It sounds like something out of a science fiction movie but the use of artificial intelligence in Australian courtrooms could remove emotional bias and human error, according to new research.
Swinburne Law School Dean Professor Dan Hunter and Swinburne researcher Professor Mirko Bagaric found sentences handed down by artificial intelligence would be fairer, more efficient, transparent and accurate than those of sitting judges.
“It would make sentencing more transparent and quicker,” Professor Bagaric said.
“It would also eliminate judicial subconscious bias in sentencing that results in people of certain profiles, such as indigenous offenders, being sentenced more harshly.”
Professor Bagaric says subconscious bias plays a large part in sentencing in which judges or magistrates hand down harder penalties to offenders of a particular race or background.
In a paper for the Criminal Law Journal, Professors Bagaric and Hunter argue that AI sentencing would better identify, sort and calibrate all the variables associated with sentencing, including criminal history, education, drug/alcohol use, emotional motivations and employment.
Professor Bagaric also points out that AI would make sentencing more consistent as a computer would quickly formulate calculated penalties, as opposed to relying on human intuition.
“Currently, sentencing is a discretionary process, which means it is not a checklisted, methodical approach,” Professor Bagaric said.
“Instead, it is an intuitive process, this leads to patent inconsistency because different judges have different intuitions, thereby resulting in judges prone to harsh or soft sentencing.”
For their research, Professor Hunter and Professor Bagaric conducted an in-depth analysis on whether AI could improve sentencing procedures by autonomously processing these variables.
While Professor Hunter believes that AI has the potential to radically improve the judicial system, he says it is still far from being publically accepted.
“We are a long way from community acceptance of machines passing sentence on humans, even if it is fairer and more just on the whole,” says Professor Hunter.
“People being judged by machines feels very Orwellian, or Terminator-like.”
He cautioned against society rushing in to replacing judges, but said AI could be used alongside judges, to allow for a better, more transparent, and ethical sentencing system.