Can AI Be A Fair Judge In Court? Estonia Thinks So


Publish Date:
March 25, 2019
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Government usually isn’t the place to look for innovation in IT or new technologies like artificial intelligence. But Ott Velsberg might change your mind. As Estonia’s chief data officer, the 28-year-old graduate student is overseeing the tiny Baltic nation’s push to insert artificial intelligence and machine learning into services provided to its 1.3 million citizens.

“We want the government to be as lean as possible,” says the wiry, bespectacled Velsberg, an Estonian who is writing his PhD thesis at Sweden’s Umeå University on using the Internet of Things and sensor data in government services. Estonia’s government hired Velsberg last August to run a new project to introduce AI into various ministries to streamline services offered to residents.

Stanford University’s David Engstrom, an expert in digital governance, says Estonian citizens might trust the government’s use of their digital data today, but things might change if one of the new AI-based decision-making systems goes awry.

He doesn’t see a AI-driven robo-judge coming to US courtrooms anytime soon. The US has no national ID system and many Americans have an innate fear of Big Government. “We have due process in the Constitution and that has something to say about fully automated decision making by a government agency,” Engstrom said. “Even with a human appeal, there could be a constraint.”

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