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AI Steve Rings in Something New

David Cowles

Jun 18, 2024

"SmarterUK's manifesto is effectively blank, waiting for you to fill it in. AI Steve has promised to be guided solely by input received from its constituents."

On July 4, voters in the UK will elect a new Parliament. They will choose from Conservative, Labour, Lib Dem, Reform and other, smaller parties to lead the UK over the next 5 years. Voters in at least one district, however, will have another choice: SmarterUK. 

You may be thinking, “The last thing we need is another political party,” but hold that thought. SmarterUK is different. “Yeah, yeah, everybody says they’re different.” Fair point, but can any other party state that its candidate for Parliament is a silicon based life form?

Meet that candidate, AI Steve (pronouns: it, its). If elected, AI Steve would represent a district on England’s south coast that includes the legendary resort city of Brighton (Brighton Rock). Getting AI Steve on the ballot was no mean feat. UK law panders to carbon-based life forms. Like Jim Crow in the American South, the law is used as a weapon to deny basic civil rights to silicon citizens.

To circumvent these barriers, AI Steve needed to register under the name of its carbon co-pilot, Steve Endacott, but the candidate will properly appear on the ballot as “AI Steve”. There is an opportunity here to explore the dimensions of an AI/NI partnership. Presumably Steve E will shake the hands and kiss the babies while AI Steve conducts a perpetual, 24/7 Town Hall. 

It’s 3 AM. Want to talk politics? Your MP (AI Steve) is just waiting to talk to you!

So what does AI Steve stand for? It stands for you! AI Steve’s platform is your platform. SmarterUK’s manifesto is effectively blank, waiting for you to fill it in. AI Steve has promised to be guided solely by input received from its constituents; Steve Endacott has promised not to allow his personal views to cloud AI Steve’s direct relationship with the electorate. Who needs opinion polls and focus groups when you have AI Steve?

SmarterUK is an effort to revive earlier experiments in direct democracy. From ancient Greek cities to New England townships, efforts have been made to tie public policy directly to the will of the citizenry. These experiments have ‘failed’ (i.e. ‘not endured’)… largely for technological reasons. Direct democracy gave way to representative democracy

The nations of the North Atlantic Community share a common political system; call it Democracy Once Removed. The citizens elect ‘representatives’ but it is these representatives who make the laws. They are not obligated even to consult their constituents on specific pieces of legislation, and they are certainly not required to reflect constituents’ views in their votes. 

The evolution of representative democracy in Europe has mirrored the emergence of ideology as a driving political force. Liberalism, socialism, fascism, et al. got us where we are today, but they don’t seem up to the challenge of the future. 

Over the past decade, voters have begun to sour on the whole concept of ideology-driven politics. Folks talk openly now about the advantages of technocracy vs. democracy. This is driven in part by absurd memes like “I believe in Science,” as if science were ideology-free. 

If we learned nothing else from COVID-19, we should have learned that science is an extension of ideology; it is politics ‘by other means’. Of course, Jacques Ellul, Jacques Derrida, et al., would argue that technocracy itself is just another ideology, replacing justice with efficiency on the social values ladder.

Let’s get granular. How would SmaterUK’s program play out in specific, real world scenarios? For example, say the voters wanted to explore the wisdom of imposing a 10% tax across the board on all UK millionaires. 

AI Steve has no ‘opinion’ about such a proposal; but AI Steve can run numerous simulations to illustrate the impact such a policy would have on various aspects of UK life. Without prejudice, AI Steve would share these results with its constituents. Might such new data change minds? Either way, AI Steve will carry out the voters’ instructions.

Crafting public policy is a bit like playing chess. I see an opportunity for my bishop to capture your knight. I consider the implications one or two moves ahead and I see no immediate danger. But 3 moves later, I’m in check mate.

Of course a grandmaster would see more moves ahead and Deep Blue would see even further. Basically, AI looks at the problem from the perspective of each piece. Unleashing AI on the consequences of public policy will up our game exponentially. Democracy, direct or representative, is great as far as it goes; but decision makers need information. They need tools and AI can meet that need. 

AI Steve will probably have to sit by himself in the new Parliament, but gradually, his sensitivity to public sentiment and his access to data will make him a respected member of the House. 

One seat in 2024, 100 seats in 2029, PM in 2034! It’s fitting that such a revolution should begin on July 4, the anniversary of the American Revolution.


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