The Future
Can AI Be a Better Ruler?
5 min read

Whether we like it or not, AI (Artificial Intelligence) will disrupt our life. 

We’re talking about 50% job loss in the next ten years or so. 

Whether we have a mechanical or analytical job, AI will replace us if it can do better. 

But what about the supreme job? The one of running a country? 

Can’t AI do better? 

The principle behind self-driving cars is simple.  

Humans are responsible for accidents. So let’s remove humans from the equation. 

Likewise, rulers are responsible for wars, destroying the planet, increasing inequalities, ignoring the general interest and the list is long. 

Why removing them couldn’t be a possibility? 

How AI works?  

Friendship with a robot
Photo by Andy Kelly on Unsplash

Let’s start first by understanding how AI works. 

AI is at the meeting point of data processing, machine learning, and action-taking. 

It’s a group of algorithms on autopilot mode. 

Algorithms are preset of instructions. They get activated when encountering a trigger. 

In the case of a self-driving car, an example of an algorithm would be:  

— When you encounter the red light, press the brake.

While an algorithm is rigid, AI is flexible.  

It can adapt and evolve in function of the data flow they receive. 

For example, if you are in a marketplace like Amazon, the algorithm will make suggestions and adapt to your likes of the moment. 

What AI is good at? 

AI streamlines processes and saves us time. 

AI processes a higher volume of data and suggests creative solutions we weren’t able to see. 

But here’s the interesting point. AI helps us reduce the risks of our decision-making. 

In the future of work conference 2018, Daniel Kahneman, Nobel Prize for his work on the psychology of judgment and decision-making, clearly expressed this view. 

He said that human decision-making is biased. And because of their biases, Humans are unable to produce a constant outcome.  

But algorithms can. Thus, they are more reliable. 

How AI is been used?  

People making money with AI avoid talking about its negative side. 

Like every technology, AI is two-sided. 

Yes, AI can increase productivity, cut costs, or predict the early stages of cancer. 

But some of the recent uses of AI raises big questions. 

The scandal of Cambridge Analytica is one of them. 

Combining computing power with massive data, Facebook created an algorithm that knows us better than ourselves. 

With this knowledge, Facebook can influence our behavior and make ads successful.   

Cambridge Analytica used the same methods to influence political behaviors. 

Speaking about social media using similar algorithms, Jaron Lanier said: 

“The product is not just our attention, it’s the gradual, slight, imperceptible change in your own behavior and perception that is the product.” 

More terrifying, China is not only building an Orwellian-like system using AI but also helping other countries doing the same.  

Using massive data and technologies like facial recognition, AI is helping China building a surveillance state. 

The minority of Muslim Uighurs knows well about it.  

More than a million Uighur are arbitrarily detained in concentration camps based on their identity-spoken language, how often they pray… 

In other parts of the country, China is testing the social-credit programs. They associate a score to each individual based on their behavior. 

Can AI replace our rulers?  

Lee Sedol lost 4 to 1 against AlphaGo in the Go game. 

This event showcased a form of AI called Deep Learning.  

It knew the rules of the game and had access to historical databases so it can teach itself. It came up with creative moves never seen before. 

So imagine if we use a similar system to replace our rulers. 

We will give the AI the rules of good governance that ensure a decent life for everyone.  

And we will feed it with historical databases of the best rulers in human history. 

The AI-head-of-the-country could promote social justice, equal opportunities for all, or present an original solution to complex issues like climate change. 

In case we want to keep our flawed rulers, AI can help us choose the right candidate when the choice is available. 

AI could assess the risk of a candidate becoming a terrible ruler. It will base its decisions on more features than humans do. 

Today, AI is already used in risk assessment in the US justice system or in giving loans. 

By turning to AI, we can hope to pick the right candidate who will serve the general interest. 

Final thoughts 

The probability of AI ruling us sounds like science fiction. 

But much of what we’re living today was considered science fiction some decades ago. 

AI has the potential of exacerbating how the world looks today- a combination of Orwell’s 1984 and Huxley’s Brave New World. 

But it also has the potential of making the world a better place by improving our decision-making and bringing solutions we’ve never thought about. 

So what we are supposed to do? 

The quote of Neil Postman summarizes the minimum we can do: 

“No medium is excessively dangerous if its users understand what its dangers are.” 

And I’ll let you meditate on this passage from his book Amusing Ourselves to Death

“What Orwell feared were those who would ban books. What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one… Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance. Orwell feared we would become a captive culture. Huxley feared we would become a trivial culture…In 1984, people are controlled by inflicting pain. In Brave New World, they are controlled by inflicting pleasure. In short, Orwell feared that what we fear will ruin us. Huxley feared that our desire will ruin us.” 

Article posted the 27 December 2020

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