Saturday, July 23, 2005

A Downside of Celebrity Megatrials

CBS Online News, AP Wire, (July 22, 2005) reports:
Santa Maria County taxpayers are on the hook for $2.7 million for the unsuccessful prosecution of Michael Jackson on child molestation charges, and the bill is climbing.

Most of the money went to sheriff's deputies who were posted at the Santa Maria courthouse from January 2004, when pretrial hearings began, through mid-June, when the 14-week trial ended. Crowd control also consumed a substantial amount of the money.

Not included in the costs are prosecution, investigative and grand jury expenses [emphasis added], Jette Christiansson, business manager for the County Executive Office, said in a statement.

Friday, July 22, 2005

Strange Justice

Sarah Lyall, Polanski Wins Vanity Fair Libel Suit, New York Times Online (July 22, 2005):
Vanity Fair's editor, Graydon Carter, was quick to express his unhappiness with the outcome. "I find it astonishing that a man who lives in France can be permitted to sue a magazine published in America in a British courtroom," he said in a statement after the verdict. "And that he can do so without ever having to show up in person." "Furthermore, as a father of four children, one of whom is a 12-year-old daughter," Mr. Carter added, "I find it equally outrageous that this story is considered defamatory to a man who can't be here because he slept with a 13-year-old-girl and has been a fugitive from justice for more than a quarter of a century."

Papers Wanted

This is one of my periodic reminders that Law, Probability and Risk, a peer review Oxford journal, welcomes submissions.

The current editors are Colin Aitken (chief editor; fields: mathematics & statistics; Edinburgh); James Franklin (mathematics, University of New South Wales; Jonathan Koehler (decision theory, statistics, McCombs School of Business, The University of Texas at Austin, Franco Taroni (forensic science, statistics; Ecole des sciences criminelles, University of Lausanne ) and Tillers (law, law of evidence, structure of fact investigation).

Papers may deal with scientific evidence or with statistical evidence and methods (or both) but papers may also deal with matters such as rigorous accounts of uncertain ordinary (non-scientific) evidence and inference, the relationship between legal reasoning and evidential inference, the psychology of inference, inference and economics, inference and choice, inference and argumentation theory, inference and rhetoric, inference and scenarios, inference and temporal logic, inference and four-dimensional scenarios, induction and abduction, uncertain inference and uncertain perception, evidential inference and fuzzy perceptions, evidential inference and fuzzy legal rules, evidence and inference about human meanings and intentions and similar matters, visual representations of evidential inference, and inference and computational intelligence. (These examples of suitable topics are only examples.)

Spatial-Temporal Logic; Sequential Planning in Multi-Agent Settings

Did you know that now there is a field called spatial logic?

I didn't. But it makes sense that such a field should exist. I welcome it!

Confession and avoidance: I did know that serious people had been thinking hard about making rational decisions and judgments about actions and events in three-dimensional space. I just didn't know that some people had begun to call reasoning about actions or events in three-dimensional space a logic.

Well, now that we have this new logic, there is an interesting possibility. You will recall that I have mentioned temporal logic from time to time. I can't say that I am proficient in the technicalities of temporal logic. Hardly! But now it is inevitable that we shall have a new logic: spatio-temporal logic.

I confess I did not come up with this idea on my own. Rather, I saw a paper with the intriguing title Combining Spatial and Temporal Logics: Expressiveness vs. Complexity (2005). The paper is by D. Gabelia, R. Kurucz, F. Wolter & Zakaharyaschev. Judging by the impressive and extensive technical detail in the paper, people have been hard at work at combining spatial and temporal logics for quite some time.

As the title of the paper suggests, combining the two logics aggravates combinatorial problems -- before all combinatorial explosion problems have been solved in stationary and one-dimensional worlds with a lot of details. Why are to welcome this additional aggravation?

Well, perhaps we should. I can't expatiate at length about this now -- but consider that adding space to time raises some very interesting (and baffling) questions about the law's assumptions about the way the world (cosmos) works. For example, suppose we assume three-dimensional settings rather than one-dimensional time lines or scenarios. Where do "mental events" and "decisions" go in the three- (and four-) dimensional picture?

This question brings to mind another intriguing paper whose argument I can only sniff in by osmosis here and there if at all: P.J. Gmytrsaciewicz & P. Doshi, A Framework for Sequential Planning in Multi-Agent Settings (2005). The abstract states in part:

Agents maintain beliefs over physical states of the environment and over models of other agents .... ... Models of other agents may include their belief states and are related to agents types in games of incomplete information. We ... [postulate] that ... models [of agents] are not directly manipulable or observable. ... [We take a certain approach] at the cost of having to represent, process and continuously revise models of other agents.
In the paper the authors state:
The main idea behind our formalism, called interactive POMDPs [interactive partially observable Markov decision processes] (I-POMDPs), is to allow agents to use more sophisticated constructs to model and predict behavior of other agents. Thus, we replace the "flat" beliefs about the state space used in PODPs with beliefs about the physical environment and about the other agent(s), possibly in terms of their preferences, capabilities, and beliefs. Such beliefs could include beliefs about others ... They are called interactive beliefs. ...
I like it! Now we're getting somewhere -- i.e. into a position where we can begin to think (systematically) a bit of the way that litigators think about litigation and the other actors in litigation. But ... hmmm ... how do we get spatial logic into this picture? The thought of doing something like that is literally mind-numbing. Of course, another question is whether building three-dimensional space into the picture of multi-agent interactive processes such as litigation would be at all useful. I think the answer must be: yes, sometimes.