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(Re-)Publish all laws in XML (or similar human/machine readable) format

Specify all laws in machine-readable format
  (+24, -2)(+24, -2)(+24, -2)
(+24, -2)
  [vote for,

{Implies machines would be developed to interpret / verify /validate / identify inconsistencies / exceptions / ambiguities in said data format.}

Assuming humans are being policed by machine more often (Most commonly on roads, but I suspect in other ways too), and that legal advice often comes at a premium, this would allow humans a chance of defending themselves / avoiding transgressions and misdemeanors / falling foul of (local) laws. {Implies a pocket device might be geolocation aware, and advice on local / surrounding laws}

This would also machines to advise whether a law is NP-Complete, and advice humans if what they're about to do is legal / allow loopholes in the laws to be easily identified / stopped / taken advantage of.


Dub, Mar 29 2009

Terminator's COBOL Environment Divison http://www.imdb.com...le/tt0088247/trivia
IMDB - Warning - Spoilers may be visible [Dub, Mar 30 2009]

Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 http://www.opsi.gov..._en_8#pt5-pb2-l1g63
An example of an attempt to legislate against young people unlikely to vote Tory by describing legally the events they attended and banning them. [Aristotle, Mar 30 2009]

LegalXML.com http://www.legalxml.org/
O.M.G! //LegalXML brings legal and technical experts together to create standards for the electronic exchange of legal data.// Not quite baked, then. [Dub, Mar 30 2009]

Asimov's Laws aren't enough http://www.physorg.com/news164887377.html
[Dub, Jun 22 2009]

BoingBoing:Why building codes should be open http://www.boingboi...g+%28Boing+Boing%29
Why stop there? (Sorry video sounds more like a rant) [Dub, Oct 25 2010]

Michael Cooney Layer 8 Michael Cooney Previous Article Robots get an open source Web-based helpline http://www.networkw...-web-based-helpline
[Dub, Mar 09 2013]

Here it is! http://uscodebeta.h...load/download.shtml
All US code in XML [leinypoo13, Aug 01 2013]

The tech start-up planning to shake up the legal world http://www.bbc.co.u...s/business-36303705
[Dub, May 16 2016]

AI predicts outcome of human rights cases http://www.bbc.co.u...technology-37727387
[Dub, Oct 23 2016]

An AI just beat top lawyers at their own game https://mashable.co...humans-at-contracts
[Dub, Feb 26 2018]

Oral-History:Pamela "Pam" Morton https://ethw.org/Or...la_%22Pam%22_Morton
[Dub, Nov 05 2018]

Programming Language Converts Laws Into 'Provably Correct' Computer Code https://www.discove...n%27t+Know+About%29
So-called computational law involves ideas that are well defined and situations that do not generally require human judgment. For example, certain areas of tax law. In these areas “law leaves little room for interpretation, and essentially aims to rigorously describe a computation, a decision procedure or, simply said, an algorithm,” says Denis Merigoux and Nikolas Chataing at the National Institute for Research in Digital Science and Technology in Paris, along with Jonathan Protzenko at Microsoft Research in the U.S. [Dub, Apr 03 2021]

SLYT BBC News https://youtu.be/E_a78HF4Q1c
When should AI be used in law? [Dub, Jan 19 2024]

Behold, a man! https://ih1.redbubb...1000,f8f8f8.u2.webp
[Voice, Jan 20 2024]


       Logic is enough for this. XML is superfluous. Many formal artificial notations exist, and have existed for centuries, which are as competent as markup languages in this area. There are at least two more issues with this. One is that of extensional versus intensional meaning. XML is purely extensional in nature and so can't do the job entirely. The other is the jurisprudential issue of the interpretation of law as opposed to the intentions of the legislators in drafting the law.
Even so, i sort of agree. I think there would be benefits to examining the logical structure of a law. I do wonder, however, when one decides one has reached atomistic propositions.
nineteenthly, Mar 29 2009

       It's the "Human AND Machine readable" format I was going for... In the same way COBOL was designed to be legible / interpretable by a machine and a manager, this "language" should be . Arguably most laws aren't human readable to start with!
Dub, Mar 29 2009

       not gonna yea or nay the idea but English is a tad more complex than COBOL even if you limit yourself to Lawyerese.
FlyingToaster, Mar 29 2009

       And law is much more complex than language.
RayfordSteele, Mar 29 2009

       So, you're ([RayfordSteele] & [FlyingToaster]) saying Law is can only be ambiguously defined?! And therefore anarchy reins already?   

