Obsolete public servants

[By Ben Noble]

There has been a certain type of article popping up with increased regularity. These articles warn of the incoming Artificial Intelligence invasion that will automate untold numbers of jobs; both white and blue collar. There are compelling arguments for whether this will be a good thing or not. Some economists observe that past technological innovations have destroyed jobs in the past, but in totality opened greater economic opportunities and wealth for the masses. I tend to side with this optimistic view. There is one industry where I hope for the deepest darkest doomsday AI scenario to play out: government bureaucracy.

There are many criticisms of the existence of government. They tend to fall into two categories: its unjustness and its inefficiency. AI could revolutionize government operation. For critics of government this development would be a double-edged sword. Personally, I think the risk of applying AI to government operations is worth it.

Replacing politicians, bureaucrats, and their underlings with AI is a very appealing prospect. Government operations tend to be overly costly and poorly run, or even maliciously run. You don’t need to pay AI to perform their role and they obviously would operate quickly and with a high degree of accuracy. For small government types, this can help bridge the gap between the lower cost and efficiency that is praised in the free market. It wouldn’t be privatization, but it would be a positive step in my estimation.

The negative side of this would be the ruthless efficiency with which this system would operate. The government enforces many an unjust law and tax. The current system staffed with humans with limited abilities allows for some relief from this. Legislators’ willingness to repeal these laws in the face of their full destructive potential is very questionable, though.

Even in a hash regulatory environment run by AI there are defensive tools available to the public. Encryption is a powerful tool for maintaining one’s right to privacy. The emerging blockchain technology underlying cryptocurrencies is another powerful tool for decentralizing power. It is poised to revolutionize every aspect of our digital lives. Its developers have promised everything from decentralizing the banking industry to fundamentally changing the structure of the internet. Technology is a two-way street. It arms everyone and can be used for protects us from the harsher realities of a hyper efficient government.

Allowing AI to influence the creation of legislation is an interesting idea as well. If it oversaw measuring current realities and the consequences of policies, we might be able to avoid the endless double speak and data manipulation human beings engage in. Let us assume that the AI is not being tampered with by a bad actor and that its algorithms and processes are made public. The illumination of the inner workings of an AI mind is surely a more achievable task than searching the motivations of a politician (Even though I find it safe and prudent to assume the worst of every politician. Not sure why this view isn’t more widely held).

It could work wonders on everything from criminal law to economic policy. It could absorb massive amounts of data and predict the outcomes of certain policies. Perhaps even more importantly, it could evaluate the success or failure of said policy and have it removed or tweaked. I can’t help but imagine removing human ignorance and temperament from the equation being a good thing.

All this might be very un-libertarian of me. All of this sounds dangerously close to some techno-authoritarian future. With the impending emergence of AI and the presence of government lasting well into the future I can’t help but see them meeting. This might sound crazy, but if an impartial AI was tasked with discovering the best environment for human flourishing I think it would endorse freedom and free markets. The experiment between centralized government power and decentralized power has been run over and over the last 2000 years and freedom is the undisputed leader.

Perhaps the most exciting result of separating governing from human hands to some sort of AI is the possibility of competing governments. The anarcho-capitalist’s wet dream. As governing is moved further into cyberspace, the importance of physical location vanishes. Multiple governments can exist in the same area without having to war over turf. Interactions and negotiations between those entities could happen almost instantly without conflict. People could migrate from one “government” to another based on their policy preferences.

The dependence on AI might be off-putting, but the system I described above is virtually identical to how well respected anarcho-capitalist thinkers have imagined society functioning. The governmental bodies I described above should also appeal to those who prefer to live under state-like entities. Predicting how the future will play out is all but impossible, but AI and other technological advancements are going to play a role in how people live their lives in the future. The radical visions of libertarians are unlikely to enter reality in the current state of society, but perhaps the technology of the future will make possible the type of just, peaceful, and efficient society we wish to live in.

Image via Flickr: Many Wonderful Artists

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