Logic for the masses

15May07

Wikipedia has an entry on a list of fictional supercomputers that, when posed with abstract, mind-numbing questions (such as “the Answer to life, the universe, and everything” or “is there a god?“), are capable of providing intriguing answers. Blither may be, but still human-comprehensible answers. Then I was wondering, we may not be capable of building such computers (at least not in the near future) that are capable of answering abstract questions and providing yet another abstract answers. But we can do this; build a computer that has access to all of our laws and legislation, have it capable of answering legal questions. Such computer is, to my opinion, conceivable. We’ve got the technology to encode logic. We’ve got algorithms to infers new rules from existing ones. The technology to handle the vast storage, retrieval, and processing is there already. Indeed, information retrieval (IR) systems have been employed in many courts.

Now, why laws to precise. Laws and legislation are well documented. It reflect public consensus from where it is being passed. It is hierarchical, lower laws (e.g. act) must not contradict higher law (e.g. constitution). It is (or should be) logical, regulations is (should) not contradict one another. Or they do, they must abolish one first, using a specific, also regulated procedures. Of course, there are problems. Most legislations leave holes for open interpretation. This means that human still needed in the final decision making loop.

It may not be the hallmark of artificial intelligence. No, that’s not the objective. It will just be an application of AI that benefit the masses. Imagine the computer is capable of answering legal questions such as “can we do this or that” or “how old should I be to be allowed to drive in the state of Nevada”. Such computer can enforce civic society by increasing awareness to law-abiding activity or control on judiciary bodies (a judge may have to consult the computer first before making legal decision). Who knows, someday lawyers may not be needed anymore (no offense lawyers out there).

I really do think this idea is conceivable.

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