Thomas Frey Futurist Speakerwill artificial intelligence improve democracy or destroy it
There’s a big difference between what a person wants and what they need.

On one hand we need healthy food, a good night’s rest, and decent medical care. But a little voice inside our heads has us craving dinner at Gordon Ramsay’s, an overnight stay at the Ritz Carlton, and a spa weekend at the St. Regis in Aspen to fix whatever is wrong.

The same is true with countries. There’s a big difference between what a country wants and what it needs.

While we may need better roads, schools, and playgrounds, we want others to pay for them. And while we need elected officials who can make the best possible decisions, we tend to vote for candidates who are good looking and make us feel better.

Our wants and needs are vastly different creatures constantly pulling us in opposite directions.

In fact, many of us are addicted to our wants. A drug addict has an unquenchable thirst for drugs, a Facebook addict is always checking their phone, and a sex addict can never get enough.

The irrational mind may live next door to the rational mind, but together they form contradictory arguments inside a rather dysfunctional neighborhood in our own heads.

So how can we possibly make better decisions and create a better world if all we have to work with is defective humans?

Current State of AI (Artificial Intelligence)

There tends to be a lot of confusion between machine learning and artificial intelligence. But in reality, machine learning is the only kind of AI that exists.

At the same time, our understanding of AI is changing. Most of the things we thought of as AI in the past were little more than sophisticated forms of computer programming.

However, along with advances in technology, the latest strategy for AI developers has become, “Don’t model the world, model the mind.”

When AI researchers “modeled the mind,” they created systems capable of learning increasingly complicated things about the world around them.

Since 2012, a specific machine learning technique called “deep learning” has permeated the AI world. Researchers have abandoned the classical programming tricks-style of AI and switched to deep learning, because it works far better than any previous methodologies.

We’ve made more progress in the years since 2012 than in the preceding 25 years on several key AI problems including image understanding, signal processing, vocal comprehension, and understanding text.

Keep in mind that deep learning still isn’t true AI, the kind of sophisticated and adaptable intelligence humans exhibit, but it’s a giant leap forward on the path to getting there.

Naturally this raises a number of philosophical questions:

  • How can flawed humans possibly create un-flawed AI?
  • Is making the so-called “perfect” AI really optimal?
  • Will AI become the great compensator for human deficiencies?
  • Does AI eventually replace our need for other people?

Should we use AI to Create Better Citizens?

One possible step towards integrating artificial intelligence with democracy will be to gamify the interface between people and government with something similar to customer loyalty programs, in this case by gamifying citizenship through a government loyalty program.

A system like this would effectively promote involvement, rewarding people for their role in creating a better functioning society. It would begin by asking questions like:

  • Have you gotten all your shots, finished high school, learned about American history, or served in the military or some similar community service position.
  • How many times have you voted since you were 18?
  • How many government services have you taken advantage of over the past decade?
  • If they sent you a survey asking you to evaluate their performance, did you answer that survey?
  • Have you been asked to serve on a jury? Did you?

Rewards for top citizens could range from things like low interest loans, to lower taxes, free national park passes, less TSA scrutiny at airports, higher credit ratings, and maybe even favorable treatment in the event of a tax audit.

Perhaps the highest ranked citizens could even win a free night stay in the Lincoln bedroom at the Whitehouse.

With the right status, people may receive advance notification and priority rating when applying for certain jobs.

When it comes to jobs, AI will have the ability to determine your optimal career path by analyzing past experiences, inherent skills, and individual preferences, and do it in a far more efficient manner than any system we have today.

Thomas Frey Futurist Speaker How much longer will democracy survive

8 Reasons Why Democracy is Today’s Best form of Government

Democracy is far from perfect, but when it comes to running a government, it has a number of built-in mechanisms for promoting fairness and participation. Here are some of the reasons why those who advocate democracy view it as today’s best form of government.

  1. Democracy is the great equalizer. It doesn’t favor the rich over the poor, nor the successful over the unsuccessful, nor the healthy over the unhealthy, nor one race over another race, nor one region over another region.
  2. Everyone has a stake, every person can voice their opinion.
  3. It promotes fair and healthy competition allowing the best of the best to stand out.
  4. Democracy promotes participation. Even poor people without formal education, living in disadvantaged neighborhoods, and little authority can play a significant role.
  5. It’s self-adjusting. A democracy allows the most pertinent issues to rise to the top.
  6. It diffuses tension by giving people an outlet.
  7. It places human values on a human system. Much like the value of stocks, currency, or collectables, we assign an emotional value to the world around us. Democracy is our system for assigning value to the people we elect or the referendums we vote on.
  8. It both improves and preserves personal pride and dignity.

8 Reasons Why Democracy Still Comes Up Short

There are no perfect systems and in many ways democracy still comes up short.

  1. Democracy is biased towards what we want, not what we need.
  2. Those who are elected are the ones who do the best job of appealing to the median IQ of the voting public. We like to think we’re electing the best and the brightest but we’re not.
  3. It’s a very adversarial system. Rivalries are good to a certain point, but excessive rivalries create a polarizing environment.
  4. Voters are not experts.
  5. Democracy favors the “less busy.” Senior citizens carry an inordinate amount of clout because they have more time to be involved.
  6. Democracy typically works better for those who receive the most benefits.
  7. It favors the “fairest” decision over the “best” decision.
  8. Democracy demands a constantly evolving system for it to function properly. In our increasingly complex society it requires constant monitoring, new kinds of checks and balances, oversights, rules, and limitations to make it function properly.

8 Ways Artificial Intelligence can Improve Democracy

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:

  1. Since AI can understand individual preferences, it can help voters make decisions and, by extension, increase participation.
  2. AI will have the ability to instantly spot fraud and corruption in the system.
  3. 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.
  4. AI will allow voters to “drill down” and get the facts straight on any decision before they make it.
  5. Done correctly, AI will improve the caliber of decisions but will not undermine the role of the individual.
  6. AI has the potential to give voters expanded authority, allowing more issues to come up for community input and public decisions.
  7. AI will have the ability to cancel out negative campaigning, biased reporting, and slanted arguments.
  8. AI has the potential to reduce the cost of campaigning, reduce the reliance on contributors, and reduce political favors in the process.

[Thomas Frey Futurist Speaker Will the algorithms that create tomorrow’s artificial intelligence be the same algorithms that govern us in the future

8 Ways Artificial Intelligence 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.

  1. 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.
  2. AI could be set up to instantly trigger new elections whenever public confidence drops below a certain level.
  3. Minor decisions could be automated, and if that works, we could begin to automate more significant ones.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. Taking this line of thinking a few steps further, AI could eliminate elected officials altogether and replace them automated votes by the general population.
  8. 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 rulebooks 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?

By Futurist Thomas Frey

Author of “Communicating with the Future” – the book that changes everything