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

1:48 Part II

When I initially started writing my thoughts around the new Jay-Z album, I was pretty set on what I wanted to say. ” 4:44 is a set of journal entries of a man that’s done a lot, made a lot of mistakes, seen success, but ultimately wonders how his actions, experiences, and family will be remembered.” Seems logical and sound based on the lyrics and explanation of each song. But there’s so much more, especially when you put 4:44 in the context of when it was released and the Jay-z that released it. We can over analyze it till kingdom come but I’m just going to focus on two areas that hit me based on other things I saw/read last week. (This ended being way longer than I thought it was going to be so I split it into two parts… this is part 2 of 2)

Dave McClure and Jay-Z defining masculinity? 

Earlier this week, Dave McClure, Co-Founder of 500 Startups, stepped down as GP due to multiple claims of sexual harassment from women founders and associates. As a huge fan of 500 Startups, their mission and outcomes, I was truly saddened by these allegations but not surprised. As most people know who’ve engaged with the Silicon Valley ecosystem, there’s a bro-ish culture still entrenched in how people do business which creates a sometimes hostile environment for women and minorities. Don’t get it twisted though, its not just Silicon Valley. I’ve heard similar stories from women in other sectors; the higher you go, the more questionable and outright disrespectful behavior you encounter. Why is it that some people in power, who often happen to be men, feel they are beyond moral and ethical parameters in how they engage with others? One of the key explanations I’ve heard in the recent week or so around sexual harassment in the VC space is there’s a “machismo/masculinity” problem that needs to be addressed and I agree. As a society, we have an outdated perspective on what masculinity encapsulates. Most men (and women) still operate on masculinity 1.0. As a result, we have guys chasing outdated ideas of masculinity that disenfranchises women and other men.

Masculinity 1.0 is purely focused on the three p’s; protection, providing, and pro-creation. Any student of history and biology understands the rationale and advantage in  providing the the three p’s to your family and tribe.  Make as many kids as you can, protect your lineage and your group, and provide food and shelter for those you are responsible for. Masculinity 1.0 got us to where we are now; 7 billion + people, weapons of mass destruction, and economic system allows us to trade currency for food and shelter.

Fortunately/ unfortunately (depending at how you look at it), we live in a time where we’ve built institutions to manage the key areas that define masculinity. For most in the developed world, the state takes care of security, you can go to the store and buy food instead of hunting, you don’t have to build your house, and sometimes men aren’t even needed for procreation. (Yes smarty pants, money has become an intermediary but hold off on that thought for now.)  What does masculinity look like now that we have most of the basic external threats covered?

4:44 surprisingly encompasses this same question but from Jay-z’s perspective. He’s experienced most of his life through the masculinity 1.0 lens. From his experience hustling, building his business empire, promiscuity…etc, he’s done what he’s done to get to what we see today. Will that take him to the next level though?  Kill Jay-Z kind of gets at this struggle between who his was and who he has to be now that he has a family and is focused on building legacy. What does masculinity 2.0 look like from Jay-Z’s perspective?

  1. Legacy – its an important theme throughout 4:44. I think Jay looks at providing from a societal and generational perspective. It’s less about his kids and more about his children’s children and lifting up those around him. Many would argue this is a function of his socioeconomic realities. I’d disagree.  The “7th generation” principle taught by many Native American tribes say that in every decision, be it personal, governmental or corporate, we must consider how it will affect our descendants seven generations into the future. Legacy is something everyone can think about.
  2. Courage- I don’t know if Jay-Z could have made this album earlier in his career. Outside of my feelings about spilling your own tea, it takes a lot of courage to open up about your shortcomings. I guess Beyonce may have given him some. Courage in the face of adversity and tough times is essential to being a modern man.
  3. Self Improvement/Expertise – Jay-Z shows us in 4:44 why he’s one of the G.O.A.Ts of the music industry. 13 albums in, he’s still making quality music. He’s perfected his craft overtime and become one of the best at it. Mastery and self improvement is at the core of masculinity 2.0. What are you doing every day to improve yourself and build mastery?
  4. Morality/ Predictable framework for how you operate – Jay, for better or worst ,lays out his sense of of morality and his perception on how he tries to live his life. Living by a code, set of rules, or framework helps de-risk relationships so people know you before they meet you. It also helps to navigate gray area situations.

