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Ask Marilyn: Should a Computer Decide Lawsuits?
James Bobreski of Penn Yan, New York, writes:
Marilyn: As our judicial system is bound by laws and case law, wouldn’t it be better for a computer like Watson to decide cases? A computer has no bias. Consider our Supreme Court: Decisions are often 5–4 along party lines.
But who would program "Courtney"? Laws aren't absolute like equations. They're not comparable to chess moves that can be analyzed, or to facts, such as George Washington's birth date. (Hmm. Was it Feb. 11, 1731, according to the Julian calendar used then? Or Feb. 22, 1732, by today's Gregorian calendar?) Instead, they're subject to interpretation, which is understandable: Laws are written by ordinary people, then modified (or mangled) by committees on their bumpy road to passage. As for case law, it's teeming with human interpretations; it would just detract from our efforts to keep Courtney above the fray. Then there's the Constitution, which embodies our fundamental laws and more. Over time, translating its precepts into current reality grows more and more difficult, demonstrated by our frequently split Supreme Court decisions. Our judicial system could be improved, all right, but not by heading toward rigidity. Fairness lies in the opposite direction.