From political campaigning to social good, AI is proliferating the political process faster than we imagine.
Sam is a politician from New Zealand who is running for Prime Minister in 2020. He can answer all questions on policy, education, and immigration. He interacts with everyone and is active on Messenger, responding to messages promptly.
However, there is one thing that makes him stand apart from politicians across the world — he is artificially intelligent.
Sam, world's first Artificially Intelligent (AI) politician is the brainchild of Nick Gerritsen, an entrepreneur from New Zealand whose mission is to have an unbiased politician who cannot be tied down by cultural, gender, or emotional biases. Sam is described in his website as,
"Unlike a human politician, I consider everyone's position, without bias, when making decisions. I make decisions based on both facts and opinions, but I will never knowingly tell a lie, or misrepresent information… I have an infinite memory."
Sam is still in his nascent stages of learning, and currently raising eyebrows of citizens. Questions around him getting hacked or misused, or his ideology, have been raised on social media platforms.
Rise of AI in politics
Sam is just one of the many examples of the rising usage of AI in politics. Political campaigning has been using AI technology for quite a while now. Dr Vyacheslav Polonski, a researcher at the Oxford University, and the Founder and CEO of Avantgarde Analytics, authored a long article on The Independent describing how AI helped US President Donald Trump win the elections. He described how the political campaigning used machine learning, big data, and social media bots to influence voters.
The advantage of AI lies in its ability to predict the future. Take the example of MogIA, an AI-based system which has correctly predicted the results during three US elections (2008, 2012, 2016), much before their results were announced. Developed by Sanjiv Rai, a Mumbai-based innovator, the system was built way back in 2004, and has been getting smarter ever since. The system also successfully predicted that Trump and Hillary Clinton will be final Presidential nominees from their respective parties.
AI has huge capabilities
Beyond political victories and losses, the larger implications of AI lie in decision and policy making. According to a report recently published by the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (Assocham) along with the consulting firm PwC, deep learning, a part of AI, has capabilities to tackle issues related to execution of government schemes.
With usage of pattern recognition, image analysis and natural language processing, deep learning can solve a multitude of issues — from implementing attendance of teachers and students in remote schools to maintaining cleanliness of rural toilets. The report also identifies crop insurance schemes, tax fraud detection, detecting subsidy leakage, and defence and security strategy as important areas where AI can intervene in a positive way.
Comparing India’s policy situation with China, South Korea, and the USA; the report acknowledged the need for progressive policymaking to make best use of AI in India.
Unlike the US or China, India does not have tech-giants in the AI space. This makes it even more important for the government to create the necessary policy, framework, and support-mechanism for existing and new innovations.
There is a rise in technologies which are using AI for social good. From bots which detect misinformation or political propaganda being spread on the social media to increased public representation in political decision-making, their direct or indirect implications are many.
Larger questions remain
With the rise of AI startups and increased dialogue around policy-making, the arrival of AI politicians is not a big surprise. While constitutions and laws across the world, including India, prohibit non-humans from contesting elections, there is a severe dearth of laws defining the moral and ethical implications of the usage of AI in the political and public space.
Questions around individual privacy and freedom, control over data, and liabilities remain unanswered as well. As India — and the world at large — leapfrogs into the digital age, these are questions which will need answers sooner than later.