Designing a Legal System

From: Chen Yixiong, Eric (
Date: Thu Aug 23 2001 - 01:42:42 MDT

The legal system consists of the set of rules that determine apporiate and non-apporiate behaviour in a society, as well as its the people which enforce it. (For this discussion we will only include the rules portion.) It must make (sometimes conflicting) decisions that affect the lives of those it has justification over.

A poorly designed legal system, in the worst case scenerio, can wreak a society as much as, or worse than, an outbreak of war or uncontrollable disease. Less extreme cases can usually result in, but not limited, to the following:
1) bureaucratic inefficiency processing legal cases
2) the conviction of innocent parties
3) the non-remedy or incorrect remedy of undisireable behaviour
4) the inability to implement the rules and remedies
5) in the inefficient method of settlements between the wronged parties and the guilty ones.

One would also find it difficult to comply with a poorly designed legal system, for a legal system exists to reduce undesirable behavior against the values of society, and not to make as many things as undisireable as possible thus increasing the cost of participating in that society unneccessarily.

Our current legal systems operates much like an expert system, with thick rule books and lots of lawyers. The assumption behind this seems that, you can patch all the holes on the legal system if you have enough rules. However, according to Gödel's Incompleteness Theorm, such an undertaking would prove furtile because no one set of a system of rules can provide both a consistent structure nor a complete one.

This means, if you want a "fair" (as in consistent) laws and yet want these laws to cover everything, then dream on. Yet, the legal system continues, apparently unaware of this contradiction.

We had not also figured out the problem of having to learn and memorise such huge rule sets. Who (other than people working directly in the legal system and those with photographic memory, of course) can reasonably remember an encyclopedia's worth of such rules? Yet common law clearly states that ignorance of the law cannot excuse one from legal liability.

With each day, as new developments appear in our world that never existed previously which create new legal implications, the rule book only gets deeper. We also have a corresponding book of case laws that get even thicker still. Somehow, it would seem redicious to expect everyone to know all these rules.

Hence, I propose using the following systems in combination:

- Heuristic System

A heuristically based legal system would operate based on objectives instead of rules. First, we have to start from what we want to achieve. We may want to ensure our freedom (such as of the ability to publish freely (i.e. right of free speech)), or we may simply want to prevent overcrowding on buses that could increase accident rates.

Firstly, we must determine the fundemental objectives a society wishes to achieve, which we may call a society's value. These should not have too large a number or they will introduce additional complexities and perhaps inconsistents to the legal system. These principles will definitely create ambigulities, because of the "complete" nature.

We could include the following varieties:
1) Certain Freedom(s) (e.g. to publish freely, to self-actualise)
2) Persuit of Happiness
3) Preservation of the status quo

For each of those we choose or all of them, we must describe a vivid, accurate vision of how a society implementing these rules will look like. We cannot merely declare that one has the "right" to life, or liberty, or happiness, but we must describe and show our vision of a future society operate on these principles to clarify what we mean.

Going a step further, we then create a counter-vision, a dystrophic society that implements the opposite rules that we have. We also create a third vision, of someone managing to twist the principles of our society to their opposities, and what syndromes and problems will arrive with this. With this, we fight ambiguity with ambiguity which will hopefully tell us if we had made the right choice.

One (usually the founding members) must choose these principles carefully, for to change them would actually mean a change in the entire society and the systems of rules, introducing great instabilities. The same goes for the vision of the society, which one may update in accordance with future technology but not change.

Secondly, we have to state our objectives, and then we derive a set of general rules to prevent that. For instance, we could specify a certain formula for the vehicle overloading and allow the owners to compute the exact weight and approximate number of people, instead of declaring an arbitrary and ambiguous amount (such as 150 adults or 300 children). For this case, we may also specify that we wish to reduce pain and suffering by reducing the amount of accidents.

For the problem "free speech", we can specify we want free disclosure of information and ideas and then work towards how to make it happen, for instance, by creating a low cost, efficient and non-censored information distribution system that everyone has access to, and then requiring people to publish dually (one copy to the media source they want to publish, and the other to the information system). Note that this concept of "free speech" may again, sound too ambiguous for us to formulate a system to adequately address it.

Lastly, the set of general rules must not exceed a certain length and complexity that would in total, take more than a week to learn and understand. They must exist as clearly worded as possible, so that one cannot read multiple interpretions into them. Most importantly, they should exist in the public domain, easily accessible and easily referenced, unlike our current law books. All rules should use this system first, before others.

- Expert System

A expert system acts as a system of second resort, if heuristics cannot solve an issue. It does not neccessarily alleviate Gödel's problem, however, it provides a quick and easy way for one to look up information based on rules without having to consult lawyers and other legal experts who may have a certain bias or incomplete data. It also provides a great substitute to a human judge, which may have biases and insufficient time to handle all cases fast enough.

We first assume that we encode our current set of minimum rules into a consistent set of items. We flag ambiguous areas, when we or the system encounters them, and allow users to make a decision about choosing to choose which side of the ambiguity to continue with. The system will also take in decisions made by the legal system previously in helping it to determine the course of action.

When the one has a case against him or another, one can simply consult the system, entering the relevant data as the system asks for information. After one has completed the data entry, one should get a rough decision against or for one, or at least probabilistic decision. This decision will also contain summaries and links to full details of the rules explaining the reasoning it uses to arrive at the decision(s).

Thus the legal system should also have the aim of reducing the amount of ambiguity in its decisions. This system will demostrate whether a legal system can meet this standard.

- Intellicratic

An intellicratic system can function in two modes:
1) as a system of last resort, in the absense of a pre-existing legal principles applying to a certain problem

In this case the legal system will post all details to the public as an Request for Solutions (RFS). The public will debate and rule over the judgment. After this, we can insert the judgment into the expert system.

2) in the redesign of a system of heuristics or the expert system

In the event of the discovery that a certain subset of rules do not further the core values of a society. If a rule does not further the core values, then this rule must crease to exist. The public will rule over the pros and cons of the rule and the remedy, if any, against this problem that the outcasted rule ought to protect.

Once a ruling had occured, this information will enter the expert system and help define future related issues.

Hence, I had proposed how a possible improved legal system could operate. For more data about Intellicracy, please refer to

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