Artificial Intelligence and Probability as Techniques for Human Problem Solving

By: Thomas D. Barton  

Human ingenuity has devised a variety of devices for resolving social problems, techniques that seemingly bear little in common. Among these varied methods are random selection; scientific investigation; markets; democracy; religious decree; contracts; and state enforced public norms (i.e., laws). Each distinct realm employs different methods for problem resolution, and produces outcomes in different forms. As each emerged historically, each carried powerful social or philosophical repercussions. Modernly, social problems migrate among these decisional realms with relatively little formality, planning, or even coherence. That spontaneity is not necessarily bad; like biodiversity, the uncoordinated differences among the problem solving techniques together make possible a more workable society than would emerge from exclusive reliance on fewer techniques. In recent years, two new devices have become highly significant to human problem solving: probability and artificial intelligence. Probability, though not new, has broadened and intensified with the ability to aggregate vast data sets electronically. Artificial intelligence, in the strong sense of machine self-learning, is similarly enabled by the explosion of information and computing power. I propose to examine probability and artificial intelligence as newly invented devices for problem solving. Each tool carries uniquely new qualities and capabilities; each may be projected to address problems within a certain range or with certain attributes, and to bear distinct social, moral, economic, and political consequences.

Artificial Intelligence, Probability, Problem-solving, Law
2019 Special Focus: The Social Impact of AI: Policies and New Governance Models for Social Change
Paper Presentation in a Themed Session

Thomas D. Barton

Teacher, Cornell Law School, Cambridge University

Thomas D. Barton earned a J.D. from Cornell Law School and Ph.D. in law from Cambridge University. He writes and speaks in the United States and abroad about legal theory, preventing and resolving legal problems, Contract Law, and Intellectual Property. In addition to law teaching he has developed many undergraduate courses touching legal sociology and the forms of social control.