Lawyers like their evidence to be nice and straightforward. Not to statistical. This is a real problem in some negligence cases. A surgeon might be a good surgeon, might have well below average adverse events, but if something screws up, doctrines like res ipsa loquitur – “the thing speaks for itself” – can find the doctor in hot water. If some fault can be found in their conduct in a particular case (are there doctors or any practitioners for which this isn’t sometimes true?) then they can be found guilty of negligence even if the broader evidence suggests they are the best, least negligent doctor in the country.*
Anyway at the same time as being too quick on the trigger if the thing ‘speaks for itself’ they’re amazingly deaf to statistical evidence, which, one might have thought speaks for itself. Here’s an intriguing story of a chess cheat who used Fritz – a chess engine to go from being a 55 year old who played at a rating strength of 1900 odd to someone who was beating Grandmasters and playing at rating strengths of 2600+. Not only that, but he played a comically engine driven game. A basic rule of good (human) play is to simplify the position when you’ve got it won to minimise the scope for mistakes. A chess engine will rank such moves as bad ones – because there are moves which are better all things considered. But for us poor souls relying on our primary cognitive apparatus and not the secondary cognitive apparatus available to computers – they’re actually the best moves if you want to win the game – they maximise your chance of winning the game.
In a won position the cheat proceeded to play incredibly sharp moves again and again – including approaching a time control.
You can read the story here. You can also play the game on that page! It’s fun.
Some months after the event the District Attorney’s office began investigating Allwermann for embezzlement of the prize sum of DM 1,660 – (about $850). GM Rainer Knaak was consulted, and the Fritz expert (Knaak works for ChessBase) confirmed that all the games were almost completely reproducible, move for move, with Fritz5.32 and the Fritz Powerbook ’99. Even a small transposition error in the PowerBooks was faithfully reproduced in one of the games. In the meantime Hartmut Metz had located an electronics supplier who had sold Allwermann the equipment he probably used to transmit the computer moves. According to the store owner Allwermann had insisted on a modification that would allow him to enter four-digit codes in the hand-held radio transmitter. He had also purchased the very smallest receiver possible, one that could be completely concealed in his ear and hidden behind his long hair.
However, after many months the DA’s office dismissed the case due to “lack of sufficient proof”. A speaker expressed the view that “moves by good chess players often coincide with those of a computer”, and apart from that there was no direct evidence – nobody had seen or documented the use of electronic devices during the tournament. The Bavarian Chess Federation, on the other hand, took drastic action and barred Allwermann from participation in further tournaments.
Before this was enforced Allwermann had played in one more tournament, closely watched by large numbers of spectators and journalists. He scored exactly what is to be expected of a player who is below the 2000 Elo mark.
* Note: this is based on my LLB which I began over three decades ago. Perhaps we’re in legal nirvana by now.