New knowledge, new technology

Another excerpt from Chapter 12 of our recently published work: Mediation in Australia (LexisNexis, 2018):

Among the factors that will impinge on future mediation and its societal roles are new technologies and new forms of knowledge that are relevant to conflict, decision-making and mediation.

Coding image

In terms of the knowledge factor we already have one set of experts tunnelling the mountain of computer technology and artificial intelligence to unearth the algorithms and codes, apps and devices which can provide negotiation support, improved predictive analytics and more efficient data processing in mediation’s better cause. It is difficult to predict the nature, extent and potential impacts of such developments. Moreover, much of the technology that will transform the styles of mediation practice into the future has yet to be invented. The exponential progress in technological advances undoubtedly means, however, that mediation will operate differently to the process as we now know it. Electronic and online tools will increasingly find their way into mediation spaces and enhance the flexibility, accessibility and virtuality of the system. Mediators may not themselves need the ability to code, but they will need understanding and capacity to utilise and maximise the benefits of new digital technologies. They will also need basic knowledge and terminology to communicate effectively with scientists and technologists so they can influence the direction and outcomes of their tunnelling.

In terms of new knowledge another set of experts is tunnelling a mountain to unearth clearer understandings of the DNA equivalent of conflict and disputation. These labours will reveal deeper knowledge of these phenomena and their cognitive, emotional, physiological and behavioural dimensions. The knowledge will extend to better understanding of how humans make decisions, of implicit, cognitive and social biases and of the impact of environmental and symbolic factors on negotiations. We envisage that understandings of negotiation, mediation and decision-making will be better informed and become more nuanced and sophisticated through multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary approaches across disciplines such as anthropology, economics, sociology, psychology and political science. In particular, knowledge of the neuroscience of decision-making, of rationality and of human biases and responses to conflict will become standard mediator knowledge platforms from which they can attempt to achieve effective practice — their understandings of the brain will empower master mediators to match, and mix, their metaphors to suit particular clients and circumstances. These understandings will also inform the development of mediation theory, ethics and values.

tunnel through mountain image

Whether the two tunnels will be found to meet within the same mountain remains to be seen. On one hand, the cognitive and neuro-science knowledge base will allow mediators to comprehend the deepest motives, needs and prejudices of their clients in all their humanistic weaknesses and paradoxes. On the other, the technological innovations will purport to negate the factors of uncertainty, irrationality and indecision which cause mediating parties to revert to survival mode and avoid settlements. The two levels of expertise could have both synchronous and inconsistent implications. Algorithms hold the promise of eliminating problematic cognitive and social biases, but could be themselves biased in their construction. Deeper humanistic impulses, both negative and positive, might not be susceptible to capture in software, apps and analytics. Robo-mediator, along with robo-negotiator and eventually robo-judge, will have unsurpassable levels of proficiency and efficiency in some dimensions, but lack the humanistic dimensions emphasised by social and behavioural scientists. Those with more expertise in these two areas than we have will both contribute to and evaluate the forthcoming fusions and fissions.

We welcome your responses to these thoughts.

Laurence Boulle and Rachael Field

Image acknowledgement:
This entry was posted in Dispute resolution by Dr Rachael Field. Bookmark the permalink.

About Dr Rachael Field

Rachael is a Professor of Law in the Law Faculty of Bond University. Her key teaching and research interests are in legal education and dispute resolution. Rachael was awarded an Australian Learning and Teaching Council Citation in 2008 and was made an ALTC Teaching Fellow in 2010. In 2010 Rachael worked with Professors Sally Kift and Mark Israel on the development of the Threshold Learning Outcomes for Law. In 2013 Rachael and Prof Nick James published a first year law text entitled "The New Lawyer". Rachael has been a member of the First Year in Higher Education Conference organising committee since 2007 and now chairs that committee. She was awarded the 2013 Lexis Nexis Australasian Law Teachers’ Association Major Prize for Teaching Excellence and Innovation jointly with her colleague James Duffy. In 2014 Rachael was awarded an Office of Learning and Teaching national Teaching Excellence Award. Rachael has also been a member of the Women’s Legal Service, Brisbane Management Committee since 1994 and has been President of the Service since 2004. In 2010 Rachael, along with the Women's Legal Service Brisbane, was commissioned by the Federal Attorney-General to design a model of family dispute resolution for use in matters where there is a history of domestic violence. This model was implemented in 5 locations around Australia for 18 months and was evaluated by the Australian Institute of Family Studies. In 2011 and 2012 Rachael was invited by the Australian Human Rights Commission to contribute to their International Program by presenting the model to bi-lateral workshops with the All China Women's Federation. Rachael completed her PhD through the Faculty of Law at the University of Sydney under the supervision of Professor Hilary Astor in 2011. Her thesis explored the notion of neutrality in mediation and offers an alternative paradigm based on professional mediator ethics. Rachael was named Queensland Women Lawyer of the Year for 2013. Research Interests • Dispute Resolution • Women and the Law • Restorative Justice • Family Law • Legal Education

1 thought on “New knowledge, new technology

  1. Reblogged this on The Australian Dispute Resolution Research Network and commented:

    Fascinating insights into the impact of technology on dispute resolution. I also wonder if the elusive deeper humanistic impulses referred to in this thoughtful piece may also cause disputes where the harsh efficiencies of robo-technology displace personal and emotional contact between real people.


Post your comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.