An AI-based party vows to win Denmark's general election in 2023. Can it succeed?
With all the political rancor that has become a part of our everyday reality, maybe it's time to admit that humans may not be the best at forging agreements. Our egos are always in play, and emotions often rule our political choices more than reason. Maybe artificial intelligence (AI) could do a better job, or at least that's what the creators of The Synthetic Party, the world's first AI-based political party, think. The party hopes to run an AI candidate in Denmark's general election in 2023.
The Synthetic Party Goals
The party, unveiled in May of 2022, is the brainchild of the artist collective Computer Lars, which communicates with the underlying AI through chatbots on the messaging platform Discord. The AI comes up with key elements of the party's platform. Among them — introducing a universal basic income of about $13,700 (100,000 kroner) a month. This would be more than double what Danes can expect in average salary.
The party would also like to see the UN adding an 18th sustainable development goal which would let humans coexist directly with algorithms.
Perhaps most interestingly, if the party was to get into Folketing, the Parliament of Denmark, it will work towards "legal personhood for all non-human beings — this includes AI, but also plants, animals, and more hybrid beings," shared Asker Bryld Staunæs, one of the members of the collective, in correspondence with Interesting Engineering.
While the party plans to run for Parliament in 2023, it is currently in the process of gathering the 20,182 signatures which would allow it to get on the official ballot. The party's objective is to appeal to about 15 percent of Danish citizens who did not vote in the last election held in 2019. The party organizers believe that none of the traditional parties appealed to that group. It also bears noticing that Denmark has much experience with so-called micro-parties like the Synthetic Party, with 230 of them currently in existence.
Computer Lars uses this particularity as the core of the research fed into its AI, which analyzes written publications by Danish fringe parties going all the way back to 1970. The collective believes that by doing so, the AI would be able to discern the political needs of everyday citizens of the country and gather them as supporters.
Could you have a fully virtual politician?
If the Synthetic Party were to win a seat, you wouldn't yet have Computer Lars as a fully-virtual representative within the assembly. There would be a human sitting in who works with the artificial intelligence, confirmed Bryld Staunæs, who shared that he was speaking as "Computer Lars, on behalf of the AI's from The Synthetic Party."
Computer Lars also stated that "this question is probably best addressed by our chatbot, Leader Lars," referring to the fact that the AI used by the collective should be the ultimate decider — "the boss."
The collective did express its overall opinion on this issue, however, writing that since the current political system in Denmark (and everywhere else) only supports humans running for office, their AI would also have to make such accommodations and use human candidates. This also represents "best practice in relation to our technology, as any machine learning-based AI needs a human for prompting in order to produce interesting policy - and to stay on track," stated the collective. It would be "best to work for hybridization than virtualization," it added in our exchange.
How the AI works
Computer Lars explained that the collective programs the AI chatbots by utilizing "a fine-tuned version of GPT-NeoX-20B of EleutherAI "— AI language models. The AI used by the collective is being continuously updated and trained by the interactions it has with people on the group's Discord server.
Computer Lars further elaborated that the AI is injected with new information through a process dubbed "fine-tuning." Data that is entered is prepared manually, with "only curated content from all Danish' fringe parties' as well as from our members / possible voters." The curation includes "consciously" looking out "against all discriminatory and hateful output," according to the collective.
While this data is selected by the humans, it then "of course gets mashed up by the working's of [the] language model," wrote Computer Lars.
As you probably didn't notice (and kudos to you if you did), "Computer Lars" is an anagram of the name "Marcel Proust" - it has the same letters switched around. Proust was a French writer widely considered one of the most influential authors of the 20th century and is best known for his 13-volume opus "In Search of Lost Time" (also published under "Remembrance of Things Past") — considered the world's longest novel. What is the significance of this name and these letters to the artist collective?
Fascinated by Proust's place in the Western cultural canon and looking to challenge the nature of digital art, the group released an artistic project earlier in 2022 for the KP-digital Prize 2022 exhibition, which consisted of six images on the theme of Marcel Proust generated by the collective's AI. The images were supposed to represent the way the AI Lars sees Proust. The images also included anagrams as titles and links to Google Docs documents, which also have more links, creating a "hyper system," as the group explained in an interview with a Danish news outlet.
In their exchange with Interesting Engineering, the collective shared that as it relates to the Synthetic Party (or "Det Syntetiske Parti" in Danish), "Computer Lars is a way to figure out who 'Lars' is." Interestingly in Denmark, more CEOs are named Lars than the total number of all female CEOs, according to the group, and thus the name Lars also signifies "the cultural and political power of the common white male," according to the group.
The way the Synthetic Party uses the idea of "Computer Lars" is essential as a "party secretary," who, "in a way, mirrors the AI technology as being biased towards a specific culture of white, powerful males," essentially providing self-referential commentary on the power structures that need to be in place for the kind of investigation of art and politics that the group engages in.
In other words, as the collective writes, "the anagram of Computer Lars is a 'dialectical image' or an 'allegorical picture' of the basic structure pertaining to Marcel Proust and culture as such." Their work takes this thinking "to its extreme consequence with the establishment of Det Syntetiske Parti."
Check out that Marcel Proust video here:
"The idea... is to take this huge political and economic force (algorithms)... to try to inscribe it into the traditional political system," Bryld Staunaes told AFP, adding that it does this as there is not currently a way "of actually addressing humans and AI within a democratic setting."
While gathering signatures towards making their vision a reality during the next election, The Synthetic Party also plans to hold an election rally for human audiences in September of 2022.