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Sign of the times

AI bots are running for office in the UK and US

While worries abound about the role of AI in spreading disinformation in mega election year 2024, AI might be playing an even more central role in the form of actual candidates. In the UK, AI Steve is running for parliament in the constituency of Brighton Pavilion, while chatbot VIC aims to be elected mayor of Cheyenne, Wyoming.

The central concept behind VIC — short for Virtual Integrated Citizen — is that it knows all local laws and can follow them to the letter. It also analyzes public records to identify constituent concerns and can be contacted by citizens. AI Steve, meanwhile, is recruiting at least 5,000 Brighton residents as 'creators' whose opinions will be synthesized into policy positions. A separate group of 'validators' will evaluate potential positions on a scale of 1 to 10 to determine whether they should be adopted.

Both candidates have humans acting as their meat puppets, performing the duties an AI chatbot can't, like attending meetings and enabling them to legally run for office in the first place. While their initiators believe democracy needs a new impulse and AI can better represent the needs and wishes of citizens, critics are raising valid concerns about accountability, ethical implications and the potential for manipulation. 

VIC and AI Steve might seem like gimmicks. But it's hard to deny the benefits of politicians without human egos who can effortlessly analyze hundreds of pages of documents in seconds. With sufficient safeguards in place, an approach that's data-driven, consistent and reflective of the public's needs could lead to more effective and equitable governance. The same principles might also be applied in corporate settings, paving the way for AI/human hybrid CEOs, or the ultimate customer feedback system. One to experiment with?