Transitioning away from masculinity 1.0 to a more modern day appropriate definition of masculinity will provide a new set of traits, actions and characteristics for men to aspire to. I believe a transition will do its part to eradicate some of the toxic behavior and beliefs we see as common place.

1:48 Part I

When I initially started writing my thoughts around the new Jay-Z album, I was pretty set on what I wanted to say. ” 4:44 is a set of journal entries of a man that’s done a lot, made a lot of mistakes, seen success, but ultimately wonders how his actions, experiences, and family will be remembered.” Seems logical and sound based on the lyrics and explanation of each song. But there’s so much more, especially when you put 4:44 in the context of when it was released and the Jay-z that released it. We can over analyze this till kingdom come but I’m just going to focus on two areas that hit me based on other things I saw/read last week. (This ended being way longer than I thought it was going to be so I split it into two parts..this is part 1 of 2)

Trauma/gossip sell for all the wrong reasons. 

My main man Vince Staples (I don’t know him like that but he’s definitely on my celebrity dinner invite list) did an interview with Ebro in the Morning last week. It’s a great interview ( I started it right in the middle but definitely watch the whole thing) but I want to focus on what he says early on. “For black people, we sell trauma. ” 

“I turned that 2 to a 4, 4 to an 8
I turned my life into a nice first week release date”

Jay-z The Story of OJ. 

Jay shared a lot of personal experiences that could definitely be described as traumatic for him or others in his life. He’s leveraged trauma and tea to go platinum in the first week on his own streaming music service and make a ton of money. He’s not the only artist that’s done it and won’t be the last, but there’s a certain air around the conversation especially with Beyonce’s miscarriages and his infidelity. I understand pain and tough times make for the best music, (Hello Mary J Blige) but there’s something about profiting from infidelity and the pain of others (even if they okay it) that doesn’t sit well with me. Somethings have to be out of bounds. But its for that exact reason 4:44 did so well. Yea, No I.D spazzed on the production and its nice to hear a rapper put some words together, but why do people find so much benefit from hearing about the worst parts of a celebrities life? Why do people like to see successful people fail or fall from grace?

 

 

Looking For America On The Fourth Of July

This is was supposed to post on the 4th but I scheduled for the wrong time. 

One of my favorite songs ever. It encapsulates the journey of an individual and their loved one (Paul and Kathy) as they journey across the United States and also serves as an analogy for the search of the American dream and ideals.

Volkswagen released a great commercial that used the song in the background of a story about an Irish family taking a vacation throughout America to fulfill the last wishes of their grandfather. (side comment…. Volkswagen is always on their advertising A game when it comes to giving the audience all the feels in their commercials. Does anyone know which agency VW uses?)

 

They had three generations of Americans in the new VW Atlas traveling across the US. Talk about an existential cake of thoughts, views, and experiences. The VW video and Paul’s song remind me we never may get a chance to see the best America has to offer but we owe it to those who came before us (mostly immigrants, slaves, and natives)  to continue the search and work toward a more perfect union for all.

Happy 4th of July!

Re-thinking Venture Capital in Emerging Markets

For the last year or so, the team at tiphub has done a lot of interesting research and testing to identify key needs to accelerate entrepreneurship in emerging markets like Nigeria. One of the most common challenges, as most would assume, is access to capital. However, speak to VCs and they say they don’t see enough invest-able companies and are constantly fighting for the best opportunities with other vcs.
There seems to be a deeper disconnect that we haven’t been able to capture. In the next couple of paragraphs, I’ll discuss the actual amount of money in the VC space in Nigeria. (Nigeria will be our case study) Identify where I believe they key gaps are, and present a viable solution that will be the catalyst for start-up funding at scale.

Based on a triangulated estimate, there’s about 300 million USD under vc management in Nigeria. This does not include foreign based funds that operate in Nigeria.  To better put this in perspective, we took GDP/ VC asset ratio to give some context. Its relatively easy to see that Nigeria is lagging in vc capital as an available asset class.  This isn’t the only issue. If we look at how 3oo million USD is deployed year after year, we’ll see that most vc firms look to invest in later stages in lifecycles of most start-ups. This translates into entrepreneurs who need to prove viability and scalability before investment. However, its the chicken or the egg argument. How do companies prove the validity of an idea without funding?

