Politics · Technology

Automated Justice: The Role of Artificial Intelligence In The US Justice System

(Quick crash course on what artificial intelligence is for those who might need a refresher.) 

According to this Hubspot article released a couple of weeks ago, here’s a list of jobs that they think will most likely be taken by artificial intelligence (AI) in the next few years.

  1. Telemarketers
  2. Bookkeeping Clerks
  3. Compensation and Benefits Manager
  4. Receptionist
  5. Couriers
  6. Proofreaders
  7. Computer Support Specialists
  8. Market Research Analysts
  9. Advertising Salespeople
  10. Retail Salespeople

Here’s a list of jobs I think AI will take in the next 10 years:

  1. Wealth advisers
  2. Lawyers
  3. Pilot
  4. Tax Auditor
  5. Truck Driver
  6. Taxi Drivers
  7. Investment Banker
  8. Doctors?
  9. Computer Programmer
  10. Musician

If  we get to the point we can depend on AI to take care of our health, transportation, taxes, money, and entertainment, why not go all the way and allow AI to enter areas of public institutions like our justice system? I thought I wouldn’t find much research on AI in the judicial system. It would be the one place AI dare not touch. Wrong.

Here’s an expert of an article from the Guardian. I’ts about 9 months old.

The AI “judge” has reached the same verdicts as judges at the European court of human rights in almost four in five cases involving torture, degrading treatment and privacy.

The algorithm examined English language data sets for 584 cases relating to torture and degrading treatment, fair trials and privacy. In each case, the software analysed the information and made its own judicial decision. In 79% of those assessed, the AI verdict was the same as the one delivered by the court.

The article goes on to say:

Dr Nikolaos Aletras, the lead researcher from UCL’s department of computer science, said: “We don’t see AI replacing judges or lawyers, but we think they’d find it useful for rapidly identifying patterns in cases that lead to certain outcomes.

“It could also be a valuable tool for highlighting which cases are most likely to be violations of the European convention on human rights.” An equal number of “violation” and “non-violation” cases were chosen for the study.

So it’s happening. There are people thinking, researching, and applying AI to judicial processes. Based on this particular simulation,  its not that far off either. At 79% of verdicts in alignment with human judge verdicts,  it will only get better and most likely serve as a qualifier/screening tool for cases that should be evaluated by human rights judges.

Dr. Aletras’ work seems very academic and more research focused with limited impact on the day to day European Human Rights Courts. Maybe in the future, they’ll be some application but not today.  That may be the case for AI as a judge but how about other parts of the judicial system?

Then, I came upon this article in the New York Times that discusses how AI already plays a significant role in the judicial process. It’s a couple weeks old. AI systems are used from everything to evaluating evidence like DNA and fingerprints, to deploying police officers in the most efficient manner. Here’s a quick story from one of the applications that shows one of the key challenges:

“Take the case of Glenn Rodriguez. An inmate at Eastern Correctional Facility in upstate New York, MR. Rodriguez was denied parole last year despite having a nearly perfect record of rehabilitation . The reason? A high score from a computer system called Compas. The company that makes Compas considers the weighting of inputs to be proprietary information. That force Mr. Rodriguez to rely on his own ingenuity to figure out what had gone wrong. 

This year, Mr. Rodriguez returned to the parole board with the same faulty Compas score He had identified an error in one of the inputs for his Compas assessment. But without knowing the input weights, he was unable to explain the effect of his error, or persuade anyone to correct it. Instead of challenging the result, he was left to try to argue for parole despite the result. “

Did Mr. Rodriguez deserve parole? Based on traditional parole metrics, yes. He has near perfect record of rehabilitation. Based on Compas, a private company that essentially tries to predict likelihood of recidivism based on “proprietary data” and “algorithms”, Mr. Rodriguez stood a higher than usual chance of coming back to jail and thought it would just make more sense to keep him there. Have you spotted the problem yet?

