Dr Paresh Kathrani
Thursday, September 27th, 2018
What have you worked on in academia over the past 5 years?
The focus of my research over the past five years has been the intersection of ‘Artificial Intelligence and the Law’. This has included looking at how AI should be regulated, the ways in which AI and LawTech will shape legal practice and how AI will influence the legal curriculum going forward. I hosted many events at Westminster Law School (University of Westminster, London), spoke to many students, colleagues and others on the sphere of AI and the Law and also published in this area. One of my favourite pieces was on how AI will affect copyright. I also worked for several years with the Computer Science Department at the University of Westminster on gamifying Criminal Law. For example, one of the games we developed was a virtual reality game in which students are immersed in a murder scene with many agents and pieces of evidence and must determine if the actus reus and mens rea of murder exist. I was part of a project with an external company, Legal Utopia, funded by EU Keep+, working on developing an AI engine to triage legal cases based on natural language processing.
You are committed to looking at AI in the legal sector and have been involved in several technology projects, including one funded by the European Regional Development Fund. AI is the new ‘Industrial Revolution’ so concerns are understandable – but as this is going to change more cognitive roles, should this also have an effect on our children’s education, I.e. less knowledge based, critical learning etc?
Undoubtedly, the way in which people learn has changed. This is not just down to AI, but technology in general. In the past, when information sources were limited, people learnt in a different way. Today, given the plethora of sources that we have because of technology, it calls for a more dexterous form of learning. It is important for children to be exposed to different and more agile pedagogies and learning styles. Technology can without question facilitate this, especially through mobile, distance and synchronous and asynchronous platforms. AI also has a role. As people begin to embed more AI into different life processes, including speech recognition, machine learning, predictive analytics and other forms of AI, the traditional ways in which we do things will change and this too will add to the growing demand for different pedagogies and skills, especially the need to think critically and bring together diverse sources of information.
Who has been your biggest inspiration?
My biggest academic inspiration has been Jean-Paul Sartre. His earlier work, focussing on the importance of taking individual responsibility, motivated my research into the treatment of asylum seekers, and how there is often a tendency to conflate them with policy and statistics. This has also inspired the second aspect of my research – the overall effect of technology.
Are the robots really coming?
Haha. This depends on the definition of robots. There are many different definitions of robots and I don’t think any one definition is necessarily better than the other. Some believe that a robot is just a machine that carries out physical functions, irrespective of whether it has AI imbedded within it or not. To that extent, we already have robots, for example, vacuum cleaners, drones etc Some focus more on the inside of a machine and how intelligent it is. In this respect, an Amazon Echo could be classed as a robot (though some may not agree!) A key question is whether we will see artificial general intelligence in the future. Now, robots are largely imbued with artificial narrow intelligence, which is the ability to perform an overall function, albeit drawing on different data. AGI is doing what humans do, namely bringing many different frames of reference together in rationalising, and the core question is whether we will see a robot with AGI in the future – whether we will see a machine that can altogether pass as human.
What is your view on how education will be delivered moving forwards?
This draws on what I said before. To the extent that one of the main aims of education is to teach people how to manage knowledge, it follows that as the roots of that knowledge diversify because of technology, then the agile tools or skills that people require will have to change too. Here, technology does not just have a cognitive impact. It also provides within it the means for catering for this change through different methods and means. I’ve mentioned mobile, distance, synchronous and asynchronous platforms. These will be important as we respond to different cognitive shifts. However, these represent just some of the myriad of ways in which different technological platforms can contribute to more robust pedagogies and learning styles. Within all this, it’s also crucial to recognise that face to face learning and teaching is important. Blended learning with different technologies will also be important as we move forward as will different skills such as critical thinking.
Name three things about yourself, two true, one false.
Wow. I am a fan of Arsenal Football Club. I love philosophy. I am a wonderful piano player. I will leave it to you to work out which two are true and which one is false.
If you could go there right now, where would be your go-to place in the world and why?
My two biggest passions in life are contemplation and nature. I love thinking about life whilst watching the sun set, or planning for my day with a walk along the river at dawn. I’d love to visit Annecy in France and spend time with my family.