The growing use of the newest information technologies, of telematic ways of communication and of the new developments of Artificial Intelligence, brought along a new way of doing business, now in an electronic format, and requiring thus a new legal approach. Civil Law and Commercial Law are still turned towards a type of society and a way of doing business related to a mostly industrial society and to the use of paper. But the new ways of doing business, now mainly in electronic form, in an interactive, automated, and even taking advantage of autonomous and intelligent software, brings along an obvious need for legal changes and adaptations, not only concerning a new approach of traditional legal institutes, but also concerning a need for new developments in procedural means – regarding a required change and adapting of proof mechanisms to a new society and to a new type of commerce, where proof will no longer be necessarily presented in paper format, but may well be presented in a new type of document, the electronic one.
However, it must not be forgotten two quite relevant aspects of this revolution: on one hand, transactions are now undertaken in fractions of seconds, through the telematic networks, everything becoming so fast, requiring fast mutation process and more efficient ways for solving conflicts; on the other hand, the fact that we must now consider commercial transactions totally undertaken within an electronic environment (“on-line transactions”) leads us to an obligation of rethinking the ways of solving disputes, so that the interested parties may use new mechanisms that, in a fast and simple way, will bring solutions to the conflicts that will inevitably arise from electronic commerce. It is an important change already taking place, pointing out to various ways of alternative dispute resolution and, among all these ways, letting us already perceive different possibilities of using the new technologies in order to reach faster and more efficient ways (still also “fair”) of solving commercial disputes. It is a whole new evolution towards a growing use not only of the so-called alternative dispute resolution, but also, towards the so-called on-line dispute resolution. Among the various alternative means for solving commercial disputes we will obviously have to refer some of the most well known and practiced ways for voluntary dispute resolution, such as the already traditional ways presented by methods such as negotiation, mediation and arbitration. A relevant issue, in a first moment, will be to inquire in what way (and to what point) these mechanisms can be transplanted or adapted to the new telematic environments, taking advantage of all the resources made available by the newest information and communication technologies. But it will also be of the utmost importance to stretch our analysis to the point of foreseeing a real technologically advanced possibility, inquiring whether or not we can take advantage, for online dispute resolution, of the new developments in the area of Artificial Intelligence, facing this knowledge in two different perspectives: on one hand, as a tool of undeniable interest in order to help the parties and the decision makers to obtain the best possible results in solving commercial disputes, and on the other hand, considering a new way of autonomous dispute resolution through the use of autonomous and intelligent software, supported by a knowledge base and decision capabilities.
It will be considered the possibilities of solving disputes through telematic ways, having in consideration both Portuguese and European legal frameworks.
It will also be considered alternatives for dispute resolution arising from Artificial Intelligence models and techniques (e.g. Argumentation, Games Theory, Heuristics, Intelligent Agents, Group Decision Systems).
In a country such as ours, still anchored to traditional methods of doing business and of solving disputes, in which the option for alternative dispute resolution is just beginning, but where, at the same time, it is being developed a new Technological Plan pushing people to act in commerce in a much faster and efficient way, it definitely makes sense to consider the development of alternative dispute resolution and, quite particularly, the development of online dispute resolution, making use of the full possibilities and advantages conferred by developments of technologies and already foreseeing the newest use of products arising from developments in the field of Artificial Intelligence.
Current research in developing negotiation support systems focuses upon argumentation, artificial intelligence, game theory, Heuristics, Intelligent Agents, and Group Decision Systems. These techniques are rarely used; we argue that truly intelligent negotiation support systems require the integration of such techniques.
The environment, we want to develop, facilitates the following three steps that lead towards the resolution of the dispute. First, the disputants are advised what dispute resolution mechanisms are effective. The Dispute Resolution Environment is amongst those, the parties are invited to start with our online dialogue support tool. If they do not reach agreement on all points, as a next step parties are advised by the negotiation system on a possible sequencing and resolution of the dispute. The second and third steps are, if necessary, repeated recursively until either a solution is reached or a stalemate occurs.
We believe the development of on-line mediation tool will be led to:
Consistency – by replicating the manner in which decisions are made, decision support systems are encouraging the spreading of consistency in legal decision-making.
Transparency – by demonstrating how legal decisions are made, legal decision support systems are leading to a better community understanding of legal domains.
Efficiency - One of the major benefits of decision support systems is to make firms more efficient.
Enhanced support for dispute resolution - Users of legal decision support systems are aware of the likely outcome of litigation and thus are
encouraged to avoid the costs and emotional stress of legal proceedings.