Will AI Ever Fully Replace Human Mediators?

Posted by Kompass Professional Development on Apr 25, 2024 12:46:27 PM
Kompass Professional Development

Artificial intelligence is disrupting many fields previously thought off-limits to automation, and dispute resolution is no exception. AI can summarize cases, predict outcomes, even facilitate negotiations. But can it replace human mediators entirely?

In this post, we look at the capabilities of AI in mediation. We explore current AI technologies and their applications in conflict resolution. We also consider the limits of AI in replicating complex human emotional intelligence and ethical decision making. And we share some expert opinions on the possibility of AI taking over from human mediators.

Here’s what you need to know.




The ability of large language models like ChatGPT to summarize information and generate human-like conversations can be invaluable in the mediation process.

In an OAFM-sponsored talk in July 2023, Sara Shamdani of Parable Conflict Solutions likened it to a situation where software developers talk through a coding problem to a rubber duck on their desk. While chatting to an inanimate object, they often figure out where they went wrong so they can go fix the bug. Sara pointed out that the difference with AI is that now “the rubber duck talks back.”

Sara shared an interaction she’d had with ChatGPT wherein she entered details of a mediation case and asked for suggestions on how to move the client past an impasse. The AI tool gave some basic recommendations. But as the conversation went on and her prompts got more specific, ChatGPT was able to generate a helpful sample dialogue that anticipated clients’ pain points.

“AI can provide so much augmentation to a family mediation process,” Sara explained. “[It] can foresee what worries and fears the other party might have.”

Indeed, AI can analyze vast amounts of data, discerning patterns and providing insights. Where it really shines is in assisting with routine tasks, such as:

  • Writing email responses
  • Creating templates for intake assessments or domestic violence screening
  • Coming up with questions to provoke discussion and guide the parties
  • Predicting negotiation styles
  • Drafting agreements

In some less complex cases, AI can automate the entire mediation process. Algorithms can propose solutions based on predefined criteria and learned data, speeding up resolution and reducing the need for human mediators.

“AI is providing an option for people to enter mediation in the least intrusive way,” says accredited family mediator and Kompass instructor Hayley MacPhail.

“Let’s say you and I were in conflict. In a computerized system, you would enter your position and I would enter mine, and the computer would spit out this number saying you are 10 per cent in agreement; would you like to revise your position? I can revise my position and you can do the same, and the computer will reassess if we’re any closer to settlement.”

Man using laptop to chat with artificial intelligence

Generative AI tools can be helpful for mediators



AI clearly offers many benefits, but it also comes with certain limitations.

Emotional Intelligence and AI

It’s difficult to overestimate the importance of emotional intelligence in mediation. While AI can analyze data and identify patterns, it can’t replicate the human ability to understand and respond to emotions in a sensitive and nuanced way. It can struggle to grasp the subtleties of human behaviour, tone of voice, and facial expressions, which are crucial for understanding the underlying emotions in a dispute.

Ultimately, AI lacks the deep emotional understanding that human mediators bring to the table. It can recognize that a person is upset but might not fully understand the complexity or the context of these emotions. It can also misinterpret sarcasm, humour, or culturally specific expressions, leading to misunderstandings.

Because it doesn’t actually have feelings, Al also lacks the ability to empathize with human emotions or build genuine connections with people. And as every mediator knows, building rapport and trust with both parties is essential.

Another point to remember is that sometimes the most crucial aspects of a dispute lie beneath the surface. A skilled mediator can pick up on these unspoken issues and guide the conversation toward addressing them. But AI, relying on data and explicit communication, may miss these underlying emotional currents that can be critical for reaching a resolution.

Mediator taking notes and listening to client

Human mediators are still needed for their emotional intelligence

Ethical Challenges and AI Decision Making

Even leaving aside the privacy and confidentiality concerns, the ethics of AI in mediation presents a number of challenges.

AI systems are trained on data sets created by humans. If this data contains biases, the AI model can learn and amplify those biases.

For instance, if the data is skewed toward past settlements that favoured corporations over individuals, the AI might suggest biased settlement options in future mediations. Or if the data contains biased language (e.g., gendered language), the AI might misinterpret communication styles or assign undue weight to certain arguments based on who presents them.

“AI is fed by humans, and those humans might be biased or have some sort of discrimination or implicit discrimination,” says lawyer and accredited mediator Rola Mustafa. “As mediators, we are generally conscious of our own biases. But I’m not sure AI can provide this equality and fairness to everyone.”

Another issue is that sometimes AI is just plain wrong. There have been instances of AI generating false or misleading information (known as hallucinations) in such a confident way that the user doesn’t think to question it. The Avianca case is a prime example: the lawyer for a man suing Avianca Airlines submitted a ChatGPT-generated brief citing six cases that didn’t actually exist.

It can be difficult to understand how AI arrives at a particular conclusion. This lack of transparency can erode trust in AI’s recommendations and the entire mediation process.



So what do experts think of the human mediators vs AI debate?

“A huge part of our role as mediators is to uncover interests, acknowledge emotions, and make the parties feel heard,” says Rola Mustafa.

“AI can’t do that. AI can’t unpack the interests that the parties have. It can predict, maybe, but that doesn’t mean it will always be 100 per cent accurate. We still need a human being to be there to support other human beings in their conflict resolution journey.”

The general consensus seems to be that AI will serve as a tool to empower human mediators, but not fully replace them. Florida-based mediator and author Lawrence Kolin indicated as much in a recent webinar:

“Context is everything. AI doesn’t always appreciate what’s going on. It may be able to think two moves ahead on a monetary negotiation or something like that. But the aspect of what’s driving that—two partners in a business that are splitting up, a physician in a practice, an author and an illustrator—these kinds of things can’t be appreciated by that black box just yet,” he noted.

“We’re necessary. We’re not going anywhere. And yes, we’re open to utilizing these tools as they become available to us.”



Kompass offers a variety of online certificates for professionals looking to build their knowledge and skills in the alternative dispute resolution field. Our mediation, family mediation, and intergenerational mediation programs are each just 12 weeks long and led by instructors with years of ADR experience.

Click below to explore our programs and chat with an admissions advisor. We’re here to help!

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Topics: mediation

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