Enthusiasm abounds about the potential of artificial intelligence to automate public decision-making. The rise of machine learning and computational text analysis together with the proliferation of digital platforms has raised the prospect of “robo-judging” and “robo-administrators.” From a human rights perspective, the reaction has been mixed, and on balance negative. Optimists herald the possibilities of democratizing legal services and making decision-making more predictable and efficient. Critics warn, however, of the specter of new forms of social control, arbitrariness, and inequality. This essay examines the concerns over the turn to automation from the perspective of two international human rights: the rights to social security and a fair trial. It argues that while the critiques deserve a full hearing, they should be evidence-based, informed by an understanding of “technological systems,” and cognizant of the trade-offs between human and machine failure.
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