The question sounds intentionally provocative, but it is only so if you think this question pertains to the current world. But if you think about life in the future, say, 50 to 100 years from now, this question becomes as real as the concept of singularity, machine intelligence exceeding that of a human, or transhumanism and humans merging with machines.
All of this might look like fiction for now, but not as something entirely impossible or contradictory to the fundamental laws of nature. So, let’s imagine that we will eventually manage to create an AI that is general enough to address questions of our society, economics, ecology, culture, and can interface with us in a human-like way – speak, listen, write. Basically, imagine that we develop an artificial intelligence that matches ours in every possible way, and perhaps even exceeds our computational and analytical powers. Imagine that this is possible.
Now, think of the significant number of problems humans always have with the various ideas of governance we have experienced thus far:
- Authoritarianism (including absolute monarchy, aristocracy, oligarchy, and dictatorship) can work for some time, but depends too much on the personal characteristics of a leader. Eventually, power corrupts the individual, leading to great abuses, nepotism, neglect of the existing laws, disappearance of basic freedoms, police state, societal poverty and general suffering.
- Democracy, as Churchill said, “is the worst form of government, except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.” This doesn’t sound like a compliment. Democracy can be very inefficient at times and is often undermined by corruption of government and elected officials, lobbyism, one-sided control of mass-media, excessive bureaucracy, political nepotism (yes, even for democracy), and could “deform” over time into Potemkin’s Villages with great-looking facades but truly rotten guts.
Some people desire “anarchy” as a form of governance (where the centralized government is unnecessary) but this approach has never, to my knowledge, led to anything successful at any significant scale.
What is wrong with the above forms of governance and why are even the best of them still “the worst”?
Sorry to say – the weakest link is always us. The people.
None of the above (or any other) systems of governance “fit”, satisfy, work for, or make happy one hundred percent of the population. There are always some people that just don’t want to accept all the social, economic, and other laws of that system. And some others find ways to abuse those laws. These “bad apples” start using the system for their own benefits, exploiting its weaknesses, and generally taking advantage of it, which, often, erodes or destroys the system itself. A couple “bad apples” could, over time, damage the best system possible. Lots of bad apples over long time can turn all the apples “bad”.
What most people really ask from their elected or self-elected leaders is to be honest, selfless, just, true to their promises, and for them to, generally, take care of us, others around us, and the country itself. Instead, those who govern often take advantage of us, abuse their powers, break laws, get rich and make their families and friends rich, and, once elected, try to maintain that power for as long as possible. Sometimes, they even trade the entire country for their personal benefit.
Now, let’s ask the same question again: wouldn’t it be better to outsource the above “governance” functions to some entity that cannot be corrupted, isn’t interested in money or fame, doesn’t have family, children, or friends to make rich, doesn’t have any mood swings, doesn’t hold grudges, doesn’t get emotional, angry, or upset, and doesn’t really care if it controls the whole world or just one tiny city? Some entity that operates by clear objectives we set and tries to reach these objectives in the most efficient, inexpensive, and fast way?
My answer to this question is, “Yes!”
Many people will, probably, want to agree as well. And many others will first ask questions such as the following:
- Why should we invent this new form of governance – the AI Government?
- Why should I trust a machine more than a fellow human politician?
- How do we know it will truly work better than a human?
- Who will create this AI for governance and how do we know he/she wouldn’t program something malicious into it?
- What if this AI decides to take control of all of us? We will become slaves! (Hello, Matrix!)
- What if it starts a world war and kills us all? (Hello, Skynet!)
- How do we remove this government after some period of time? Is the process going to stay democratic?
These are all very good questions.
Let me try to address them indirectly by making a comparison of a human chess player to a modern chess computer “engine”.
To be continued next week…