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I’m sure no techie, but probably like you, I have been intrigued about stories about the ChatGPT program.  One illustration was in my post, A Mediator and a Bot Walk into a Bar …

Of course, artificial intelligence almost certainly will become much more sophisticated in the foreseeable future.  Major tech firms have been working on their own AI systems, and the ChatGPT sensation has spurred them to accelerate their efforts.

People have speculated about how AI will affect things that people routinely do for work – and what jobs will become obsolete because bots will perform the tasks much more efficiently and accurately.

Some have suggested that bots won’t be able to adequately duplicate some human skills and behaviors like communication and empathy.  So, phew, dispute resolution jobs will be safe.

But will they?

I speculated about how well bots will be able to simulate empathy and whether people generally will notice or care that they are interacting with machines, not humans.  I don’t know – its really impossible to know what will be the human-machine co-evolution in the coming years.

One can easily imagine AI systems performing dispute resolution functions in the not-too-distant future.

Imagine a system providing mediation with made-to-order avatars mediating by video.   There could be all sorts of settings such as the “mediator’s” race, skin color, national origin, gender identity, age, attire, hair color, tattoos, accent etc.  Mediators’ theoretical orientation could be set to facilitative, evaluative, transformative, or any of the zillion other theories.  Mediators’ goals could be set in priority order.  The amount of time available, lists of mediation techniques (such as use of joint sessions and caucuses), and other characteristics of the process also could be in the “settings” tab.   The “mediator” could caucus simultaneously with all sides – think of all the time that could be saved!

Creating bespoke mediators would be expensive.  So ODR companies might offer a variety of cheaper, off-the-shelf model mediators with specified combinations of features at different prices.  Maybe you could “hire” (?!) / buy / rent one on Amazon.

Would these processes generally be any better or worse than currently done by human mediators?

One of our esteemed colleagues recently emailed me that s/he thinks that mediation “often really sucks.”  Certainly, some mediators act robotically, repeating routines they were trained.

Some mediators, like ones profiled in this blog post, are especially skilled due to their experience, self-awareness, judgment, intentions, etc.  It may be a long time, if ever, before machines can surpass the performances of such practitioners.  Even skilled humans are fallible, but so are machines.

It’s easy to imagine, however, that AI systems could do much better than many mediators who are not particularly self-aware, experienced etc.  And at a much lower cost.

Will human mediators compete in the market with avatar mediators?  Will humans and avatars co-mediate?

Originally published on Indisputably


John Lande

John Lande is the Isidor Loeb Professor Emeritus at the University of Missouri School of Law and former director of its LLM Program in Dispute Resolution.  He received his J.D. from Hastings College of Law and Ph.D in sociology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.  He began mediating professionally in 1982 in California.… MORE

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