The general elections in Denmark that are about to take place in November this year might witness the rise of a synthetic political power -- namely, the Synthetic Party, a newly formed political organization that claims to be headed by an AI chatbot.
Founded by Danish artist and researcher, Asker Bryld Staunæs, the Synthetic Party aims to provide representation to the Danish fringe parties that despite having a vote share of 20%, don’t have any seats in the parliament.
The AI chatbot and head of the party, Leader Lars runs a discord handle (@Leder Lars) and is a firm supporter of the policies advocated by the above-mentioned fringe parties. You can talk to the AI chatbot on Discord, just make sure you start your sentences with an “!”. The AI takes English inputs but writes back to you in Danish.
Despite being a machine, Lars won’t be able to run in the elections by himself, so there are human members in the party who will participate on behalf of the AI. While explaining the goals of his AI-led party, Staunæs told VICE:
“We're representing the data of all fringe parties, so it's all of the parties who are trying to get elected into parliament but don't have a seat. So it's a person who has formed a political vision of their own that they would like to realize, but they usually don't have the money or resources to do so.”
So what does the AI-led party stand for?
Staunæs believes that his party and its AI leader could work as a bridge between humans and the various AI-driven technologies that could benefit humanity. The party falls under the general guise of Techno-populism, Synthetism, and Radical Democracy, but it's hard to crystallize any ideology when the party itself admits to being a synthesis of other, unrepresented ideologies.
Unlike systems that act as virtual politicians and aim to fight elections, his party’s goal is to raise awareness on how AI can be reasonably incorporated into various segments of our life. For instance, one of the issues supported by Leader Lars and his party is universal basic income.
Leader Lars believes that since machines are not biased like humans they should be given a role in setting up the parameters for basic income in the country as they can objectively analyze the needs of the citizens and suggest a fair model. The AI-derived party policy favors a basic income of $13,700 (100,000 Danish Krone) for every Danish citizen. Leader Lars claims that a basic income model developed with the help of AI has the potential to bring down poverty in the country.
Another policy change that the Synthetic party recommends is the formation of IT companies and internet-based technologies with government stakeholding. The party believes that the participation of the government in the technology sector could make the ecosystem more transparent and reliable. The government could decide the accountability of AI and other technologies in case a bias is reported in the system.
However, these claims should not be believed blindly because the fact is that an AI system can also be biased -- and at the risk of stating the obvious, an AI is an imperfect, narrow, and unaware system. There's a common misconception that artificial intelligence is actually intelligent, when in fact, it is only good at narrow tasks. But even when using AI for a narrow purpose (like diagnosing a disease based on medical imaging), any imperfection in the data can be disastrous. Similar to any data-driven system, a machine learning model generates an output on the basis of the input it receives. So if the input entered into the model is biased, it would generate a biased output. One of the most common examples of technology bias is social media algorithms that decide which ad, video, or post is going to appear next in our feed.
Yes, but: The party hasn't done anything yet
The party aims to integrate an initiative named “Life With Artificials” as the 18th sustainable development goal (SDG) of the United Nations. The initiative was launched by MindFuture Foundation, the organization that founded the Synthetic party alongside Staunæs. It favors the implementation of educational programs focused on improving human-machine collaboration to deal with social and environmental problems like climate change and inequality.
The Life With Artificials website mentions, “The Global Goals overlook the presence and role of next-generation technologies in our everyday lives. Both with regards to how advances in artificial intelligence, robotics, and biotechnology can be harvested to achieve the other 17 SDGs, as well as the various dilemmas that arise along with their growing presence. AI technology has to be recognized as a new paradigm changing human conditions.”
But although the Synthetic party is promising various attractive policy changes and reforms, currently, they are just another newly formed political organization that is yet to create a following and secure a seat in the parliament. According to general election rules in Denmark, a political party needs at least 20,000 voter signatures to become eligible to contest in the November elections but as of now, the Synthetic party has only secured 12 signatures. While this may likely change soon, whether or not they can make a significant impact in the country is still uncertain. For now, the party seems little more than a publicity stunt, and whether it will lead to concrete changes remains to be seen.
This means that the AI-led party needs to extend its reach to a large extent if it really wants to emerge as a considerable option in front of the Danish voters. Staunæs believes that it is going to take some time but they are already working on it, plus they also have plans to establish local versions of their party in other European countries as well.