In our popular imagination, artificial intelligence (or AI) is an often-mistrusted fascination. With films like Her and Ex Machina, AI is often portrayed as the mind machinery of too-smart robots intent on screwing over humans, all while we ask Siri or Google to direct us to a good Chinese food spot. But in the tech world, AI does so much more than seduce or provide information — innovators like Stanford student Joshua Browder are using it to assist another misunderstood and wrongfully demonized group. Browder's DoNotPay app uses artificial intelligence to give legal aid to refugees, and does so using "the world's first robot lawyer."
The British-born Browder first developed his AI lawyer to help people with delayed flights and parking tickets, but it has since been used in myriad applications to do things like help the homeless in the UK provide legal advice for people with HIV. His goal to "level the playing field so there's a bot for everything" now extends to helping refugees file for legal status using DoNotPay's chat bot, which works on Facebook Messenger, by asking the same questions an immigration lawyer would when preparing an application for refugees who intend to go to the United States, Canada, or the UK.
Browder, whose grandmother escaped the Holocaust in the UK, told Business Insider that his bot aims at solving one of the biggest and most mundane challenges facing lawyers:
As evidenced by the large-scale legal protest against President Donald Trump's first executive order banning travel from seven Muslim-majority countries, the legal component of immigration and refugee filing is essential — and regrettably overlooked by the politicization of immigration and refugeeship. With the advent of DoNotPay's chat bot, lawyers whose clients use the robot lawyer to fill out their paperwork will be freed up to do the heavy legal lifting required of immigration lawyers in the wake of Trump's latest immigration and travel order.
I'm surprised no one asked the Trump admin what they mean by "extreme vetting" b/c visa holders/refugees already go through it. #MuslimBan2— sarah amy harvard (@amyharvard_) March 6, 2017
As the nationwide legal challenge against Trump's second travel ban mounts, there's no doubt that individual lawyers, such as those who represent an Afghan refugee family detained despite holding valid visas, will need all the help they can get.