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A three-year project to evaluate legal and policy implications of artificial intelligence (AI) for New Zealand. The project is based at the University of Otago, and funded by the New Zealand Law Foundation.  

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A two-year postdoc for the second phase of the project (AI and Employment Law) will be advertised at the end of 2017.


Project Aims

Artificial intelligence (AI) is coming at us before we fully understand what it might mean. Established ways of doing things in areas like transport regulation, crime prevention and legal practice are being challenged by new technologies such as driverless cars, crime prediction software and 'AI lawyers'.

AI technologies pose fascinating legal, practical and ethical challenges, which require interdisciplinary solutions.

In our project, we will investigate two topics that link AI and the law, and study their implications for New Zealand.

  1. Predictive AI technologies in the criminal justice system
    AI systems can learn to use experience of the past to make predictions about the future. Such predictive systems can be used by police forces to help decide how to allocate resources on a given day, or even to target particular individuals. They can also be used in the courts, to assess the likelihood of a plaintiff reoffending, or even of an individual committing a first offence. These systems are already in use in some countries, but there are complex issues surrounding their adoption.
    • Can we ensure these systems' decisions are transparent and trustworthy?
    • Might these systems contain implicit bias towards certain groups?
    • Might human users become over-reliant on such systems?
  2. AI and Employment Law
    There is much current discussion around the topic of 'technological unemployment' - the prospect that people will lose their jobs to intelligent machines. This prospect raises many legal questions.
    • How would such job losses fit within existing categories of redundancy and unfair dismissal? Are any changes needed to employment law to cater for this scenario?
    • In professions where employees have a social role as well as a practical function (e.g. law, medicine, education), is there a danger that replacing human employees with machines will erode an important component of the work? If so, how might this be safeguarded?
    • If intelligent machines are employed by companies, might we need legal mechanisms for defining their obligations and rights? Should they perhaps be regarded as 'legal persons', for some purposes?

A longer description of the project can be found here.