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One country’s leader uses AI bot to tell him what voters want

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Romanian Prime Minister Nicolae Ciuca has made the controversial decision to officially employ an artificial intelligence assistant to help inform him of what voters want for the future of the country.

This decision has been met with mixed reactions, with some applauding the prime minister for embracing new technology to improve his government, while others express major concern over the potential risks of relying on AI to make critical decisions.

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Romanian Prime Minister Nicolae Ciuca is using AI to inform him of what voters want. (@nicolae.ciuca)

What information has been revealed about this AI?

The AI adviser has been named Ion (Romanian for John), and it is built within a long, mirror-like structure that has a moving graphic at the top to show that it is listening at all times.

Romanians will be allowed to chat directly with Ion on the project’s website, and Ion will then relay the information to Ciuca and his team so that they have a direct understanding of what the Romanian people are asking for. Ion will also be searching for opinions from people that are posted to public social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter.

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The Romanian government will be using an AI called "Ion" with which users can chat.

The Romanian government will be using an AI called “Ion” with which users can chat. (CyberGuy.com)

This is not the first time that a government has used AI to help them make decisions on policy, as governments in Russia, China and Iran have all used technology to look for people who dissent from their policies, and various democracies have used it to help create polls to determine where citizens stand politically. However, this is the first time that an AI bot is being used as a direct adviser with whom the Romanian government will regularly converse.

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What are the risks involved with using AI for policy decisions?

First, this type of AI may be difficult to interfere with, as a hacker would have to trick the entire government into thinking a population believed something that it didn’t.

However, the models still need to be adjusted to ensure that no extreme biases are occurring, and that the AI can accurately sort all the data out and give answers for what the people want.

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The Romanian government still has been assessing the risks involved with the AI.

The Romanian government still has been assessing the risks involved with the AI. (Romanian Government)

Second, there is also the question of whether this is safe for people to use in terms of keeping their information secure and private, especially since it will be getting a lot of its information on social media, where people’s names and social media handles will be available.

There’s no telling yet just how much information a user can give away about themselves. Although Ion is available to use now, we should have a better understanding of how this will pan out for the Romanian government in the weeks to come.

As this case illustrates, the use of AI in government decision-making is a growing trend worldwide. However, I believe the ethical and legal implications of AI governance, including issues of transparency, accountability and privacy, absolutely need to be looked at very carefully, debated and regulated by international organizations, governments and community organizations. 

How do you feel about the government using AI to make policy decisions? We want to hear from you.

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