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    China’s Courts Look to AI for Smarter Judgments

    Big data and machine learning to make China’s judicial system more intelligent and efficient.

    The judiciary in China will tap into the power of artificial intelligence to build “smarter courts,” according to recent news reports.

    Smarter courts will take advantage of big data, cloud computing, neural networks, and machine learning, Zhou Qiang, the head of the Supreme People’s Court, announced at the 3rd World Internet Conference in Wuzhen Town, in China’s eastern Zhejiang province on Thursday, Sixth Tone’s sister publication The Paper reported.

    Big data refers to extremely large data sets that can be analyzed for trends and associations. China’s judicial system has already begun to harness the power of big data, with a national online database of millions of case rulings established in January 2014, as well as a rival open-source database created by Beijing law firm Tiantong.

    Neural networks are computing systems loosely modeled on human and animal brains, while cloud computing provides shared, internet-based processing resources to devices as they require it. In combination with big data and machine learning — a type of artificial intelligence that enables computers to learn without being prescriptively programmed — these technologies could offer powerful tools to modernize the judicial process, Zhou argued.

    Zhou suggested that the use of analogy in legal reasoning could lay the groundwork for the development and application of artificial intelligence in judicial fields — in effect, teaching technology to learn from past cases.

    However, Zhou ruled out the possibility that humans would ever give way to machines in making judgments. “The application of artificial intelligence in the judicial realm can provide judges with splendid resources, but it can’t take the place of the judges’ expertise,” he said.

    So far, Chinese courts have made the cases that are filed by courts available online, Zhou said, but the next step would be to create processes that would produce electronic court files and case materials automatically.

    In North China’s Hebei province, 178 local courts have used an AI-powered assistance application for judges since July this year, according to the Beijing-based Classic Law Institute, which was involved in the software development.

    The application, named Intelligent Trial 1.0, has substantially reduced the workload for judges and their assistants, the company said in a press release on Thursday. They did not immediately respond to requests for comments by Sixth Tone.

    The company reported that as of Thursday, the software had helped nearly 3,000 judges handle more than 150,000 cases, reducing judges’ workloads by one third.

    (Header image: Vetta/VCG)