So far, all the politicians you know are or were people. However, this basic requirement to run a space may have its days numbered. This is SAM, the first virtual politician: a bot of artificial intelligence that intends to represent politically all the voters of New Zealand. According to its own definition, its motivation is to end the distance between people’s desire, politician’s promises and what in fact they can do.
Although the goal sounds utopian, Sam’s basic functioning is like any other robot of artificial intelligence. Through Messenger, it talks to people and learn their opinions on certain subjects. Currently, it can talk about political parties, living and global warming, but the idea is that Sam develops and learns about other issues. Besides chat, the robot also learns through a research available on its website.
For not being human and having unlimited memory, nothing that was answered is ignored or forgotten. When making decisions, the virtual politician takes all information into account — according to the creator, Nick Gerritsen — without any kind of prejudice, which would make politics much more democratic. Nevertheless, the moment that Sam can actually make decisions is distant. It’s not allowed for AIs to compete in elections and it’s unlikely that this will change soon.
SAM: why it exists?
If robots cannot compete in elections, the question “why Sam exists?” is reasonable. Its existence, however, is not useless. Besides being a technology in development that requires practical experiments to develops, Sam can serve as inspiration for other politicians, in this case, humans. Candidates marketing is increasingly using Big Data, but the artificial intelligence can push democracy even further.
Although the last episodes of the combo between politics and technology have not been a success, as is the case of Russian influence in the USA elections in 2016 and the suspicion that it may have happened in the referendum that determined the Brexit, the possibilities for AI in this field cannot be ignored. As of now, this technology will be more and more popular. As Big Data was unthinkable in the past and today is used in campaigns and mandates, the artificial intelligence will also have its role in the political game. So why not make it a resource that strengthens democracy?
With an artificial intelligence politician like Sam, it would be possible for an individual or party to better understand the desires and opinions of all voters and deliver a personalized message to each one according to their preferences. The other side, however, is also true: the bot would know what that politician thinks about certain subject. Straight from the source, without risk of fake news or segmented content.
From talking to a bot to changing how politics work, the way is long and not easy at all. Ideas of how to use technology in favor of democracy, however, are more and more possible in our hyper-connected reality.