Richard Stevens

Richard W. Stevens is a lawyer and author, and has written extensively on how code and software systems evidence intelligent design in biological systems. He holds a J.D. with high honors from the University of San Diego Law School and a computer science degree from UC San Diego. Richard has practiced civil and administrative law litigation in California and Washington D.C., taught legal research and writing at George Washington University and George Mason University law schools, and now specializes in writing dispositive motion and appellate briefs. He has authored or co-authored four books, and has written numerous articles and spoken on subjects including legal writing, economics, the Bill of Rights and Christian apologetics. His fifth book, Investigation Defense, is forthcoming.

Archives

Why Don’t Robots Have Rights? A Lawyer’s Response

Robots are hardware and software packages that lack a nature or any abilities outside of whatever their designers imagine
“Free the Robots!” “Equal Rights for Robots!” Or maybe: “Set Us Robots Free!” Such future protest signs might well pop up in social media, to judge from “Why don’t robots have rights?” (Big Think, October 31, 2022) Writer Jonny Thomson worries that “ future generations will look back aghast at our behavior” when humans can “no longer exploit or mistreat advanced robots” as will presumably be the case in the 21st century. Dig into the article and get techno-whiplashed as Thomson suddenly starts talking about “the 22nd century [when robots] are our friends, colleagues, and gaming partners.” Thomson’s article considers robot rights as analogous to animal rights. The summary asserts: When discussing animal rights and welfare, we often reference two…

Designed to Dine, Part 2: How, Exactly, We Compute Flavor

Once a universally enjoyed but scientifically ignored phenomenon, flavor bursts out as an extraordinary event of a biological computer
Since Part 1 of this article was served up, have you experienced food and drink with greater awareness of flavor? Part 1 laid out the elements of flavor, including the smell, taste, texture, and mouth feel of foods and drinks. Smell delivers 80% of what we experience as flavor, coming from the thousands of sensory nerves in our noses detecting individual molecules. From the tongue comes taste sensations of sweet, salty, sour, bitter, and umami (savory). Flavor is like a dynamic 3-D hologram, a multi-dimensional composition of sensory inputs fluctuating in real-time, all delivered as data to the brain for final processing. Flavor makes eating fun! The Computation of Yummy The complicated and integrated systems of smell, taste, and other…

Designed to Dine: Humans are Computers of Flavor

Food itself has no flavor at all. Flavor is in the sensations — really the brain — of the beholder (and taster)
Whether you’re a professional gourmet, a self-styled “foodie,” or an everyday North American who likes to eat, you probably look forward to celebration dinners. At any feast on Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, or the Passover Seder, the focal feature is the food. It doesn’t occur to us to ask: How do we sense the flavors of the food? After all, the food itself has no flavor at all. Flavor is in the mouth — and the nose, tongue, eyes, inner ears, and really the brain — of the beholder. Venture to learn how human beings enjoy food, and you’ll discover exquisite evidence of intelligent design. Like so many biological systems, detecting flavor involves specialized hardware components and the corresponding software to…

Hawaiʻi’s Indefinite COVID Lockdown: How Would an AI Rule?

The governor of Hawaiʻi claimed that legislation supported his right to extend draconian COVID lockdown rules indefinitely. Here’s a test for an AI law program
Some people say artificial intelligence (AI) systems can become more intelligent, more intellectually capable, than humankind. After all, they say the AI “AlphaZero has taught itself chess from scratch in just a few hours and then went on to beat the world’s previous best chess-playing computer program.” AI already reads x-rays, drives cars, orders meals by phone, diagnoses skin cancer, and predicts the next movie hit. Some say AI will soon do legal analysis and make judicial decisions more accurately and fairly than humans can. Using a recent true case, let’s overview what it takes to write AI software that would analyze a statute. First, as in an appellate court brief, let’s set up the real life problem and the…

Did the Court Really Say Bees Are Fish?

And would an AI-run court — which some propose — make a different decision? Not here because California law allows the interpretation
See headlines like: “Great Day” For Bumblebees as Californian Court Rules That They Are Fish and: Bees are fish, California court rules You’d believe, on reading them, that a California court recently ruled that bees are fish. Another eyeroll-worthy court decision! Readers here might muse, “An artificial intelligence-run legal system would never make such a crazy ruling!” The Seemingly Boring Narrow Issue Let’s skip past the exciting headlines. The California Court of Appeal in Almond Alliance of California v. Fish & Game Commission faced the issue of “whether the bumble bee, a terrestrial invertebrate, falls within the definition of fish, as that term is used in the definitions of endangered species, threatened species, and candidate species” under specific sections of…

The Courts: May Social Media Censor Speech and Ban Users?

