In the Federal Judiciary’s year-end report, US Chief Justice John Roberts addressed the potential impact of AI on the judicial system. In particular, he aimed to quell concerns about the obsolescence of judges in the face of technological advancements.
“As 2023 draws to a close with breathless predictions about the future of artificial intelligence, some may wonder whether judges are about to become obsolete. I am sure we are not—but equally confident that technological changes will continue to transform our work,” stated Roberts.
Roberts stressed the intrinsic value of human judgement, asserting that machines could not fully replace the nuanced decisions made by individuals.
In his report, Roberts pointed out the importance of subtle factors such as a trembling hand, a momentary hesitation, or a fleeting break in eye contact—aspects that machines might struggle to discern accurately. The Chief Justice underlined the public’s inherent trust in human judgement over AI when it comes to evaluating such nuances.
However, Roberts expressed legitimate concerns about the potential drawbacks of AI in the legal domain. He warned against the possibility of AI-generated fabricated answers or “hallucinations,” citing instances where lawyers used AI-powered applications to submit briefs that referenced imaginary cases.
Additionally, Roberts highlighted the risks associated with AI influencing privacy and the potential for bias in decisions in discretionary matters like flight risk and recidivism.
Despite these apprehensions, Roberts acknowledged the positive aspects of incorporating AI in the legal system. He recognised AI’s potential to democratise access to legal advice and tools, particularly benefiting those who cannot afford legal representation.
As the legal world adapts to AI, Chief Justice Roberts’ reflections underscore the importance of striking a balance between harnessing its substantial benefits while managing the potentially devastating risks.
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