Spring 2017
Letters to the Editor

Praise for our “good news” coverage, a downside to AI, and remembering Jim Delaney


Infographic of top 5 stories from the Winter 2017 issue, ranked by number of website views at the top and by number of Facebook likes on the bottom

Infographic: The Office of Gilbert Li.

 

The Good News Review

Reading in the Winter 2017 issue about the amazing work being done by U of T researchers and innovators who have a passion for helping others – and who dedicate their lives to making the world a better place – is inspiring, to say the least. In a world where the media spew mainly bad news and constantly remind us of all the things we need to be concerned about, I consider U of T Magazine my “good news review.” It lifts my spirits and reminds me of the wonderful things that are possible when people have access to education and are encouraged to reach their potential and realize their dreams.

Rev. Marion Loree
MDiv 2007, Guelph, Ontario

 

A Downside to AI?

While reading your article about Blue J Legal and its artificial intelligence (AI) software for lawyers (Winter 2017), I began to wonder whether this was really a good idea. If we rely too heavily on machines to examine precedents and recommend solutions, will we lose the ability to make reasoned analysis on our own? Will reliance on AI-­recommended solutions slow our adaptation to changing social conditions?

Decision-support models are typically validated by their ability to reproduce past decisions. They assume that the foundation (laws, regulations, societal expectations, etc.) is static. Use of the model will then repeat the same decisions and can stifle innovation and new thinking.

In reality, the foundation is dynamic and new analysis may be required as we adapt to new laws or to changing societal expectations. For example, will AI models help us to adapt to the changing balance between public security (where the state might have access to significant amounts of personal information) and the protection of personal privacy? Or will they hinder us?

If we continue to challenge, refine and review AI models and tools with the same degree of rigour as we do other theories and models, then my questions should be addressed. I applaud the U of T team that brought together legal, software and business communities to develop a new tool. But let it be used wisely.

Paul Ostic
BSc 1989 Victoria, Gatineau, Quebec

Benjamin Alarie, CEO of Blue J Legal, responds:
Our AI legal tools promote legal transparency and access to justice. The genius of the common law is that impartial judges decide cases on their relative merits and produce public reasons. The value of what we’re doing is that we are operationalizing the cumulative wisdom of these judges for the benefit of those who seek to comply with and follow the law. Too many cases are now brought to court that would have been settled if only the mutual distrust of the litigants had been overcome. With the benefit of our tools, increased rates of settlement will leave judges with more time to focus on the truly borderline cases. This will allow for an improved articulation of the boundaries of the law. Everyone will benefit.

 

Unsung Hero

Thank you for the terrific article on Jim Delaney (“In Memoriam,” Winter 2017). I first met Jim through student politics in the mid-1980s and interacted with him again in the mid-1990s, when I sat on the board of the U of T Alumni Association and he was working at Simcoe Hall. To me, Jim was emblematic of U of T’s many unsung staff heroes – the people who focus on the students and help make the university great.

Frank MacGrath
Toronto

 

Hockey Trailblazers

Thanks for the great picture of the women hockey players (“Ice Queens,” Winter 2017). Can you imagine playing hockey in those long and full skirts? In my study on American women’s entry into sports and the clothing they wore for it, U of T was the only school I came across (granted, the only Canadian school I looked at) that had hockey in any form, even as a club. Way to go, Toronto!

Patricia Campbell Warner
BA 1958 Victoria, Belchertown, Massachusetts

 

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