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Transcompilation of Law to Common


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#1 HamiltonLagrange   Members   -  Reputation: 106

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Posted 21 September 2012 - 01:38 PM

Hi! It's been awhile since I've been on this forum. I had an idea which I think would be a really useful tool for people to use. I don't know how many of you have tried to sit down and read real legislation, but, it's really dense, difficult to understand, and even if you know what the individual words mean, trying to interpret their real meaning, in full, understanding their loopholes, weaknesses and problems, is one heck of a feat!

Normally, before one can really understand the way that laws are written, you need to have had training as a Lawyer... but these days, that training requires you to fork out close to $100,000-$400,000 total before you can complete that training, once they make it out of that training, most people find that they have dismal job prospects.

We have this concept in computer science of a transcompiler. It's simple, you take something that is written in one language and you transcribe it into a brand new language. An example of this is "f2c", which translates fortran code to c. We have AI programs which attempt to understand human language in all of it's subtleties. There even exists e-discovery software, which can read and analyze legal documents, in a fraction of the amount of time that it would take for a human being to do it. It's used as a legal tool in court cases... I was thinking that one could actually write a transcompiler for the hybrid of English and Latin, which is our Legal-lexicon, and common English.

Knowing that laws come out every day written in this speech that most people can't really understand is a real problem. Software like this could fix that problem, particularly if it was paired with an analysis tool that can summarize points, gists, etc...

What do you folks think?

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#2 Álvaro   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 11891

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Posted 21 September 2012 - 01:54 PM

We have this concept in computer science of a transcompiler. It's simple, you take something that is written in one language and you transcribe it into a brand new language.

"Transcompiler"? We have a word for that already: It's "compiler".

EDIT: Hmmm... They seem to use "transcompiler" and other terms in this other page, but I still don't know what's wrong with using "compiler".

Edited by alvaro, 21 September 2012 - 01:56 PM.


#3 HamiltonLagrange   Members   -  Reputation: 106

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Posted 21 September 2012 - 02:00 PM

Alvaro! Yes, you're right. Compilers translate your source code into a binary which is a set of instructions for a computer to follow. It takes a High level language (like c++) and converts it to a lower level language (like Assembly language). Transcompiler refers to the fact that you are translating from a High level language to another High level language. Something that translates between human languages would do precisely this.

Edited by HamiltonLagrange, 21 September 2012 - 02:08 PM.


#4 Bregma   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 4766

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Posted 21 September 2012 - 02:04 PM

I think natural language parsing is hard. Very hard. Consider for example, the sentence "Mary can stick the stamp on herself." Good for Mary that she doesn;t need help, but will she not end up all sticky? Or, for another example, consider "Time flies like an arrow; fruit flies like a banana."

The natural language parsing alone is hard. Now throw in cultural context such as moral reasoning, ethics, and an a priori knowledge of historic precents. After becoming fluent in natural languages your AI would need to gobble many volumes of history and philosophy and reconcile many conflicting bodies of work (who is right, Aquinas or Nietzsche? Plato or Locke?).

I'm not saying it can't be done, but I am saying it can't be done quite yet.
Stephen M. Webb
Professional Free Software Developer

#5 Álvaro   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 11891

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Posted 21 September 2012 - 02:07 PM

Yet another link to Wikipedia: The field is called Machine Translation.

#6 Bregma   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 4766

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Posted 21 September 2012 - 02:08 PM

Or, maybe we could just outsource the law to countries where lawyers are paid starvation wages in sweatshops. Our laws would be crap but we could get it cheap and we could wear our sweats to court.
Stephen M. Webb
Professional Free Software Developer

#7 HamiltonLagrange   Members   -  Reputation: 106

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Posted 21 September 2012 - 02:26 PM

Yet another link to Wikipedia: The field is called Machine Translation.


Cool! Other people have been talking about this kind of thing! This makes me happier.

I think natural language parsing is hard. Very hard. Consider for example, the sentence "Mary can stick the stamp on herself." Good for Mary that she doesn;t need help, but will she not end up all sticky? Or, for another example, consider "Time flies like an arrow; fruit flies like a banana."


Yep, it would be a very tough problem, but it would be a particularly useful one to solve. But that e-discovery software seems to do something very similar... Even an approximate translation would be better than what we have.

Or, maybe we could just outsource the law to countries where lawyers are paid starvation wages in sweatshops. Our laws would be crap but we could get it cheap and we could wear our sweats to court.


Another brilliant business plan... allowing foreign lawyers to create our laws for us, "Taiwan owns USA by definition, here see: Article 15 Sec 13.24.5553." I hope nobody EVER decides to actually DO that. I don't believe you're being serious with this suggestion, but the sad thing is that I could imagine some half-baked business plan that revolves around outsourcing your Country's laws to another country, not even thinking about the security problems it would introduce...

That could make a really interesting Douglas Adams - style plot.

Edited by HamiltonLagrange, 21 September 2012 - 02:42 PM.


#8 HamiltonLagrange   Members   -  Reputation: 106

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Posted 21 September 2012 - 03:01 PM

Perhaps I came on a little too strong. Bregma and alvaro, I appreciate your input, I wasn't trying to belittle any of what you were saying. I hope it wasn't coming across that way. I realize that the two of you are brilliant programmers with probably significantly more experience than I have.




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