China Develops AI 'Prosecutor' Able to Charge People With 97% Accuracy - Report
© AP Photo / Vincent YuA woman walks past Chinese national and Hong Kong flags marking China's 72nd National Day in Hong Kong Friday, Oct. 1, 2021.
© AP Photo / Vincent Yu
Artificial intelligence (AI) is increasingly being used in law enforcement around the world, just like it is being used in many other domains, and Chinese prosecutors are not at all averse to progress, utilizing AI tech since 2016.
Researchers in China have developed a machine that can charge people with crimes using artificial intelligence, which they claim is a world-first, The South China Morning Post reported on Monday.
According to the report, citing a paper published in the Chinese peer-reviewed journal Management Review, the AI "prosecutor" can file a charge with more than 97% accuracy based on a verbal description of the case. The Shanghai Pudong People's Procuratorate, the country's largest and busiest district prosecutor's office, designed and tested the equipment.
The researchers of the Chinese Academy of Sciences' big data and knowledge management laboratory reportedly noted that the technology might reduce prosecutors' daily workload, allowing them to focus on more difficult issues.
"The system can replace prosecutors in the decision-making process to a certain extent," Professor Shi Yong from the group of researchers who worked on the invention is quoted in the report as saying.
To improve case processing speed and accuracy, many prosecutors across the world have embraced AI technology, such as picture recognition and digital forensics. And the researchers claim that given that China's prosecutors began utilizing AI in 2016, they have become one of the first in the world to utilize sophisticated AI in their daily routine.
13 October 2021, 00:00 GMT
The AI program used by the Chinese prosecutors is reportedly called System 206. It can assess the strength of evidence, the conditions for an arrest, and the public risk posed by a suspect, per the SCMP.
However, all existing AI tools have a narrow function, according to Shi and colleagues, because "they do not participate in the decision-making process of filing charges and [suggesting] sentences." And the scientists believe that making such decisions would necessitate a machine identifying and eliminating any contents of a case file that are unrelated to the crime while leaving the useful information intact.
In addition, the machine would reportedly have to translate complicated, ever-changing human language into a standard mathematical or geometric framework that a computer could comprehend.
According to the report, China's tech corporations have already created natural language processing technologies, but their functioning usually necessitates the use of mainframe computers, which prosecutors, of course, do not have in their possession at their offices.
How Would It Work?
And according to researchers, this new program is much different because it could run on a desktop PC. It would file a charge against each suspect based on 1,000 so-called "traits" extracted from the human-generated case description text.
Then, the evidence would be evaluated by the above-said System 206. According to the report, between 2015 and 2020, the system was "trained" on over 17,000 cases. It has so far been able to identify and prosecute Shanghai's eight most common crimes, such as credit card fraud, conducting a gambling enterprise, reckless driving, intentional injury, obstructing official duties, theft, fraud, and "picking quarrels and provoking trouble," which is a catch-all accusation frequently used to quash opposition, per the report.
According to researchers, the AI "prosecutor" will soon be enhanced thanks to additional improvements. It will be capable of identifying less prevalent crimes and filing several charges against a single individual.
However, it is still unclear when or if the know-how will be applied to other areas, apart from law enforcement.
Prosecutor Afraid of Trusting Machine With People's Lives
An unnamed prosecutor in Guangzhou, China's southernmost city, expressed reservations about using AI to file charges automatically.
"The accuracy of 97% may be high from a technological point of view, but there will always be a chance of a mistake,” the undisclosed source claimed. "Who will take responsibility when it happens? The prosecutor, the machine or the designer of the algorithm?"
The autonomy of a human prosecutor, especially in decision making, could be harmed if AI is directly involved in such a delicate process, the prosecutor told the outlet.
According to the source, most prosecutors do not want computer scientists "meddling" with a legal decision. Another problem reportedly is that an AI prosecutor could submit a case only based on its prior expertise, and in a shifting social climate, it could not predict how the public would react to a case or the sentence.
"AI may help detect a mistake, but it cannot replace humans in making a decision," the prosecutor said.
Still, the SCMP stated that China is aggressively implementing artificial intelligence in practically every government area in an attempt to increase efficiency, decrease corruption, and reinforce control.
According to reports, several Chinese cities have utilized technology to monitor government personnel's social circles and activities in order to discover corruption. AI has been used by many Chinese courts to assist judges in processing case files and making decisions such as whether to accept or reject an appeal. The majority of Chinese prisons have also implemented AI technology to track inmates' physical and mental well-being in order to reduce violence.