Point, click, convict

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In an attempt to ease Brazil’s badly backlogged legal system, three judges in the state of Espirito Santo are experimenting with an artificial-intelligence program called the Electronic Judge. The program lives on a laptop, which can arrive at the scene of a minor traffic accident within minutes, along with a human judge and a court clerk, reports NEW SCIENTIST. The humans provide the program with on-the-spot data about particulars of the accident, and out pops a verdict, complete with legal reasoning.

Most fender benders call for a mechanical, logical application of the law rather than any real legal interpretation, explains the programmer who invented the Electronic Judge, and nothing does mechanical and logical better than a computer. The human judge is there to overrule the judge-in-the-box if the human disagrees. Most drivers are glad to avoid a court appearance, though supporters concede there may have been the odd case or two in which drivers weren’t entirely aware that the little black box was calling the shots. Insurance companies in the US are interested in this streamlined approach, and are in talks with the system’s creator.

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