       Nonsense - English Laws are written in English. (The English) Language is a product of complex (human) brains - It has evolved only to express thoughts and meaning between those brains. {It's true that some Legalese may have a different / more precise meaning in law than, say, OED definitions.}   

       I believe, too, that Law is a similar product, but a product of society. I'm not saying it'll be easy - certainly the choice of verbs and constructs wouldn't be fun and easy to define... but more complex?   

       BTW I didn't say write the laws of the land in COBOL (though I'm wishing I did. I sort-of like that idea. Notwithstanding the fact that The Terminator was partially COBOL-based).
Dub, Mar 30 2009

       I too had got the same idea around 4 to 5 years ago. I had advertised the following advantages.   

       Connected laws, clauses can be represented beautifully. Forms can be generated which help in determining whether or how a particular task need to be carried out by a individual or organization, or how it affects.   

       Every lawyer discouraged me with the "freedom of interpretation" crap. Back then I was too young to realize lawyers were just afraid that the law will be rigid, and they can't bend (or completely break) the law for the advantage of their client.
kamathln, Mar 30 2009

       The law could be written in computer readable form; the application of law to real-life situations could not be done in a computer executable form.   

       The problem with law is not when something falls perfectly within the scope of the law, it's when it falls at the blurry edge or intersection of law. The courts exist to clarify these situations.
xaviergisz, Mar 30 2009

       Wouldn't it be on the same level of difficulty to write a program that can read the Law-Texts?
loonquawl, Mar 30 2009

       spent a very long time putting about a century worths of the country's court cases into a database (lawbook firm); required human interpretation at quite a few points to get even an index set up.
FlyingToaster, Mar 30 2009

       The law is different in every country, but having said that, the idea has merit. [+]
xenzag, Mar 30 2009

       I think we've touched on it before, but The Law and Code are very very closely related - both attempt to carve out explicit, definite truth from ambiguity - and both use syntax, technical definitions and special conventions in order to achieve their goals - shifting from LAWYER to XML (or ANYOTHERLANG) might be an interesting exercise (I'm busy that day myself) Surely someone clever must have attempted this somewhere down the line?
zen_tom, Mar 30 2009

       // the application of law to real-life situations could not be done in a computer executable form. //   

       I don't agree. Some but not most situations work this way. If a speed camera recognises a number plate and sends a penalty, code could be written saying something like:
If it recognises a number plate, it could recognise the words "POLICE", "FIRE" or "AMBULANCE". Similarly, if a CCTV camera can recognise faces and people facing it, it can recognise human figures whose faces are obscured. If there's then a dispute, the images can be produced, as happens now with speed cameras.
I don't think COBOL is a good example. I thought it addressed human-readability in a way based on the spurious notion that the problem was the difference between the symbols of formal and natural languages, whereas the true problem was logical structure. The same issue could apply here, but there's a way round it. I understand that in there's a method of commenting programs that allows the same text to be both compiled and processed by LaTeX, with the former producing object code and the latter documentation. Would it be possible to use a mark-up language for law texts with the letter of the law as comments and for the text to become documentation and the logic of the law as mark-up? Certain legal issues could then be automated with bits of the algorithm generated then usable by the likes of Inland Revenue computers, CCTV cameras and the like.
[Dub], i'm pretty sure the Terminator used 6502 assembler, but i could be wrong.
nineteenthly, Mar 30 2009

nineteenthly, Mar 30 2009

       Wasn't there a processor (Viper), meant to be used in safety-critical or secure apps, that was defined in Z, but which failed because the spec was flawed?
If something as "simple" as a processor can fail, what hope for financial legislation?
coprocephalous, Mar 30 2009

       There is the sausage problem, for even if the rest of the legal statement is formalised the law can't define clearly what a sausage is.   

       In 1994 an UK act was passed to stop illegal raves (see link) and I present this as opportunity for people to examine dodgy law-making.
Aristotle, Mar 30 2009

       A sausage is clearly any gathering of 3 or more items of pork (or alternative filling where identified) located within the vicinity of a 'skin'. Sausages can (but are not limited to) be fried, grilled, barbecued or oven-baked and may cause drooling in dogs, cats and other household "pets".
Where a sausage:
a) is found in contravention of sizing regulations, or
b) is impaled upon a "cocktail stick"
it can be legally considered to be a "chippolata" and as such, subject to impoundment.
zen_tom, Mar 30 2009