There’s an abundance of growth captial in Nigeria. The key issue is the lack of early stage “market validation” capital needed to get companies off the ground. In more developed markets, entrepreneurs find early capital from the three f’s (Friends, Family and Fools). There are also more opportunities for funding through banks and government grants. Family members are willing to bet on the next big idea.  Ultimately, entrepreneurs in developed markets have access to a diversified stream of capital that 1. is at a smaller amount 2. Friendlier terms and capital structures for young companies.

The key gap, as I see it, is access to friends and family capital in emerging markets. At its core, it stems from lack of access to credit and disposable income in rising and emerging markets. This is the real gap. Early stage companies don’t have the capital to fund their first MVP or to validate their market. As a result, many ideas never get tested in the market.

VCs won’t dare touch risky early stage opportunities due to the demand for returns. There’s not enough disposable capital in emerging markets to make a dent in funding for start-ups. How do we create a bridge from pre-seed to growth stage?

In the ideal world, VCs would partner with foundation and governments to fund small scale experiments/ projects. These projects would either fail or succeed and would move to a scaling phase. For example, if we took Nigeria as a case study, the Nigerian government would match $100 million USD with the Elumelu Foundation’s TEEP program focused more on grants to validate….lets say… 2000 ideas. After a year, 400 (20%) of those companies would be invest able opportunities. 400 is a decent pipeline. Key issue here is sustainability. 200 million dollars a year to identify 400 invest able companies is a tall order. However, 100 million dollars  a year vs  the cost of unemployment  in a place like Nigeria seems like a drop in the bucket.

Maybe later, we can also talk about ways to jump start merger and acquisition activity so people see the light at the end of their investment

Key points to remember:

  1. There’s a lot of money in emerging markets.
  2. The key to differentiation in the early stages of a company is what they’ve learned vs their competitors. Cashflow and other financial indicators don’t start to matter until the later stage.
  3. Entrepreneurs need flexible and attainable early stage capital to validate their ideas.
  4. Private/Public partnerships have to find a way to work together to create the bridge for early stage companies.

Random statistic to leave you with: Nigeria ranks 170 out of 189 for raising finance for a business and 129th (up 9 places since 2014) in starting a business.

The Death of Oratory

 

Something to think about as we approach the 4th of July.

“Oratory is the parent of liberty. By the constitution of things it was ordained that eloquence should be the last stay and support of liberty, and that with her she is ever destined to live, to flourish, and to die. It is to the interest of tyrants to cripple and debilitate every species of eloquence. They have no other safety. It is then, the duty of free states to foster oratory.” -Henry Hardwicke

Henry wrote a book on oratory back in the day (1896) called The History of Oratory and Orators: A study of the influence of oratory upon politics and literature, with special reference to certain orators selected as representative of their several epochs, from the earliest Dawn of Grecian civilization down to the present day. (weeew…. talk about at title) I haven’t read all of it yet but slowly going through on my ipad.

I’ll do a full review once I’m finished, but the first sentence of the book sets the tone:  “Oratory is the parent of liberty.”

Taking a look at our current political discourse, we should be weary of people who overlook great orators for those who will overly simplify positions, policies, relationships, and negotiations.

31 Day Writing Challenge

I’ve always enjoyed writing. It’s something I do casually via this blog and my personal journal. I’ve realized through conversation and interactions with colleagues that there’s ample benefit to writing consistently for professional reflection and synthesizing emergent trends.

Aside from professional/ personal goals, I really want to push myself this month to create and ship on a daily basis. A lot of my thoughts and ideas tend to stay in my brain. For this reason, I’m going on a creation spree in July. I’m challenging myself to publish one blog post a day for the whole of July. I’m most likely going to be talking about hip-hop, politics, vc, product management, education, emerging technology, and some random poems, Nigeria, Africa, International Development, current events, and anything else that comes up. 

Lets see how it goes.