising that the key characteristics of human judges are that their reasoning is transparent, they are accountable, and they are susceptible to scrutiny, unlike algorithms.

Come nuclear bombs, fall on Slough
Well, I for one welcome our robot overlords

Later in the day, I was listening to the PM programme, wherein a former youth magistrate claimed that people don’t care about diversity on the magistrates’ bench. I can only assume that by this, she meant people like her. Not the horrible sort of “people” who might represent diversity. This remark went unchallenged presumably because – and I’m not kidding here – the programme had to go on to cover Why Can’t Our Telly Be More Like It Was In The Seventies, and A Parade Of Opinions On Trump From Right Wing Radio Phone-Ins In The US.

Al Murray's grandad
‘Sounds good to me’ – hilarious 70s sitcom racist

I was going to say that algorithms are actually more likely to be be transparent than human, but to be fair, that is pretty transparent, isn’t it?

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2 thoughts on “Judge Dread

  1. I’m at the point in my I.T. career where I really should learn to code. It’s hard for an old brain to learn new languages. But if I’m not programming our robot overlords, I’ll be stuck replacing their parts. Hopefully they won’t figure out how to replace their own parts (and write their own code) until after I’m gone. 🙂

    1. Yeah, I’m dreading the point when I have to admit that it’s time to learn Gaelic. It’s not far off now.

      And, oh, they’ll be replacing their own parts and writing their own code soon enough. I’m sure Ferris Jabr gets into code that evolves – and thus demonstrates a signifier of life – in that old Scientific American blog piece about trying to define life. Just concentrate on your fantasy football team and enjoy these last days.

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