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Settling disputes: A job for artificial intelligence

Shutterstock_1104230930If you have siblings, you’ll remember the need for a third party to referee the most important of childhood disputes. Whether you were calling ‘shotgun’, fighting over the television remote or reluctantly sharing the last chocolate chip cookie, an adult often had to step in. Consider this one of the oldest versions of conflict-resolution training.

I know we’ve been telling you that most human skills are future-proofed and safe from automation, but there are some exceptions. Soon parents, caretakers, camp counselors, managers and judges alike may be able to retire their gavels and hand over decision-making duties to artificial intelligence bots. That’s right. In recent years, new tools supported by artificial intelligence are being used to mediate select legal, insurance and even personal matters. Innovations like Kids Court (an Alexa skill) and Smartsettle ONE are already doing the work. In time, similar tools may be adopted to mediate workplace squabbles. I don’t know about you, but that leaves me with some questions.

How does it work?

The more technological advances we experience, the more I question whether sci-fi is actually fiction or a prediction. AI mediation would call on an algorithm to implement a combination of the following systems to mediate and make judgement calls for you:

  1. Rule-based reasoning, meaning, “If X is true, then Y is true,” or, “X is true; therefore, Y is true.”
  2. Case-based reasoning, which is the process of solving new problems based on the solutions of similar past problems.
  3. Machine learning, where the artificial intelligence system attempts to learn new knowledge on its own without having been programmed.
  4. Neural networks, which are a set of algorithms loosely modeled after the human brain that are designed to recognize patterns.

Why should we trust that robots make better decisions than human professionals?

One major benefit of automation is to reduce the capacity for human error. AI is the automation of human intelligence, and realistically, humans overlook and miss facts all the time. In a perfect world, machines won’t.

One of the advantages humans have over robots is the ability to be emotionally intelligent. But is the workplace an area we want to consider emotions over logic? I guess it depends on your management style.

Does this mean we’ll be getting rid of traditional mediators (managers, judges, lawyers, human resources professionals, etc.)?

In short, no. One thing is for sure: even though these tools operate heavily on logic, we can’t just hand every decision over to the bots, because nuances are real.

For example, say your office allows you to have 10 days of paid time off. But your employee caught a monstrous illness that had them out for 14 days. They missed work for a good reason. But if it were left up to AI, they’d be in trouble. This is where the fairness of human intelligence comes into play and why human mediators will still be needed. Your judgment is still a valued asset in the workplace, but perhaps AI can be of assistance as you’re making those decisions.

So maybe we take the metaphorical gavels and whistles we thought we could throw away out of the trash and keep them handy. Maybe parents don’t get to retire as early as they would have liked because, after all, we still need their veto power over Alexa’s Kids Court judgments. Not to mention, in retrospect, those sibling squabbles can make for the great adult memories.

With that said, it’s good to know we’re approaching a time where someone will be able to tell my brother that physically lifting me out of the front seat when I clearly called ‘shotgun’ should have meant he had to share all his snacks with me for the week. Why? Because, Siri, Alexa, Dexter and all their bot friends said so.

Mballa Mendouga, Communications Manager, Corporation Social Responsibility & Campaigns, Association of International Certified Professional Accountants

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