AI: A Political Platform?

@markdimeglio wrote a great post about how AI may become the next big political issue.  Here’s my response looking from both the skeptical and optimistic viewpoints.

What can AI actually do?

As you may have noticed, we have a long way to go before we have reached the level of world dominating AI.   Even with the updates Apple plans to bring, it needs some work.  I use this example, because it really doesn’t matter what the most powerful computations a single computer can make.  Sure, IBM Watson – or maybe some computer unknown to the public – may be very capable at driving an AI system, but it has to be exponentially more powerful if it wants to provide the same level of performance across an entire nation.

I don’t foresee driverless vehicles running their control algorithms on a remote server: the risk vs. reward seems very lopsided.  If there were any sort of connectivity issues, then what could happen? Right now that might equate to a few wrecks and possibly more deaths.  If an entire nation’s traffic was suddenly out of control the casualties would be insurmountable. Therefore, we have to evaluate this technology not by what is possible in ideal circumstances but what is possible to mass produce. Siri is certainly nowhere near the peak of modern AI capabilities nor does it serve the same purpose as the AI in driverless cars; however, it is not entirely unfair to compare the two. Although this iPhone technology may be subpar, it is also ubiquitous and can serve as a sort of case study for what we may expect with future consumer AI.

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We can’t expect the future KIAs to be as technologically advanced as these driverless cars.

Losing Jobs to AI

Jobs currently performed by humans will disappear as AI takes over. That doesn’t mean we have to stress, but it does mean we should start to prepare.  For a great example of the best steps to take, look no further than the movie Hidden Figures.

If you haven’t seen the movie, the above clip is a scene in which Dorothy Vaughan turns the tables by not only saving her own job but also the jobs of her entire team.  Not depicted are the hours and hours of work Dorothy and her team did to prepare for that moment.  Those who sit idly by as technology improves are in for a rude awakening.  For many  people (drivers are the most obvious victims but likely others will take a hit) the wave of AI is going to crash down hard.  Some will buy umbrellas – legislation protecting industries may slow down the progress but won’t really have any long-term effect.  Others will learn how to swim – energy-consuming effort will be exhausting, but they’ll learn how to work alongside AI.  The best will build an ark – not only will they survive, but their business’ entire purpose will be fundamentally dependent upon the AI flood.

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You also have to make sure you board the correct ark.

 

AI as a Political Platform

As mentioned above, current language understanding by computers is limited, but how might we use it in the future? Now this is just an idea, and I’d love to hear your thoughts on the matter. You may have noticed a popular trend among politicians is to take photos with giant legislation bills and a pouty face (Note: this happens frequently on both sides of the aisle).

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From this angle it’s impossible to tell if he’s holding up a bill or if he just grabbed a ream of paper to go refill the printer.

I would love to say maybe we cut these bills down to a lot less pages, so legislators can know what they are voting on, but the truth is that to enforce such a rule would be insanely difficult, maybe impossible, and ironically possibly illegal.  Maybe AI could provide a solution.  If AI could understand English text, it might be possible to condense these bills and reduce redundancies within them.  Ideally this would happen on the front end by the people introducing the bill, but perhaps there is incentive to make giant and convoluted bills (see: Pork barrel).  In the future AI could potentially read through such a giant manuscript and create a one page summary of the critical issues.  Furthermore, it might even be able to create a report of how many pages deal with specific issues, thus performing two functions: (1) highlight the biggest issues brought forth by the bill and (2) reveal the tiny issues someone might be trying to sneak in without others noticing.

AI could become a ‘political platform,’ not just in the traditional sense of the phrase but also in the way Google and Apple have built technology platforms.  I might be too hopeful to think technology could make the government efficient, but here’s to hoping.

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A toast to the end of the world as we know it – all because of AI

6 comments

  1. Great post, Bobby! I thought your idea on how AI could be applied to law making and bill writing was very relevant and helpful to the issues currently facing policy makers.

