AI has been the talk of the town this year — from Harvey AI being able to output a memo in mere seconds to OpenAI’s GPT 4 passing the bar exams in the top 10 per cent. In this context, AI’s newfound “expertise” was put to the test in SIArb’s Annual Debate 2023. 

Taking place as the 6th edition of this annual final flagship event for SIArb and happening as the 2nd official in-person debate post-COVID, the debate held on 7 December 2023 kicked off with an introduction to the co-chairs, Ms. Cathryn Neo (AON) and Ms. Meera Rajah (Sidley Austin LLP) and the moderator, Ms. Asiyah Arif (Providence Law Asia)


For the proposition, Ms. Amy Wen Wei (CMS Hasche Sigle) and Mr. Joel Quek (WongPartnership LLP) fiercely argued that the “increased computational power” of AI, and the existence of “debiasing AI tools” allow AI to correct itself should any biases exist, which a human adjudicator would be unable to do. While the human mind may be predisposed towards a certain outcome, AI is unburdened by these biases. 

Conversely, Ms. Monica Crespo (Jus Mundi) and Ms. Olga Boltenko (Fangda Partners) immediately pointed out, as the opposition, the element of human involvement in the creation of AI tools, with the AI retaining any human biases. Humans gather the data, humans create the algorithms, and humans manage the feedback loops. In this sense, AI can never be bias-free, and instead “inherits bias from the data”. Ms. Monica Crespo mentioned, both in her speech and belatedly post-debate that “AI arbitrators are not the silver bullet to tackle cultural biases in international arbitration”.

After a heated debate, the floor was passed to the Judges, Dinesh Dhillon (Allen & Gledhill LLP), Joan Lim-Casanova (K&L Gates Straits Law LLC), and Professor Mark McLaughlin (Visiting Assistant Professor of Law, SMU Yong Pung How School of Law). The questions ranged from whether a diverse group of people coming together would result in a culturally unbiased training set to whether justice would truly be seen to be done if an AI arbitrator were to helm an arbitration — (the latter inspired by the quote: “justice must not only be done but must also be seen to be done” by Lord Hewart in Rex v. Sussex Justices [1924] 1 KB 256). 


Both the judges and the audience delivered their verdict, that the unanimous winner of the debate was the opposition. It was also concluded that the best approach may be to have human arbitrators assisted by AI tools. The session was then wrapped up with a networking dinner, and drinks, where the younger practitioners were given the opportunity to mingle with the more experienced.

Click HERE to view more photos. 


Reported by Pranav Ghosh and Suriani Zaini Abdullah

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