CS Reductions in Law

I know very little of the workings of law. Some of my friends work in, uh, law-related stuff and discussing their jobs with them sometimes sounds to me like they’re basically saying “law, law, law, appeals, contracts, law”. It’s Greek to me, as they say.

However, one of my favorite branches of computer science is Complexity & Computability (lumped together for this discussion), in which a major tenet is using reductions to prove that one set of problems is in the same computability category (say, NP) as another class of problems. (In short, that’s one major facet of the NP set, that much of it is provably “the same order of difficulty”).

It was pointed out to me today the equivalent to this in the process of law, where basically precedents are relied upon (or reduced from) in order to justify a certain response to a new situation.

I found this just beautiful – how a concept I thought inherent to CS (or to computation in general, but then CS should be short for “computation science” anyway) is applicable in the totally different realm of Objection! Sustained!

“Law and Order” will never be the same.