Oscar the Grouch - Garbage IN  Garbage Out

Back in the day, when I aspired to play point guard in the NBA, I would focus on shooting a ton of free throws. I thought if I could just get a high volume of free throws, I could increase my percentage. I was missing a ton of free throws and it didn’t look like shooting more was helping. It wasn’t until my eighth grade coach told me, ” Practice doesn’t make perfect, perfect practice makes perfect.” I can shoot all I want but if I have garbage form, I’m just practicing garbage form and wasting my time. As most of you know, my basketball career ended in retirement in eighth grade, but that lesson has stayed with me and has ample significance to AI and machine learning.

In order to improve AI and machine learning algorithms, they must be trained by real data. Specifically in the justice system, companies will work with the state and federal government to train and develop all types of algorithms. The problem is these systems often compound societal and institutional realities they are supposed used to prevent. They may be trained with a high volume of data, but its just like me shooting with bad form.

Remember Mr. Rodriguez? Lets take a look at ProPublica’s evaluation of Compas’s Recidivism Algorithm to see if we can see if there are any insights into Compas’s performance.(Give it a read if you have a chance) Here’s the summary of their analysis:

“Our (ProPublica) analysis found that:

  • Black defendants were often predicted to be at a higher risk of recidivism than they actually were. Our analysis found that black defendants who did not recidivate over a two-year period were nearly twice as likely to be misclassified as higher risk compared to their white counterparts (45 percent vs. 23 percent).
  • White defendants were often predicted to be less risky than they were. Our analysis found that white defendants who re-offended within the next two years were mistakenly labeled low risk almost twice as often as black re-offenders (48 percent vs. 28 percent).
  • The analysis also showed that even when controlling for prior crimes, future recidivism, age, and gender, black defendants were 45 percent more likely to be assigned higher risk scores than white defendants.
  • Black defendants were also twice as likely as white defendants to be misclassified as being a higher risk of violent recidivism. And white violent recidivists were 63 percent more likely to have been misclassified as a low risk of violent recidivism, compared with black violent recidivists.
  • The violent recidivism analysis also showed that even when controlling for prior crimes, future recidivism, age, and gender, black defendants were 77 percent more likely to be assigned higher risk scores than white defendants.”

How interesting, the analysis from ProPublica looks like it mimics some of the realities we see in our justice system. This shouldn’t be surprising, the Compas algorithm was most likely trained using data from states that most likely have laws, procedures, convictions, and outcomes in place that disproportionately affects males, and people of color and people in urban areas. It most likely has data points from over-policed areas.

When we leverage AI and machine learning, for any industry, we have to make sure we don’t allow the flaws in our institutions to creep into the systems we develop. If we do, the solutions are causing more harm than good.


-ProPublica published the calculations and data for this analysis on github

Education · Politics · Random · Uncategorized

The Rise of Pseudo Intellectualism

What is pseudo intellectualism?

Pseudo Intellectualism, as defined by dictionary.com is:

  1. Exhibiting intellectual pretensions that have no basis in sound scholarship.
  2. Pretending an interest in intellectual matters for reasons of status.

There’s no other time in the history of the world we have a limitless amount of knowledge at our fingertips. Traditionally, we’ve depended on institution and life experience to dictate who had access to knowledge but as a result of technological advances, we’ve seen a rapid democratization of knowledge in a way which overloads how we identify who and what is intellectual.

Instead of leaning on academic credentials, intellectual pursuits, and/or age, we’ve become a society focused on stance and position. We focus on a person’s ability to create a stance and answer a question instead of the pursuit of the right question. Ultimately, the pursuit of questions or answers is what differentiates an intellectual from a pseudo intellectual. The answer can be 42 but what is the ultimate question?

What are some examples?

Example of pseudo intellectualism is all around us. My favorite example of pseudo intellectualism are some people that consider themselves “woke”. Woke, for those asking what that even means in this context, is the awareness of systems and messages that facilitate social injustice. Some people will recite to you all the reasons said systems exist and how they are impacted but then enforce the same systems on other people. This shows a puedo understanding of what the systems are and how they impact a group’s existence.

