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Home World News Washington Post World News This government employee says he knows what the voters want. It’s...

This government employee says he knows what the voters want. It’s an AI bot.



If you’re worried about artificial intelligence bots breaking free from human control and taking over the world, protect your eyes now.

Romania’s prime minister has just unveiled a new colleague in his cabinet – an AI-powered “advisor” with a deep voice in a mirror described as the world’s first AI-powered government aide.

Prime Minister Nicolae Ciuca claims the bot, calling himself “Ion”, is able to interpret the opinions of the country’s people and bring them back to him and his government, helping them decide how to make decisions.

“Ion, through artificial intelligence, will do what no human can do: listen to all Romanians and represent them before the government of Romania,” said Ciuca.

“Hello. You gave me life. I am Ion. Now my role is to represent you. Like a mirror,” said the machine, when Ciuca asked him to introduce himself at a public meeting held Wednesday at the Romanian television was broadcast.

Officials say the bot will help ministers formulate policies that better reflect voters’ day-to-day concerns, and will one day even be able to propose its own original ideas.

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According to Romania’s research minister, the bot uses artificial intelligence and natural language processing to automatically identify Romanians’ opinions shared on social media or submitted to a newly created portal. The machine synthesizes their thoughts into categories, prioritizes their importance and feeds the information back to government decision makers.

“Ion is the first AI government advisor – we think – in the world,” Sebastian Burduja, Romania’s research minister, said in a telephone interview on Thursday. The bot, which was developed by his ministry, is in the “learning phase,” he said, inviting Romanians to teach him about their daily concerns by posting about it on social media. “Ion will take all that information and start reporting results,” Burduja said, “which will be for the prime minister and designated cabinet members.”

The government believes the tool – which will automatically sift through social media to gather opinions – will enable it to make decisions more efficiently.

Others are more skeptical, expressing ethical concerns that the algorithm, which identifies which social media concerns should be prioritized when making decisions, may itself be biased, resulting in biased decision-making.

Why are we so afraid of AI?

“Romanians need to be informed and explained how this AI tool selects key posts, and on what criteria. This needs to be explained to the public,” Kris Shrishak, a technologist with the Irish Council for Civil Liberties, said in an interview on Thursday. He pointed out that the tool may also raise the concerns of citizens who are most active on social media, which does not necessarily make it representative.

Ultimately, Ion’s engineers hope to teach it to proactively formulate policy proposals for government ministers to consider, a prospect that adds fuel to an emerging debate about the role of artificial intelligence in everyday life – and in democratic processes in particular. .

In addition to providing written reports to politicians, the bot also addresses them. It has a deep, masculine voice — although Romanians send their thoughts and concerns to the machine via voice notes, officials hope the voice will evolve. Burduja said Ion’s AI software makes it possible to integrate thousands of audio entries into a single Romanian accent – the basis for Ion’s final voice. “A single voice of the nation will be heard through AI,” said Burduja.

Bucharest heralds the technology as a democratic innovation that will enable Romanians to influence – both consciously and unconsciously – decision-making at the highest levels of government, without having to wait for elections.

The AI ​​will enable the government to synthesize massive amounts of data about people’s concerns in real time, something officials believe is currently not possible without the technology.

“Romanians can make their voices heard every day, and artificial intelligence allows that voice to reach decision-makers in the best forum possible. It can produce better decisions … that are more suited to the needs of average Romanians,” Burduja said. Eventually, he hopes, it will be able to propose its own policies – based on the submissions.

Romanians have so far responded to the call with a flurry of complaints on social media about everyday life, including concerns about corruption, high inflation and even the government’s pension policy. A Twitter user asked the bot for its opinion on why some 40-year-olds could retire and receive a pension.

Many others reacted negatively to the bot. “Read what the Romanians are saying here and tell your boss how much THEY love Prime Minister Dr. Ciuca and those in government,” suggested one user – probably sarcastically – addressing the bot on Twitter.

As the use of AI technology to perform everyday functions becomes more widespread, governments are scrambling to establish ethical protocols for its use in public sector decision-making processes – if at all allowed. One concern is that the algorithms underpinning the machines could begin to reflect existing human biases, meaning their output could also be tainted with bias. Another concern is that they may be vulnerable to hacking or spam attacks.

Ion, the Romanian authorities say, will be protected from spam using “proof of human” technology. Burduja said the built-in technology will enable the machine to filter out automatically generated content, preventing it from accidentally speaking to other machines and using the results to inform government policy.

Last month British media reported that officials in London had been instructed by their government employers not to use AI chatbots when formulating government policies or sending emails. It followed the release of guidance from the UK Government’s Office for Artificial Intelligence, with recommendations for public sector workers considering incorporating AI systems into workflows. “The potential applications of AI in the public sector are significant, but must be weighed against ethical, fair and security considerations,” the guide states.

“Make sure your model is fair and explainable and that you have a process for monitoring unexpected or biased results,” the official guidance continues. It also recommends that government officials hire an ethicist “to provide ethical judgments and assessments on AI model inputs,” to ensure that the model does not produce biased policies and that the algorithm performs in accordance with “ethical considerations.” “.

Amar Nadhir contributed reporting.

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