Lesson 17: Juridification

Many years ago, my son Franz and I did a study on juridification. Chances are you never heard of the term, as it doesn’t appear in many dictionaries. Juridificatiion is the attempt to codify into law every conceivable human transaction and establish appropriate penalties for all transgressions. We supposedly would no longer need courts, juries, or judges. An official would just feed the data into a computer, and the verdict and penalty would be drawn up.

At that time, some leading lawyers saw juridification right around the corner. They were writing books about computers being fairer than juries or judges. A couple started online legal sites where computers led participants through most legal matters normally performed by your family lawyer.

Obviously, things did not go as they expected. That’s the bright side. People recognized the value of real persons providing empathetic judgment and understanding for them as individuals. They were not ready to replace people with machines.

I have thought of that study a great deal in the past two years when people marvel at new advances in artificial intelligence. Franz and I found that AI contributes to legalism that reads events factually without considering deeper concerns such as wider relationships and emotional involvements. This literalism seems to promote excessive conformity to what society regards as normal.

However, the most important finding in our study was that justice, as defined in Christian scripture and English common law, is about judgment as much as fairness. Artificial intelligence might offer a scientific indifference that seems to provide fairness if you are dealing with abstract generalities, but that is not enough for the peculiarities of each individual case.

Although our paper dealt with law, the same happened in all fields, including the other professions. Many were talking about machines doing the job better than humans. They hailed a new stage in evolution when computers replaced us.

I hear much the same today. Considering juridification might cause us see this is a bad idea.

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