What if your future president or prime minister is a robot?
If you had the opportunity to vote for a politician you totally trusted, who you were sure had no hidden agendas and who would truly represent the electorate’s views, you would, right?
What if that politician was a robot? Yes, a real artificially intelligent robot.
The idea may sound far-fetched, but is it?
Commentators from countries as diverse as India, the UK, New Zealand, and Japan have started to suggest that robots as government leaders could drastically improve decision-making, by being much less irrational and erratic than their inherently flawed human counterparts.
and Being far less hampered by ideological extremism and tunnel vision, or by the egotism and narcissistic tendencies that seem to characterize many government leaders, AI fuelled robots may be able to make rational, fair, well-rounded and evidenced-based decisions.
That said, whatever opinion we may have about robot politicians, the groundwork for this is already being laid.
A recent paper showcased a system that automatically writes political speeches. Some of these speeches are believable and it would be hard for most of us to tell if a human or machine had written them.
Politicians already use human speech writers so it may only be a small step for them to start using a robot speechwriter instead.
And the same can very well be extended to policy and lawmakers also. A robot would just need to be programmed with an agreed set of ethical standards allowing it to make judgments on the basis of agreed morals.
Let us explore further as to why AI might create better leaders.
Robots would be Great in Enforcing Laws.
In the future laws would be very different from what it is now.
Laws would be compiled in code and enforced by digital systems rather than humans. Another change would be a preventive approach to implementation rather than a corrective approach. This means that humans would be forced not to break the law rather than enforcing punishment afterward. This is digital law, a wholly new way for others to force us to do things or refrain from doing them.
And Robots are best suited to implement such laws without any failures.
As more and more human activity falls to be undertaken by digital systems, digital enforcement will become a matter of necessity and not of convenience.
We are already reaching there; automated speed cameras, automated trading systems, and the rise of Alexa, Cortana, etc. In another 20 years, the rules will enforce themselves: there’s no need for police, investigators, prosecutors, judges, or juries.
Take a self-driving car for example. The car will be programmed in such a way that you can never exceed the speed limit and break the law. You will also never be fined for parking illegally because the car will not allow you to do so. If you are a terrorist, you cannot use your car as a terror weapon to ram down people. The car simply would lock you inside.
And all the normal laws, rules, legislation would be codified, modified and executed flawlessly by a team of robot politicians in specialized areas.
Thus political power would shift from law enforced by people to a law enforced by technology and would be self-enforcing in nature because they are all coded into the world around us.
Robots can Take Accurate Data-Driven Decisions.
Till now most human life has been lived outside the direct gaze of political authorities. Historically, even the most efficient data collection/surveillance undertaken by government officials — police, spies, informants — was necessarily sketchy and incomplete, leaving considerable zones of privacy in which people could do as they pleased.
In the future data collection will become the norm, with machines, not humans, doing most of the legwork. Less and less of what we do will escape the attention of technology. And those who gain control of the data — the technologies capable of gathering and processing information — will enjoy a great increase in their power over the rest of us.
These will be those robots who analyze, slice and dice vast amounts of data and accordingly come up with welfare schemes, development activities and new standards of enforcement.
Besides the welfare schemes, another function of data will be disciplinary action. Simply knowing that we have been observed will make us behave differently. It makes us less likely to do things which are considered sinful, unlawful and not as per the expected norms of the society.
For example, the would-be terrorist who knows that the NSA taps a billion phone calls a day is less likely to use his smartphone to plot an attack. A student who knows that the WhatsApp group he is using for cheating in an exam is being tracked will never attempt to do so and so on….
And the most interesting implication is that this data collected is imperishable and non-destructible outlasting our memories and even our lives. Robot politicians can use that data and tailor-make a decision to a very individual based on historical information. There is no escape from predictability.
There is no need for arms, physical violence, material constraints. Just a data gaze. An inspecting gaze, a gaze which each individual under its weight will end by interiorizing to the point that he is his own overseer, each individual thus exercising this surveillance over, and against himself.
And Finally, Robots will be Masters in Perception Control
Every politician these days has a social media army. They propagate all the good things done by him, provide the latest updates on his next plans activities and also maintain people perception continually about him.
But there is also a flip side; the unforgiving troll army.
If you know that criticizing a particular politician will bring a menacing silence to the bar where you’re sitting, or cause a Twitterstorm of personal abuse to erupt against you on social media, then you might think twice about voicing that criticism in the first place.
Those who seek power do well to mobilize this kind of bias against their opponents.
And what better way to maintain the status quo than to create an environment in which mere criticism of it is unacceptable?
Terrifying but very much possible.
And the easiest way to control perception is to filter the data reaching people. A suitably programmed robot politician will find and gather information, decide how much context and detail is necessary and then feed it to the general public in a suitable form based on the perception wanting to be conveyed.
Data filtering is a very powerful method of influencing the public. Once you control the flow of information in a society, you can control the public sense of right-wrong, fair-unfair, truth-false and change the narrative to your own end. You can shape the norms and customs that define what is permitted and what is forbidden and which manners are acceptable.
In short, public control will be absolute. There is no revolt, no unrest, and no bad eggs to be squashed.
And how we perceive the world would depend on how much is revealed to us by the digital systems. The ones who control these systems rule the world.
Historically, one of the big problems with leaders is that they are selfish mammals. An artificial intelligence president could be truly altruistic. It wouldn’t be susceptible to lobbyists, special interest groups or personal desires.
But let us take a step back and think.
Do we really need a robot to govern us?
The short answer is no. We don’t need to replace politicians with robots if we adopt a data-driven approach in politics.
What if a data-driven approach was applied to governance and public policy in all countries? What if there is a metaphorical seat at the table for big-data analytics and AI in every serious government deliberation. Decisions can be truly data-driven and not based on the whims and fancies of narcissistic individuals.
But that will require a huge change in perspective.
It is time to judge our leaders based on clearly defined and actionable data. We need data to define public policy, shape public expectations, and enhance implementation efficiency.
It begins by turning AI into IA: Artificial Intelligence into Intelligence Augmented. The optimum balance is humans leveraging machines intelligently, effectively, and empathetically.
As Yan Lecunn has rightly said.
“Our intelligence is what makes us human, and AI is an extension of that quality.”.
The Future Enemies: Daniel Innerrarity
Judge and Punish: Geoffrey De Lagasnerie
Future Politics: James Susskind.