Watson and the future of the judicial system
Part 2 of 2
The vision of Watson judicial assistant is an easy-to-use application. Through any computer or smartphone connected to the Internet, a user can query Watson by speaking in plain language or quietly sending a text. Within fractions of a second, Watson sifts through its database containing every article, case, opinion, pamphlet, statute and treatise ever written on the subject of law. The answer, based on all the world’s legal knowledge and precedent, would be available at the user’s fingertips.
This vision is not new. Robert Weber, general counsel at IBM echoed a similar vision in a 2014 Wall Street Journal interview. Weber envisioned a time, very soon, when Watson would be an invaluable asset to the legal system. “There are a lot more cases out there than anybody can keep track of. The facts of cases are sometimes extremely complex.” Making sense of these vast amounts of information is where Watson excels.
The true value of intelligent computing technology goes beyond the pure processing power and memory capabilities of first-generation supercomputers such as Deep Blue, which beat reigning world chess champion Garry Kasparov in 1997. Watson can create entirely new inferences from existing case law that may have never been considered before. For example, in a similar manner Watson has the ability to create entirely new recipes by studying thousands of existing recipes and synthesizing them with information from molecular chemistry and research into human response to taste, smell and visual stimuli.
Watson is also able to continually grow its knowledge base with new regulations, new decisions, new government and corporate policy and then adapt its processing models to the new information. Beyond a simple Q&A engine, in expert hands Watson is positioned to be a powerful research assistant able to weigh pros and cons, suggest lines of reasoning and provide new insights using its ability to synthesize vast quantities of data. This ability can significantly improve efficiency of the judicial system while helping reduce operational costs.
In the previously mentioned Wall Street Journal interview, Weber pointed out that machine learning was already seeping into the legal world in areas such as discovery and predictive crime models that forecast criminal activity. Machine learning is already changing the game in much the same way it is doing so with weather.
The question is not whether intelligent computers will find their way into the judicial system, but whether farsighted leadership can harness their potential. Aiding judges in making better-informed, unbiased decisions and increasing access to justice for everyone including the most vulnerable members of society—these ambitions should be Watson’s ultimate goals.
Besides improving the efficiency of the judicial system while reducing operational costs, what other benefits do you see in having Watson as a judicial assistant? Would this technology work in your country? Tell us what you think in the comments. And learn more about how to potentially improve efficiency of the judicial system.