Another example is our election process in the US. You are well informed if you identify key platform positions for each candidate. We regurgitate positions, history, topics of contention, but rarely ask why. Why does this position exist? Why are they on this side of the issue? What are the long term implications of this person’s position? We are hand fed talking points by the news and use them in conversation. As a result, they eventually become a force framework for how we think about the election. It becomes this vs that. The forced dichotomy prevents us from asking bigger questions that challenge the election process.

Is it bad for society?

Yes and no. The traditional role of intellectuals was to move the “pursuit of knowledge” forward so others can partake in its fruits. We’ve gotten to a point where there’s so much information and knowledge openly available, we need people who will curate and provide us with a bite sized understanding with the hope an average of bite sized summaries and positions will get us closer to understanding topics of interest.

To counter, pseudo intellectualism lulls people into a surface understanding of life. We outsource intellectual processing to other parties so we just become consumers of knowledge without knowing what went into making it. What’s in that burger?

How can we do better?

There are three simple ways we can combat pseudo intellectualism.

  1. Call out people who exhibit pseudo intellectual habits.
  2. Always ask why
  3. Be wary of those who point to an absolute truth…. One of my favorite sayings, “Nothing is true, everything is permitted.” is from Assassin’s Creed. “To say ‘Nothing is True’, is to realise that the foundations of society are fragile, and that we must be the shepherds of our own civilisation. To say that ‘Everything is Permitted’, is to understand that we must live with the consequences of our actions whether good or bad.”
Politics · Uncategorized

The Western Fall

We analyzed the Arab Spring…Now let’s talk about the next revolution we all have courtside seats for…. The Western Fall.

Here in the US, we’ve had an unprecedented presidential primary season. We’ve had two anti- establishment candidates, one from each of the major political parties, rise to national acclaim. One of them is the presumptive republican nominee

Political pundits, historians, statisticians, failed in their predictions. Most are blaming miscalculations on changes in the media technology and how celebrities push forecasters further from accuracy.

They’ve brought out segments of the US population that feel disenfranchised, slighted, and that traditional political allegiances have not served their needs. Anti-establishment voter sentiment is not just exclusive to the United States.

Meet Norbert Hofer, former presidential candidate, of the far-right Freedom Party of Austria. The party wanted to provide more referendums, directly elect the federal president, significantly reduce the number of ministries, and devolve power to the federal states and local councils. While Hofer eventually ended up losing, he managed to get 49% of votes during the election.

The far left also has its share of rising political figures. In Greece, for example, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’ left-wing Syriza party is leading an unlikely coalition government with the right-wing populist Independent Greek party.

Across the West, we see a rise in conversations around immigration, economic integration, austerity measures , size of government, and a move away from “centrist” candidates and platforms. Why now and most importantly, what are the implications of a more populist West? Are we in a new normal?

Why Now?

There are a couple of major trends play a key role in the Western Fall. I believe the social liberalization is a major driver.

The World Values Survey shows that Western societies have been getting gradually more liberal on many social issues, especially among the younger generation and well-educated middle class. That includes egalitarian attitudes toward sex roles, tolerance of fluid gender identities and LGBT rights, support for same-sex marriage, tolerance of diversity, and more secular values, as well as what political scientists call emancipative values, engagement in directly assertive forms of democratic participation, and cosmopolitan support for agencies of global governance.

This long-term generational shift threatens many traditionalists’ cultural values. Less educated and older citizens fear becoming marginalized and left behind within their own countries.

Another key driver is the rise in income inequality. Western countries, who were greatly impacted by the global financial crisis, have rebounded for the most part, but inequality between the wealthy and the poor has continued to increase. While income inequality has increased amongst populations, there is also a larger discrepancy between richer and poorer countries in the EU.

