Jan 1, 2024 - Politics & Policy

Chief Justice John Roberts urges "humility" on AI

Illustration of a judge with a face made of binary code.

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts used his year-end report on the federal judiciary to focus on how artificial intelligence should be used with "caution and humility."

Why it matters: While there's little prospect of extensive federal AI legislation in 2024 as Axios reporters Ryan Heath and Megan Morrone report, AI's applications will continue to ramp up in the new year, and the judicial system is not exempt.

"[L]egal determinations often involve gray areas that still require application of human judgment," Roberts said.

"Nuance matters," Roberts added:

"Much can turn on a shaking hand, a quivering voice, a change of inflection, a bead of sweat, a moment's hesitation, a fleeting break in eye contact. And most people still trust humans more than machines to perceive and draw the right inferences from these clues."

Between the lines: What's absent from the report is commentary on Supreme Court ethics controversies that dominated headlines in 2023 and Trump legal disputes.

The bottom line: "AI is based largely on existing information, which can inform but not make such decisions. ... I predict that human judges will be around for a while."

  • "But with equal confidence I predict that judicial work — particularly at the trial level — will be significantly affected by AI. Those changes will involve not only how judges go about doing their job, but also how they understand the role that AI plays in the cases that come before them."

Read the 13-page report.

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