If you are one of those who has a deep-seated distrust for artificial intelligence, a new study published Monday in the journal PeerJ Computer Science will do little to make you feel better. In the study, a team of British and American researchers said it had used an AI system to correctly predict the outcomes of hundreds of cases heard at the European Court of Human Rights.
The AI, which analyzed 584 English language case texts related to Article 3, 6 and 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights using a machine learning algorithm, came to the same verdict as human judges in 79 percent of the cases.
Article 3 deals with cases involving torture and degrading treatment, Article 6 protects right to a fair trial, and Article 8 protects individuals’ right to private life.
"Results indicate that the ‘facts’ section of a case best predicts the actual court’s decision, which is more consistent with legal realists’ insights about judicial decision-making. We also observe that the topical content of a case is an important indicator whether there is a violation of a given Article of the Convention or not," the researchers wrote in the study.
The algorithm developed by the researchers was, after parsing the text, able to classify each case as a “violation” or a “non-violation.” To prevent bias and mislearning, the researchers selected an equal number of violation and non-violation cases.
“Ideally, we’d test and refine our algorithm using the applications made to the court rather than the published judgements, but without access to that data we rely on the court-published summaries of these submissions,” study co-author Vasileios Lampos from the University College London (UCL), said in a statement. “Previous studies have predicted outcomes based on the nature of the crime, or the policy position of each judge, so this is the first time judgements have been predicted using analysis of text prepared by the court.”
However, the authors were quick to point out that this doesn’t mean that judges and lawyers may soon find themselves losing their jobs to computers.
“We don’t see AI replacing judges or lawyers, but we think they’d find it useful for rapidly identifying patterns in cases that lead to certain outcomes. It could also be a valuable tool for highlighting which cases are most likely to be violations of the European Convention on Human Rights,” lead researcher Nikolaos Aletras, also from UCL, noted in the statement. “It could also be a valuable tool for highlighting which cases are most likely to be violations of the European Convention on Human Rights.”