Artificial Intelligence: Robots, Avatars and the Demise of the Human Mediator

Ohio State Journal on Dispute Resolution, Vol. 25, No. 1, 2010

60 Pages Posted: 26 Aug 2009 Last revised: 22 Jun 2014

Date Written: February 26, 2010


As technology has advanced, many have wondered whether (or simply when) artificial intelligent devices will replace the humans who perform complex, interactive, interpersonal tasks such as dispute resolution. Has science now progressed to the point that artificial intelligence devices can replace human mediators, arbitrators, dispute resolvers and problem solvers? Can humanoid robots, attractive avatars and other relational agents create the requisite level of trust and elicit the truthful, perhaps intimate or painful, disclosures often necessary to resolve a dispute or solve a problem? This article will explore these questions. Regardless of whether the reader is convinced that the demise of the human mediator or arbitrator is imminent, one cannot deny that artificial intelligence now has the capability to assume many of the responsibilities currently being performed by alternative dispute resolution (ADR) practitioners. It is fascinating (and perhaps unsettling) to realize the complexity and seriousness of tasks currently delegated to avatars and robots. This article will review some of those delegations and suggest how the artificial intelligence developed to complete those assignments may be relevant to dispute resolution and problem solving. “Relational Agents,” which can have a physical presence such as a robot, be embodied in an avatar, or have no detectable form whatsoever and exist only as software, are able to create long term socio-economic relationships with users built on trust, rapport and therapeutic goals. Relational agents are interacting with humans in circumstances that have significant consequences in the physical world. These interactions provide insights as to how robots and avatars can participate productively in dispute resolution processes. Can human mediators and arbitrators be replaced by robots and avatars that not only physically resemble humans, but also act, think, and reason like humans? And to raise a particularly interesting question, can robots, avatars and other relational agents look, move, act, think, and reason even “better” than humans?

Keywords: ADR,ODR,Alternative Dispute Resolution,Online Dispute Resolution,Mediation,Negotiation,Arbitration,Problem Solving,Artificial Intelligence,AI,Avatar,Robot,Social Network,virtual,relational agent,computer,internet,technology,human,health care,collaboration,emotion,cognition,neuroscience,brain,mediate

JEL Classification: C79,D10,C90,C93,D90,D74,D81,F00,I10,J10,J22,J52,J53,K31,K39,K40,L20,L86,M10,M12,M14,O31,O32,O33,O14,

Suggested Citation

Larson, David Allen, Artificial Intelligence: Robots, Avatars and the Demise of the Human Mediator (February 26, 2010). Ohio State Journal on Dispute Resolution, Vol. 25, No. 1, 2010 , Available at SSRN:

David Allen Larson (Contact Author)

Mitchell | Hamline School of Law ( email )

875 Summit Avenue
Saint Paul, MN 55105
United States
651-290-6388 (Phone)


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