Here’s a Friday afternoon head-scratcher: What will legal systems look like in 1,000 years? No, really. If our arbiters of right and wrong become more highly automated, will we be smoothing over the imperfections of Lady Justice, or placing our respective fates in the hands of heartless machines. What will sentencing guidelines be like after the singularity?
If it’s not clear yet, we’ve been reading an account of a Peter Thiel guest lecture in a Stanford Law School course on legal technology. This is not for the faint of heart.
“So the set of all intelligent machines would be the superset of all aliens,” write Blake Masters in an essay describing the lecture. “The range and diversity of possible computers is actually much bigger than the range of possible life forms under known rules.”
In other words, who the hell knows. But also, probably we would be better in the hands of computers, and maybe here’s how:
Our human-based legal system is dependent on the arbitrariness of the actors, that’s sometimes bad, and sometimes good. Bad in the case of a biased jury or a pissed off judge. Good because if we all got hauled into court every time we broke the law we’d spend our lives shuttling back-and-forth from jail.
But if automated legal technology means fewer law-breakers escape the long arm, something will have to give:
If uniformly enforcing current laws would land everyone in jail, and transparency is only increasing, we’ll pretty much have to become a more tolerant society.
In which case, we may join Mr. Thiel in looking forward to a Hal of justice.