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Joint research project on legal systems and AI selected for funding by UKRI and JST

A research project on legal systems and artificial antelligence (AI), based on collaboration between Hitotsubashi University, Japan, and the University of Cambridge, UK, has been selected for funding following a joint call by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) and the Japanese Science and Technology Agency (JST).

Artificial intelligence and legal systems

On 30 January 2020, Hitotsubashi University, Tokyo, and the University of Cambridge, UK, announced that they will jointly conduct research on legal systems and artificial intelligence. The Japanese Principal Investigator is Professor Mihoko Sumida of Hitotsubashi University’s Graduate School of Law, and the British Principal Investigator is Professor Simon Deakin of the Centre for Business Research and Faculty of Law, University of Cambridge. The project is one of a number of projects funded by the UKRI and JST joint call on artificial intelligence and society.

This project focuses on judicial decision making as a core feature of legal systems, and examines the possibilities, risks, and limitations of its digitisation and automation. Its aim is to develop;

  1. foundational technologies for computing law and modeling legal reasoning in ways that will facilitate the introduction of AI into legal systems
  2. the creation of future scenarios for the implementation of AI in law
  3. a set of ethical guidelines for regulating the use of AI in dispute resolution.

The research project will be undertaken with the joint support of the UKRI (UK Research and Innovation) and JST (Japan Science and Technology Agency).

Participants from Hitotsubashi University, Tokyo, are Professor Mihoko Sumida, Professor Kazuhiko Yamamoto, Professor Keisuke Takeshita from the Graduate School of Law, Professor Yuichi Washida and Professor Mikiharu Noma from the Graduate School of Business Administration. From the University of Cambridge, the participants are Professor Simon Deakin from the Centre for Business Research, Professor Jon Crowcroft from the Computer Laboratory, Senior Lecturer Dr Felix Steffek from the Faculty of Law, Senior Research Associate Dr Jat Singh from the Computer Laboratory and Trust and Technology Initiative, Research Associate and Affiliated Lecturer Dr Jennifer Cobbe from the Computer Laboratory, and Research Associate Dr Christopher Markou from the Faculty of Law.

Professor Mihoko Sumida said: “Since the very beginnings of Japan as a modern nation, there has been intense interest in the development of the law and the legal system, and conscious learning from the West. In the meantime, Japan was also acquiring advanced technological capabilities. Today, however, legaltech in Japan is in its infancy, and there are hurdles in the way of its development including a low rate of digitisation of judicial materials. I am very excited to get such the chance to work with our partner, Cambridge University, on research which will help overcome these hurdles and open up new horizons.”

Professor Simon Deakin
Professor Simon Deakin

Professor Simon Deakin said: “Our project is driven by a central question: is law computable? It is both timely and important. There are now numerous legaltech startups and established companies competing to develop software to automate aspects of law and legal processes. We will be exploring fundamental questions about what the automation of law means for the autonomy and effectiveness of the legal system and for the rule of law. We are excited to be doing this work with our partners from Hitotsubashi and hope that our research will move the AI/law debate forward in both countries.”

Dr Felix Steffek said: “We will not only explore how artificial intelligence can improve dispute resolution. We are also interested in researching ethical questions and limits and will develop a Guide for Regulating Artificial Intelligence in Dispute Resolution.”