Thursday, November 10, 2005

South Africa: Robot Lawyers Set for Trial Against Humans

Business Day (Johannesburg)
Lesley Stones

Next year the Buys legal firm will find out just how popular or unpopular its lawyers actually are, when it introduces robotic rivals to its human staff.

The company is developing three robots, Stacy, Dave and Nathan, to see if artificial intelligence can be as successful as the real thing. The robots will provide online legal opinions and advice to its customers early next year, says Reinhardt Buys.

"The robots never sleep, they have virtually limitless memories and they get smarter every day," Buys said.

The robots will initially be used to answer basic questions from the public and to present electronic training material.

"Although their duties would be limited and very much controlled at first, we consider them an important strategic investment for the future," Buys said.

According to AI Expert Systems at the University of Texas, artificial intelligence (AI) technology will let computers autonomously reason with the law to draw legal conclusions.
Stacy, Dave and Nathan in court

The head of that team, Selmer Bringsjort, says: "Our intuition is that people won't mind in the least if their lawyers are empowered by artificial colleagues -- quite the contrary, if they are the beneficiaries of quicker turnaround time, lower legal fees and higher quality work.

"If the case is won, if the deal is done, complaints will be few and far between." [Maybe a typical sentiment of a lawyer? Ends justify the means.]


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