Two federal appeals courts came down on opposite sides. Hear the story
May Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube censor your posts and ban you from using their social media platforms? May a state government require large social media platforms to allow users and posts to present lawful information, ideas, and viewpoints with which the platforms disagree? Florida and Texas both enacted laws to restrict platforms from censoring and banning users whose content the platforms disliked. Two different federal appeals courts in 2022 ruled on whether these two states’ laws were constitutional — and came out on opposite sides. The following three scenarios frame the key issues. Scenario A: Commercial Ground Transportation A fellow boards a private company-owned, regularly scheduled commercial bus bound for Berkeley, California, wearing a T-shirt proclaiming in big letters: Save…

Can You Trust Wikipedia to Decide Your Courtroom Fate?

Should judges and lawyers rely on Wikipedia to guide court case decisions? Researchers devised a clever test to see if they do
Wired recently ran an article entitled “Wikipedia Articles Sway Some Legal Judgments.” The subtitle declared: “An experiment shows that overworked judges turn to the crowdsourced encyclopedia for guidance when making legal decisions.” Wired’s headline oversold the story but the topic is worth a close look. Researchers at Maynooth University in Ireland, MIT, and New York’s Cornell University conducted a study to test whether Wikipedia articles about Irish court decisions affected judicial rulings in subsequent cases in Ireland. The researchers selected Irish Supreme Court decisions, analyzed them, and posted about 75 articles in Wikipedia describing those decisions. They wanted to see whether Irish courts were then using the Wikipedia articles when writing their own judicial opinions. In English, Irish, Canadian, American,…

US Federal court rules: Machines do not “invent” things

Evidently, Stephen Thaler’s aim was to get the patent office to recognize that an AI system can invent things all by itself
Check out this headline from lawandcrime.com: Federal Appellate Court Rules AI Systems Cannot Be “Inventors” Because They Are Not Human. Notice the angle: framing a battle between machines and homo sapiens, pitting human intelligence against artificial intelligence. The article’s first sentence spotlights the center attraction, stating: The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit ruled Friday [Aug. 5, 2022] that artificial intelligence or “AI” systems cannot patent their inventions because they are not “natural people.” Here the Law and Crime article subtly inserts two key beliefs: (1) that AI systems can in fact invent things all by themselves; and (2) that AI systems physically can “patent their inventions.” The sentence thus implies that the human-centric court unfairly blocked them.…

“Do You Hear What I Hear?” Christmas Music is All in Your Mind

Is music a matter of matter and energy alone, or is there something more to the story?
What better time than the Christmas season to explore immaterial realities of the human mind? A perfect example to consider is Christmas music. It’s everywhere during the holiday season. But what exactly is music? Described in purely physical terms, music is what humans sometimes perceive from the vibrations of air. Individual pieces of music are described less in physical terms and more in subjective terms using words that reflect how humans experience music in their minds. Eight key elements of music fall mostly into the category of qualia, i.e., experiences that occur in the hearers’ minds only: Dynamics, Form, Harmony, Melody, Rhythm, Texture, Timbre and Tonality. Do you know the Christmas song “We Three Kings” when you hear it? Written in 1857, the song has been arranged…

For Ants, Building a Bridge Is No “Simple” Task

There is nothing “simple” about designing neural systems and the computer systems to receive and interpret neural sensory inputs
Researching for my previous Mind Matters article about bird and bee biological software, I came across a short piece at Quanta Magazine entitled “The Simple Algorithm That Ants Use to Build Bridges.” Really, a “simple” insect algorithm? Intriguing. Eric Cassell’s book, Animal Algorithms (2021), reveals the complex and intricate hardware-software systems enabling bird and insect procedures for migration, building nests and structures, social cooperation, and navigation. Grounded in engineering training and experience, Cassell shows that animal algorithms must be designed top-down starting with a goal, fashioning the data input sensors, developing the necessary procedures, and implementing them in software to direct hardware. Yet the Quanta Magazine piece reported that Panamanian army ants’ procedures for building bridges of living ants is accomplished using a “simple algorithm.” The problem the army…