       What xaviergisz says, particularly the second clause of his or her first paragraph. Code is law and law is code, yes, but only when written down. In application, they are hugely (though not entirely) different beasts. Computer programs are a set of rules through which passes data, broken down at its base level to definite ones and zeros. Laws are sets of rules into which life in all its many-shaded analogue complexities is shoehorned, usually with only moderate success.
calum, Mar 30 2009

       "And therefore anarchy reins already?"
But that's what let's you go to court and talk your way out of a parking ticket.
phoenix, Mar 30 2009

       The sausage problem is what i meant by intension versus extension. Certain things seem to be definable entirely extensionally, for example positive integers don't have to refer to any number of physically instantiated items, and entailment can be arguably defined in terms of Boolean algebra/formal logic. Sausages, like many other physical objects, also have an apparent extensional element - the concept sausage is often thought of as referring to an instantiated physical item. However, there can be intensional elements even there. Sausages made from rational animals have a different legal status than ones made from pigs, but is not coextensional with sausages made from featherless bipeds. Some featherless bipeds are kangaroos. Imagine a law formulated in Europe before Captain Cook: thou shalt not make a sausage from a featherless biped, or thou shalt be punished by death. Once Europeans became aware of kangaroos, it seemed rather unfair that making sausages from kangaroo meat carried the death penalty, but prior to that, it seemed perfectly logical. It's just a shame they chose that "featherless biped" terminology rather than "rational animal". All those kangaroo farmers were hanged, you know. Tragic.   

       What i'm saying is, cointensionality and coextensionality are different things. Coextensionality can be captured by logical analysis but not cointensionality. Therefore, you can go so far as to say that IF (road vehicle X is being driven at a speed > 70 mph) AND (road vehicle X has "AMBULANCE" written on it) THEN (issue no penalty), but what if there's a speed camera on the Menai bridge and there's a vehicle with "AMBIWLANS" written on it?
nineteenthly, Mar 30 2009

       [zen_tom]: So a pig is a sausage? That will save a lot of work.
loonquawl, Mar 30 2009

       [nineteenthly] //Z// VDM   

       [Edit] I think it was 6502/6809 Serial or Parallel port and COBOL [from IMDB] //Shots through the Terminator's vision shows a dump of the ROM assembler code for the Apple II operation system. If you own an Apple II, enter at the basic prompt: ] call -151 * p This will give you the terminator view. Other code visible is written in COBOL.//
Dub, Mar 30 2009

       Ahh yes [loonquawl] but you're now talking about the 2009 Sausage Definition Act (Amendment 1) which clearly states:
"For the purposes of legal identification, a sausage will be identifiable by it satisfying at least 4 of the following five conditions:
i) the sausage (or chippolata) will be of measurable length greater than 1cm and no more than 50cm (at which point it falls under the jurisdiction of the Offensive Salamis Act (1979))
ii) the sausage will be abundant with "meat" (or similar)
iii) introduction of the suspected sausage into the nasal proximity of a Yorkshire Terrier will cause it to enter into a state of observable salivation
iv) the age of the sausage will not exceed 6 months
v) the sausage was been witnessed as being referred to as "a sausage" by a person of responsible and sound character."
zen_tom, Mar 30 2009

       Ah, but a young piglet under 6 months old could well be
a) less than 50cm long,
b) obviously "abundant with meat" (albeit raw),
c) named "Sausage" by its ironically callous, though of good standing, owner,
thusly satisfying the appropriate conditions.
coprocephalous, Mar 30 2009

       Ahh, but [coprocephalous] you've forgotten the (very recently drafted) 2009 Sausage Definition Act (Amendment 2) which clearly states:
Sausages exhibiting curly tails or which are subject to "oinking", "squealing" or "snuffling" behaviours will be deemed Piglet, and thence subject to the It's a Piglet Not A Sausage Act (2009) and associated articles.
zen_tom, Mar 30 2009

       Soy-sausages + curly tail = Piglet; Non-intestine, non-bone, non-curly-tail parts of piglet = fine pork. -> Soy-sausages = pork. Finally!
loonquawl, Mar 30 2009

       [loonquawl] may I refer you to the "Oh Bugger, We Forgot About Soy" White Paper amendment to the It's a Piglet Not A Sausage Act (2009) (Ammendment 1) in which it clearly states:
If it's made from Soy (or Quorn), then it isn't Pork, and it definitely isn't a Piglet - but it might still be a sausage (potentially)
zen_tom, Mar 30 2009

