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AI as judge? PRE-Class tackles questions about law, technology, and society

During the final event of the PRE-Class Rechtsgeleerdheid, secondary school pupils organised a mock trial on the impact of artificial intelligence (AI) on society. Together with the audience, they explored the possibilities and pitfalls of AI. ‘They all did a wonderful job.’

This year, secondary school pupils were once again given a taster of what it is like to study at Leiden University. The took part in the Pre-University Classes, 2-month courses focusing on a specific academic field of research. In the PRE-Class Rechtsgeleerdheid (Law), participants worked on issues regarding law, technology, and society. During the so-called mock trial, the participants demonstrated what they had learned in the PRE-Class. They held group presentations, after which there was room for discussion and contributions from the audience made up of teachers and family.

Food for thought

The mock trials addressed a broad variety of topics: from possible future AI applications to current dilemmas in relation to, for instance, space research. Participants were not afraid to tackle difficult topics such as:

  • Who is liable when a self-driving car is involved in an accident? The passenger or the maker?
  • Is it desirable for AI to take over from human judges, and if so, under which circumstances?
  • Is it desirable for humans to upload their brains so that they can continue to exist after their physical body has perished?

Each presentation was followed by a lively discussion about the dilemmas, ethical and otherwise, surrounding the development of technology and AI. As is usually the case when it comes to ethical discussions, definitive answers could not be given but the mock trials did leave all the participants with some food for thought.

Warm applause

The issues touched upon by the participants will only become more urgent in the future, says lecturer Dr Eduard Fosch-Villaronga. ‘As technology continues to develop, AI will become part of more aspects of human life. These PRE-students have set the first steps on the road to discovering all AI’s possibilities and the challenges that come with it.’ Fosch-Villaronga is proud of his students. ‘They all did a wonderful job and were able to explain complex topics using everyday language.’

Fosch-Villaronga brought the conference and PRE-Class to an end by thanking the participants for their efforts and inspiring presentations. After a warm applause, they were presented with their well-deserved certificates. The PRE congratulates all participants with their accomplishment and is very interested in finding out which steps they will take next in their lives!

Photos: Eric van den Bandt

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