A Coffeehouse Conversation on the Van den Herik Test

Bart Verheij

Participants in the dialogue: Chris, a lawyer; Floris, a computer scientist; Alex.

Chris: Alex, I want to thank you for suggesting that I read Van den Herik's "Kunnen computers rechtspreken?". It's a wonderful piece and certainly made me think — and think about my thinking.

Alex: Glad to hear it. Are you still as much of a skeptic about applying artificial intelligence to the law as you used to be?

Chris: You've got me wrong. I'm not against artificial intelligence; I think it's wonderful stuff — perhaps a little crazy, but why not? I simply am convinced that you AI advocates have far underestimated the minds of lawyers, and that there are things a computer will never, ever be able to do. For instance, can you imagine a computer writing a volume in the Asser series? The richness in content, the complexity of the considerations —

Alex: Rome wasn't built in a day!

Floris: Hey, are you two going to clue me in as to what this text by Van den Herik is all about? It's only available in Dutch, you know!

Alex: It is about the question whether computers can decide legal cases. Van den Herik discusses the nature of legal decision making and the prospects of automating it. The text is Van den Herik's 1991 inaugural address, delivered upon acceptance of his position in Leiden. It also contains what might be called the Van den Herik test.


Full text

Verheij, B. (2007). A Coffeehouse Conversation on the Van den Herik Test. Liber Amicorum ter Gelegenheid van de 60e Verjaardag van Prof.Dr. H. Jaap van den Herik, pp. 155-163. Maastricht: Maastricht ICT Competence Center.

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