       That raises my sausage tense problem. I am veggie and seldom ate sausages when i was a meat eater because i disliked them due to the spices and herbs. Nowadays i like herby and spicy things. Does that mean that i now like sausages? Is there an appropriate tense for that? I don't think "sausages" which are e n t i r e l y made of non-animal products are really sausages at all. Cue the inevitable joke about sausage composition.
[Dub], is there a Backus-Naur form for that?
What i really, really want to decide now is if there can be any intensional content for this kind of formal language. I know there's such a thing as intensional logic but i don't know what it is.
nineteenthly, Mar 30 2009

       [Zen_tom], what if the piglet is also paralysed and mute, and its tail's been lopped off to make sausage (along with other piglets')?
nineteenthly, Mar 30 2009

       [nineteenthly] //what if...// in that case then, it's a sausage.   

       The law is a farm yard animal (or a sausage, depending on interpretation)
zen_tom, Mar 30 2009

       If you treated that as a sausage, you'd be in for a surprise when you got to the middle. Shouldn't it be mandatory for sausages not to contain excrement? Maybe piglets should be given custard enemas before being slaughtered then.
nineteenthly, Mar 30 2009

       I'm not sure it would pass the Yorkshire Terrier test - a trained member of the Judiciary might be called upon to set a precedent.   

       Custard enemas are probably covered by an entirely separate section of the law.   

       On a tangent: If (not enough stress on that *if*) someone were to undergo a custard enema (and thinking about it, was also subject to various simultaneous intravenous custard introductions as well) and then, *if* they were subject to a level of vibration... Instant death - by Custard.
zen_tom, Jun 22 2009

       // Shouldn't it be mandatory for sausages not to contain excrement? //

It would be more useful if the same standard was applied to laws and the application thereof.
DrBob, Jun 22 2009

       HTML with Colours.
gnomethang, Jun 22 2009

       Lawyerbots already exist. The Register (http://www.theregister.co.uk/ 2006/04/06/ world_of_warcraft_case/) described a case in 2006: a guy wrote a book about a video game and tried to sell it on eBay. Lawyerbots flagged the name and didn't have the smarts to see that the content was not copyright infringement, so sent automated takedown notices to eBay, causing this guy all kinds of grief.   

       If we all had private lawyerbots, they could troll around looking for actionable offences against us, take action, and we could ignore it all except for seeing the effect on our bank accounts. Sounds good! Why not help the process along with program-readable laws???
Yappa, Jun 23 2009

       So when machines turn against humans, it will be as lawyers, and not soldiers! Cunning^5 !!
kamathln, Jun 24 2009

       //Z?// Z! That takes me back!
pertinax, Jun 24 2009

       [+] Will the internet kill lawyers too?   

       A nice application of this data would be a geographic and situational turbo tax-like interface for the legal code.   

       If we had this application we would find out how much of the fee of a $300/hr lawyer is legal and procedural knowledge, and how much is "freedom of interpretation".
leinypoo13, Oct 25 2010

       I'd love to see the XSD that covered this.
zen_tom, Oct 26 2010

       My idea is more to facilitate easy navigation than automate the jury.   

       Look what we do with the Internet .. Categorize , re-categorize, organize the same information in so many ways. Heirarchical, Tags, By date, Related, etc.. people from the Government could easily access and enhance it in ways that saves time, tension, etc.. All if done right though, I agree. But it is stupid to discard this as a bad idea even before we try.
kamathln, Oct 29 2010

       Querying, Exporting , Linking, etc.. or who knows? Even games geeky laweyers might be wanna play over the net .. courtsville anyone?
kamathln, Oct 29 2010

       It would probably be pretty easy to parse the Federal code into tree format with some regular expressions.
leinypoo13, Jan 13 2011

       COBOL is nice in that, being a military language, it phrases everything in the imperative.
LoriZ, Jan 15 2011

       But it's not military. It's commercial. It was Ada that was military, wasn't it?
pertinax, Jan 16 2011

       Yes, I think that's the (joking, I hope) confusion. The "B" in COBOL stands for Business. The military link, if you wanted to stretch it, would be Navy Admiral Grace Hopper, but she was working in private industry (for Remington Rand) at the time.   

