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Judicial Decision-making and Explainable Artificial Intelligence: A Reckoning from First Principles

Shaun Lim

(2021) 33 SAcLJ 280

In light of rapid developments in legal technology, it is timely to begin considering whether, and if so how, artificial intelligence (“AI”) can replace judges. However, given that law plays a crucial role in maintaining societal order, that judges are a crucial part of ensuring the continued well-functioning of the law, and also that there are still many unknowns in the use and deployment of AI, it would be prudent to examine and understand exactly what roles judges play in the legal system, and how they do so, before we make any bold steps towards replacing judges with AI. This article examines the current and reasonably foreseeable state of AI to consider its capabilities, as well as the process by which judges make decisions and the duties they are subject to. This article will then consider whether or how AI, given its current and foreseeable state of development, may be used in judicial decision-making, and what safeguards may be required to ensure continued confidence in a well-functioning justice system.