Globalization and the advent of technology replacing low wage jobs creates some context as well. From retail to finance to healthcare and education, the jobs available particularly for low-skilled workers, are diminishing. One study from the Oxford Martin School published in 2014, estimates the 49% of all jobs are in jeopardy of technological disruption over the next 20 years. Low wage workers are feeling the bern already and it’s translating to isolationist rhetoric.

What are the implications?

What we’ve already started to see is a large shift toward isolationism. #Brexit is a great example of what is to come. Citizens who feel immigration is the cause of their country’s woes will close their borders and make it more difficult for immigrants to visit and and gain residency. They’ll want to block themselves off from their neighbors and go it alone. This is especially worrisome for the European Union as we’ll start to see more right and left leaning parties bring similar referendums to the people.

I also believe we’ll see the demise of the two party System in the United States. At this time, the Democratic and GOP platforms are too centrist for the ultra conservatives and the left liberals. It may not happen this election cycle, but we’ll see a fragmentation of the major parties in the next 5 years.

* I’d be interested in hearing more implications in the comments section. I’m just going to wrap up because I have to start making dinner.

To conclude, I do believe we are in a new normal. We’ve seen this coming for a long time. On the US side, the Tea Party was the predecessor of what we see now. The big question is how political systems will operate as a result of the new norm. I have a feeling that the process will sort itself out but it will take some deliberate steering. We are in an era where we have to deal with global problems collectively. Isolationism will serve as a hinderance to major challenges like climate change, water and food shortages to come. I haven’t even asked what this means for China on the worlds stage. What about emerging countries? Is this a chance for others to step up where other countries will attempt to focus more on internal development?

music · Politics

Flying to Nigeria with my Woes

I’ve been getting a lot of emails, texts, tweets from my friends asking me to explain what’s going on in Nigeria. I don’t really have all the answers but I think I have an okay understanding. Here’s my response to one of my friends about the recent growth adjustment discussed here.

A couple of things…..
  1. It’s bad but it isn’t as bad as this guy makes it sound
  2. It’s a mix of history and current situations biting Nigeria in the butt
  3. This is probably the best situation Nigeria can be in.
It’s bad but it isn’t as bad as this guy makes it sound… A lot of things aren’t happening right now because of the currency restrictions the Nigerian government has put on commerce and consumers. The policy is in place as ant-corruption +  protection driven strategy to prevent rapid inflation. I need to find some articles to better explain it but that’s one major part of whats going on. There are things still happening but the industries that aren’t driven by import and currency arbitrage seem to be doing okay. Totally forgot to mention the fuel scarcity… maybe its pretty bad, but Nigerians always make the pretty bad seem bearable for some reason.
It’s a mix of history and current situations biting Nigeria in the butt.  The major challenge with the Nigerian economy was that it was so dependent on oil revenues as a government. As supply increased, the Nigerian government was over exposed to the decreased prices and it ruined the 2015 and 2016 budget. Now everyone internally is screaming diversification but its a tad late. If you look at Angola, Saudi Arabia, Libya….They all have ridiculous sovereign wealth funds that have been at work to invest oil profit in other industries and other areas of the world. Nigeria has been squandering its oil profits through corruption and living the high life.
This is probably the best situation Nigeria can be in.. I think this is forcing a lot of difficult conversations that should have been had 20 or 30 years ago. It could be severely worst…. Imagine a currency diving into a tail spin. That would suck. Nigeria still has a things going for it… a ton of natural resources, low labor costs, improving infrastructure…. There’s still a lot of work to do but  I think Nigeria is still in a decent position…
business · Kanye West · Leadership · Politics · Uncategorized

How the FBI Hacked Into the Iphone

This took a lot to post, but I’m not afraid anymore.

For a long time, our government has tried to stay ahead of us. What we’ve seen in reality is the people always catch up.

A couple of my colleagues and I have taken the last couple of weeks to identify the vulnerability the FBI is using to hack the Iphone.

We made a video about it here. We believe it should be shared with the world.