    You blog also made me questions what other applications AI has to politics—so I looked more closely into it. Unsurprisingly, someone from New Zealand has developed an artificially intelligent politician named SAM. I guess it was only a matter of time! The creator argues that SAM considers all opinions and suggestions without bias and then makes a decision going forward.

    To me, this seems like a horrible idea (although, as we’ve often discussed, horrible ideas can become the most successful ones). It takes the humanity out of a profession that requires some level of human nature and emotion. Bearing this in mind, it ties right into your analogy and is not a profession that “builds an arc” but one that relies on AI fully. After hearing about that, I completely agree with you that the most successful applications and uses for AI will be those that build their business around it with the added human touch and not those that allow AI to fully overtake it.

  2. You did a great job with this post! I like the comedic flare. Dorothy Vaughan foresaw an innovation disrupting her work and took action immediately. She did not try to stop progress but found a way to become a part of it, making herself and her peers integral components. She set a great example for companies today. Technology is not going away so there is no sense in resisting.
    Your idea for using AI as a political platform was also very interesting. It seems entirely inefficient (and maybe even impossible) for politicians to read and understand bills made with hundreds of pages. This area seems like it could benefit greatly from AI. If politicians could read a summary, rather than a manuscript, and go directly to areas of interest/concern, the timeline for legislative work could potentially be shortened. I do, however, worry that certain aspects could slip through the cracks, especially if an algorithm is deciding what is important or what it thinks bill writers are trying to hide. This decision is very subjective and might always require a human element.

  3. I thought this was a really interesting way to look at the implementation of AI. At my internship this past summer, I did a lot of research into a platform that could do something similar to what you were mentioning with being able to read legislation. I was amazed to learn about how smart some of the machine learning algorithms already are, and their full potential is not even close to being met.

    I think one of the things that your blog brings up is understanding the human response to the rise of AI. Yes, it will take away some jobs that were once done by humans, but that doesn’t mean that we as a society need to be at war with the machines. I believe that the best thing to come out of the emergence of AI is that it will lead to more thought provoking jobs that do not entail mindless sorting of documents or data entry. It will allow businesses to look at longer term horizons as opposed to focusing on the detail of day to day operations. My small group in class last week talked about the importance for humans to adapt to the change rather than succumb to it, and I think those who understand this difference will be able to be ahead of the curve in the years to come.

  4. Thought provoking post Bobby! I also read Mark’s original and am happy to see this discussion going forward. Your comedic tone was appreciated, but I really want to hone in on one line you used “We have to evaluate this technology not by what is possible in ideal circumstances but what is possible to mass produce.” I think this quote helps really summarize a ton of the issues with the AI skeptics. The fact of the matter is humans will never allow many processes to be fully automated for fear of some form of error which if no human can immediately correct can cause large amounts of trauma and damage. Your self-driving example was a prime example of this and I absolutely loved it.
    My one comment on jobs is that if we are going to force many people out of their careers due to AI replacement, we cannot immediately write them off as those who sat “idly by”. We must make sure they have the opportunity for the education in this field – and with the growing state of inequality in this country I’m sure a majority of people who’s jobs are being made obsolete are NOT given this opportunity.

    Great post Bobby!

  5. Hi Bobby, great post! Your post reminds me of the article we read about the 5 different steps that we can take regarding AI. Although AI will take away many jobs, it will also give people the opportunity to look for new ways to improve their job since AI will do most of the long and tedious work for them.
    I feel like using AI in the political field would be beneficial since everything is still very manual and it takes a long time to process documents in the government. Since the government ‘s actions affect all of us, they have to be extremely careful with all the decisions that are made. I don’t think AI should be used as a replacement of humans because we still need human brains to oversee the decisions that AI might make. However, I think AI should be used as an ‘augmentation’ where humans step in to make sure that everything important has been taken into account and there is nothing missing when the decision-making happens.

  6. Interesting angle. Hadn’t considered AI in the political process before. I do suspect that a mere mention of the subject on FoxNews or MSNBC would lead to all sorts of fear mongering.

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