       I do believe applications and overall styles of thinking influence the way programmers design their applications (including new computer languages), but I wouldn't go so far as to causally link imperative programming with the military. Imperative has lots of civilian uses as well, many of them STOP THAT!!! PUT THAT DOWN!! very early in life.
jutta, Jan 16 2011

       //I'd love to see the XSD that covered this.//   

       Look at a fully inline-expanded OAGIS XSD, and you're getting disturbingly close (just a few more orders of magnitude to go). Not that it'll ever get there (for [calum]'s reasons), but you can start to get a feel for what it might look like if it did.
pertinax, Aug 04 2013

       Mentioned this to someone in The House of Lords, yesterday.
Dub, Mar 26 2014

       Interestingly, this is a deeply hot topic at the moment - and as such, the air is rich in buzzwords and corporate jargonising abounds. I will buzz-quote each of these to signal the fact that mid-level managers across the world will be using these words with little to no idea as to what they actually mean for the next 5-6 years. "Smart Contracts" are legal agreements written so as to be codified, measured and enacted within a "blockchain" (bitcoin 2.0, that works on the same underpinnings, but which extends the currency/wallet idea). If coupled with intelligent "Internet of Things" things results in situations arising where you might lease a car that only lets you drive it while you're up-to-date on your payments, or a payment system that only releases funds on successful delivery/scan/signage of the item at its final address. More complex arrangements are of course possible, but basically what you have here is machine-executable contract law embedded in a non-centralised, crypto-distributed implementation. You could certainly use XML to define contract templates if you so wished, but XML is so 2004, everyone's using JSON and YAML these days.   

       [edit] That is to say, I've started to switch from XML where possible, and I'm probably a good 10 years behind the curve.
zen_tom, May 17 2016

       There was a big interest in XSDs as format validation/specification wrappers - but so few people did it properly that in practice, they lost their utility - i.e. after validating against a lazy XSD, you'd still need to check for restrictions in code.   

       [E|A]BNF looks fantastic as a specification language - but the utility of these things is directly proportional to the number of people who are fluent in them.
zen_tom, May 17 2016

       It's only fitting that legalese should be encoded in an unnecessarily verbose markup language.
Cuit_au_Four, Oct 24 2016

       I love this. Not sure about the write-up, but the idea of having a well documented, correctly linked, machine- readable set of laws is strongly attractive to me.   

       I spend much of my time reading and interpreting different building codes. These start with a simple and clear set of rules written a hundred or two years ago, then expanded again and again by code committees, lawyers, and city councils. The end result is a mess that's all but impossible for a non-expert to read. We need a way of filtering by what you're actually trying to build, and a computer would be the right way to do this.
Worldgineer, Oct 24 2016

       [jutta] Did I ever mention I met rear admiral Grace Hopper,once (and Prof Igor Aleksander, though not at the same time :) ?
Dub, Dec 07 2017

       //Did I ever mention I met rear admiral Grace Hopper,once //   

       Really ! She's one of my heroes - do tell.   

       (I learned COBOL sans history - first time I heard the name I thought it was a joke : "gracing the (card reader's) hopper".)
FlyingToaster, Feb 26 2018

doctorremulac3, Feb 26 2018

       [FlyingToaster], sorry for the delay, I was doing the dishes... She came and gave a talk at Thames Poly (as it was). There was a reception, ISTR. I'm sorry, I don't recall details of her talk. (Igor Aleksander also gave a talk, I recall... The only bit I recall of his talk was "If it looks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, it's a duck"... ). Thames Poly had ties with The BCS (Pam Morton, linky) and ACM, and got dibbs on some top-notch speakers. {Met him, too}
Dub, Nov 05 2018

       ^ Hmm, I make that 252 days. Must have been a big pile of dishes. Or one really, really grubby dish.
not_morrison_rm, Nov 05 2018

       [not_morrison_rm], in my defence, I did have a break, but it seems the site was down
Dub, Nov 06 2018

       Thanks, Dub. There was supposed to be a biographical movie out, but I think it got societally preempted by the one about NASA computors in the 1960's.   

       I think she was the first US fellow of the BCS.   

       While I'm mostly interested in FLOWMATIC and COBOL development, her talkshow interviews are great : over 80 years old and sharp as a razor blade.
FlyingToaster, Nov 06 2018

       Interesting contemplating this seemingly simple and unharmful idea in the post Trump (and not so post Covid) era.
pashute, Jul 11 2021

       Interesting, if not scary, article on BBC News [linky]
Dub, Jan 19 2024

       [Dub]! - you’re back!
hippo, Jan 19 2024

       Maybe with this technology the AI can read the complete budget bill before people vote on it.
sninctown, Jan 20 2024

       [hippo], I was having a kip
Dub, Feb 01 2024


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