Our cognitive abilities: we’re quite proud of them. It sets us apart from the rest of the animal kingdom, as I often hear in documentaries and books. This pride is also reflected in politics, where we rely on the reasoning of politicians. Ultimately, an entire country is shaped by human dialogue and consensus. But for how long? In an age where technology is increasingly taking control of our daily lives, a world run entirely by artificial intelligence, rather than human brainpower, is no longer science fiction. Giant round rooms full of AI computers ruling the world. Who knows, that might be the case. Not tomorrow, but the day after tomorrow.
- In a near future, AI could assist politicians by providing them with real-time insights and fact-checking during debates. This could lead to more informed decisions in politics.
- A more far-reaching scenario describes a world where AI takes over the entire government, with giant rooms full of AI computers ruling the world. In this scenario, digital intellects could rule quickly and efficiently.
Today, we already see AI shining in countless fields, from masterful chess games to stunning diagnoses in the medical world. AI computers can actually ‘think’ much better than humans in many ways. Think of calculations with unparalleled speed, consistency and objectivity. Algorithms also never once have a bad night’s sleep. Enviable.
Human politicians, however, do suffer from that. Also from anger, need for proof and resentment, for that matter. And that eventually influences what direction a country takes. So, without wishing to offend anyone, could AI eventually do better than ourselves? What if national decisions were made by rules of code? Let’s fantasize for a moment about what could happen in this strange hypothetical world.
The Fact-Check Horn
To warm up, let’s start with a not too radical scenario. Imagine that in the near future, AI does not completely replace human judgement, but gives it a boost. AI could assist politicians, for instance in the House of Representatives. As debates take place, AI algorithms filter vast amounts of information and give lawmakers real-time insights. Holographic screens display graphs and charts,allowing representatives to make better-informed decisions.
The House of Representatives of the future also uses advanced detection systems, such as the “Fact-Check Horn”. When AI detects faulty logic or untrue statements during discussions, it sounds the alarm, drawing attention to possible inaccuracies. This ensures that we no longer struggle with pesky political parties distorting the truth on climate change, for example. Quite convenient.
OK, now the real deal. We’re taking it a step further. Science has already come an awfully long way when it comes to artificial intelligence. People have now fully embraced the idea of AI running our democracy to the fullest. Imagine a colossal room, brimming with technology, data streams and computations, where the core of our governance is shaped by our (elected?) ‘digital intellects’ working in harmony. Humans have by then become completely obsolete in the decision-making process. We will stay at home.
An espresso brainstorm
Digital intellects work at lightning speed, and that can save lives. For example, in a scenario where a deadly natural disaster, such as a huge forest fire, has hit a region. AI has a 10-minute espresso brainstorming session behind it and, on top of that, has already sent out the first helicopters to put out the fire. We humans would not have even started our committee meeting at that time.
Sometimes strange decisions are also made by the digital intellects, which are good for the world but which people don’t understand. Imagine this: AI decides to create mysterious spaces in our cities. Hundreds of construction machines are sent to the site, there is plenty of digging, building, but AI does not want to reveal anything about its purpose to humanity yet. Because that would cause a revolt and get in the way of the ultimate goal, as inferred from historical data. In no time, the construction process is completed. Every city suddenly has what is known as a Fitness Maze, where people can wander around together. AI’s design aims to encourage physical activity, improve mental agility and promote social interaction. Indeed, data showed that the benefits of such a labyrinth outweigh the drawbacks, such as less space for housing and traffic. Slowly, people get used to it. As absurd as the whole idea initially seemed, AI eventually turned out to have made a positive impact.
Exciting but frightening
A fact-check horn and a maze are, of course, quite innocent and entertaining ways of depicting how AI can run the world. But back to real life: putting the reins of world governance in the hands of AI, in the state the technology is in now, does not strike me as a good idea at all. That would be like letting a toddler pilot a spaceship. I think everyone can pretty much imagine what would happen if AI, at times when it matters, suddenly wasn’t as intelligent or compassionate as we would like it to be. Not to mention cyber attacks that could see an entire country’s government hacked. Let’s not make an ‘entertaining story’ about that. Besides, I don’t think people are at all ready to let go of their grip on the wheel.
And, of course, we cannot ignore the possibility of AI turning entire city districts into labyrinths. So: For now, by default, let’s trust world domination to humans.