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Eight ways artificial intelligence can improve democracy

And eight ways AI could destroy democracy


(Editor's note: This is the second of two parts. Read Part One.)

It would be easy to leapfrog our thinking towards a system where AI makes all of our decisions for us, but any process that reduces individual participation will be heavily scrutinized before we learn to trust it, and trust takes time.

Any system that reduces personal involvement will require years of testing before it’s implemented on a large scale. That said, here are a few ways it could greatly improve our processes:

Since AI can understand individual preferences, it can help voters make decisions and, by extension, increase participation.

AI will have the ability to instantly spot fraud and corruption in the system.

With better ways of spotting corruption, AI will pave the way for electronic voting, create more convenience, and enable a wider cross-section of society to participate.

AI will allow voters to “drill down” and get the facts straight on any decision before they make it.

Done correctly, AI will improve the caliber of decisions but will not undermine the role of the individual.

AI has the potential to give voters expanded authority, allowing more issues to come up for community input and public decisions.

AI will have the ability to cancel out negative campaigning, biased reporting, and slanted arguments.

AI has the potential to reduce the cost of campaigning, reduce the reliance on contributors, and reduce political favors in the process.

Eight ways AI could destroy democracy

Keep in mind that improving democracy and destroying it may very well be the same thing.

With AI, we have the potential to automate democracy as well as the entire decision-making process for government. Most likely this will involve a step-by-step process where each new level of automation is tested, refined, and retested before anything is implemented system wide.

Here are eight possible steps towards an automated-AI form of democracy:

AI could easily alter the one-person-one-vote system by adding more value to the votes of those who are better informed, better educated, or more involved.

AI could be set up to instantly trigger new elections whenever public confidence drops below a certain level.

Minor decisions could be automated, and if that works, we could begin to automate more significant ones.

When it comes to justice systems, AI could eventually be used to eliminate judges altogether, and in the process, deliver far more impartial court rulings.

When problems occur, AI could be used to automatically trigger new referendums based on “situational awareness,” riots, protests, and petitions, as well as ebbing and waning levels of public sentiment.

Eventually, AI could be used to eliminate scheduled election days completely and replace them with an auto-correction system that triggers election days and election issues as needed.

Taking this line of thinking a few steps further, AI could eliminate elected officials altogether and replace them automated votes by the general population.

As a final step, if every other AI process functions properly, we could eliminate voting altogether in favor of automated consensus system. Since AI already knows how we think, it could register our votes automatically.

Will AI result in an improved form of democracy or something else?

When it comes to democracy, it’s easy for poor people to vote for more taxes on the rich, but in the U.S., it’s the rich who contribute the most to campaigns, so the two tend to counterbalance each other out.

Many view campaign contributions as a form of corruption, but so far we’ve not found any effective way of funding campaigns without tapping into rich people’s money.

At the same time, machine intelligence has quickly become a playground for creative minds, and even though we’re still a couple steps removed from what experts consider true AI, it has the potential to change our current systems and remove many of the built-in biases.

Over the coming years, enterprising people will try countless experiments to test new approaches for adding thinking systems to our governmental processes.

Final Thoughts

Democracy is destined to change, and with a host of emerging technologies already in the works for rewriting the rule books on parliamentary thinking, will soon seem like a very dated form of government.

Words like auto-democracy, democracy AI, and auto-governance will soon enter the public lexicon as we experiment our way towards something better.

But this will not be an easy transition. We will see the strongest resistance over concepts like “what constitutes better?” with many asking “better for whom?”

Will it be better for the working class, better for the business owners, better for families with children, or better for rich and poor alike?

More importantly, how will we know?


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Thomas Frey

Thomas Frey is the executive director and senior futurist at the DaVinci Institute and currently Google’s top-rated futurist speaker.  At the Institute, he has developed original research studies, enabling him to speak on unusual topics, translating trends into unique opportunities. Tom continually pushes the envelope of understanding, creating fascinating images of the world to come.  His talks on futurist topics have captivated people ranging from high level of government officials to executives in Fortune 500 companies including NASA, IBM, AT&T, Hewlett-Packard, Unilever, GE, Blackmont Capital, Lucent Technologies, First Data, Boeing, Ford Motor Company, Qwest, Allied Signal, Hunter Douglas, Direct TV, Capital One, National Association of Federal Credit Unions, STAMATS, Bell Canada, American Chemical Society, Times of India, Leaders in Dubai, and many more. Before launching the DaVinci Institute, Tom spent 15 years at IBM as an engineer and designer where he received over 270 awards, more than any other IBM engineer.

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