"Will the Era of AI Judges Come?" -Prof. Zuo Weimin was Invited by "Nankai Law Forum"


In the afternoon of Oct. 30th, 2022, Professor Zuo Weimin, Dean of Sichuan University School of Law, was invested as the keynote speaker of the first "Nankai Law Forum" and the third "Nankai Litigation Law Forum", giving a lecture on "Will the Era of AI Judges Come?" . The lecture was hosted by Professor Yang Wenge of Nankai University Law School, with a speech by Professor Song Hualin, Dean of Nankai University Law School, Vice Professor Sun Hao of Tianjin University Law School, Vice Professor Jia Zhiqiang of Jilin University Law School, and Vice Professor Gao Tong of Nankai University Law School engaged in disscussion. The conference was technically supported by Laws & Regulations Database-Chinalawinfo and attracted more than four thousand people to watch online.

At the beginning of the lecture, Prof. Yang firstly introduced Prof. Zuo to everyone grandly and also expressed his gratitude to Prof. Zuo for coming to Nankai. Prof. Song Hualin, Dean of Nankai University Law School, said in his speech that Prof. Zuo Weimin not only has outstanding achievements in criminal procedure jurisprudence, but also leads the frontier in digital jurisprudence and empirical jurisprudence; Prof. Zuo actively supports his successors and helps the growth and development of young and middle-aged scholars; Prof. Zuo has special significance as the keynote speaker of the first session of "Nankai Law Forum".He also expressed his warm welcome to Professor Zuo Weimin's visit to Nankai University Law School.

Prof. Zuo firstly explained the current situation of AI judges in China and abroad. According to him, the practice of AI judges in foreign countries shows four characteristics: firstly, AI judges have started to be used in the field of substantive judicial decision-making; secondly, AI judges are related to the methodological innovation of quantitative empirical methods; thirdly, AI judges are related to the epistemological transformation of data analysis; fourthly, AI judges are the presentation of "automated justice". The practice of AI judges in China can be regarded as a "weak form" of application to some extent, and presents the following characteristics: first, AI judges have not yet been applied in the field of substantive trials; second, AI judges are mainly based on mapping knowledge domain algorithms but lack quantitative empirical methods; third, AI judges are normatively oriented rather than empirically oriented.  

Professor Zuo Weimin then proposes to think comprehensively about the use of AI judges. He believes that AI judges have not been widely used either in China or abroad, especially in critical decision making, and it may be difficult to be fully implemented in the short term. This is mainly due to the following three obstacles: First, social acceptance, for example, the current situation is that AI judges still lack the basis of social acceptance, and it is difficult to reach a consensus in the short term or even in the long term. Second, the technical development barrier, such as the current degree of development of artificial intelligence technology, AI judges in the short term is still difficult to match the wisdom of human judges. The third is the judicial ethical barriers, such as algorithmic black box, algorithmic discrimination.

Professor Zuo finally pointed out that AI is more actively uesd at the level of auxiliary work, such as class case collection system, online case handling platform, intelligent voice recognition and conversion technology, legal question and answer robot, electronic and unified evidence standards, judicial application of blockchain technology, electronic file generation use and litigation document auxiliary production. However, in the long term, the future of AI judges is still uncertain, depends on many factors, such as the reasonable expectation and recognition of AI by society, the practical promotion of judicial AI technology development from the data and algorithm level, and the construction of appropriate judicial ethics rules.

In the discussion session, Vice Professor Sun Hao believes that the improvement of technology is undoubtedly conducive to speeding up social progress, but we still cannot ignore the role of human beings themselves in promoting society, on this basis, Professor Sun also raised two questions: First, is the role of AI an assistant to assist human activities or a substitute for human beings to do things that human beings cannot do? Second, what kind of different functions will AI technology have for different judicial models?  

Vice Professor Jia Zhiqiang expressed his respect and admiration for Prof. Zuo's continuous research, and put forward the following three reflections in the context of his own research: first, why AI judges are needed; second, the process of realizing AI judges must consider its complexity, such as the scientificity, reliability and normality of the model; third, the process of AI technology promotion should return to fundamental research, especially strengthening empirical research.  

Vice Professor Gao Tong thought that the content of this lecture was very cutting-edge, and future research could further focus on the impact of technology on justice along the direction indicated by Prof. Zuo.

At the end of the lecture, Prof. Yang expressed his gratitude to Prof. Zuo Weimin again for his wonderful report and patient answers, and looked forward to inviting him to Nankai offline whrn the epidemic subsided. After two hours of presentation and discussion, the lecture came to an end and the participants were deeply inspired and benefited a lot.