A Second Coffeehouse Conversation on the Van den Herik Test

Bart Verheij

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

Alex: Great to see you again! It has been a while ...

Chris: Indeed. Last time we discussed Van den Herik’s ‘Kunnen computers rechtspreken?’ [1991], a wonderful piece that certainly made me think – and think about my thinking.

Alex: Thanks for reminding me. Are you still as much of a sceptic about artificial intelligence as you then was?

Chris: On the contrary! I’m not at all a sceptic about artificial intelligence; I think it’s wonderful stuff – actually rather scary. I simply am convinced that you AI advocates have far underestimated the risks of artificial intelligence, and that there are many things that computers can do that harm society. For instance, can you imagine a society with ever more computer autonomy, with ever less human control –

Alex: Robots haven’t conquered the world – yet!

Floris: I am losing you two. Remind me a bit about last time?

Alex: In 2007, we discussed the question whether computers can decide legal cases. In Van den Herik’s 1991 inaugural address, delivered upon acceptance of his position in Leiden, he discusses the nature of legal decision making and the prospects of automating it. He also presents what might be called the Van den Herik test.


Full text

Followup of an earlier coffee house conversation (2007)

Verheij, B. (2021). A Second Coffeehouse Conversation on the Van den Herik Test. Meesterlijk. Liber amicorum ter gelegenheid van het emeritaat van prof. dr. Jaap van den Herik, hoogleraar Recht en Informatica te Leiden (eds. Custers, B.H.M., Dechesne, F., & van der Hof, S.), 101-114. Amsterdam: Ipskamp Publishing.

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