'Mirror' or error? Romania unveils world’s first AI 'advisor' to state

The Romanian government views AI-powered "Ion" as a robust tech that could translate people's voices into policy making.
Baba Tamim
An illustration of artificial intelligence
An illustration of artificial intelligence

devrimB/iStock 

The Romanian government has unveiled "Ion," an artificial intelligence (AI) based platform built to record Romanians' voices and opinions and use them to guide state policy decisions.

Prime Minister Nicolae Ciucă stunned his cabinet by presenting Ion on Wednesday, according to Romanian news channel Digi24. 

"I invite Ion to say a few words," Ciucă said while introducing the tech to his cabinet. 

"Hello! You gave me life. I am Ion. Now, my role is to represent you like a mirror," reads a rough Google translation of Ion's address to the parliament.  

"Teach me to be Romanian. What do I need to know about Romania?" Ion asked. 

In the presentation, the formal introduction of the "honorary adviser," a face and words appeared on a digital screen, responding to the prime minister's cues, along with a programmed voice.

The platform, created by a volunteer group of academics and industry experts, will collect messages sent through ion.gov.ro and analyze the data to create reports outlining Romanians' priorities.

Before becoming public policy, the reports will be based on key messages that have been entered multiple times and analyzed as charts or lists, said Digi24 report. 

The Ion algorithm will "learn" from the data entered by users without being able to speak with them directly. The creators of Ion anticipate that the technology will expand and be applied to other fields, such as information and education.

Ion to capture the voice of people for policymaking

AI-powered Ion is currently in the learning phase of the project, which is being carried out in stages. Romanian citizens have been asked to contribute by sharing their ideas with Ion. 

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The system will combine public feedback to create reports that the government will use to inform choices and policies. 

According to a government spokeswoman, the experiment's internet component is already live, and the robot will physically visit places like the metro and educational settings.

On social media, users can tag Ion with the hashtag @noisuntemION, and Ion will receive the information. 

The Romanian government views Ion as a powerful tech that will aid in capturing the voice of the Romanian people and enhancing the rigor and effectiveness of public policy, noted the Digi24 report.

However, some tech pundits caution about the Romanian government's decision.

Kris Shrishak, a technology fellow at the Irish Council for Human Liberties, advised using this technology cautiously, raising concerns about how Ion will determine what messages to prioritize from the communications it receives.

"This should be explained to the public," he told POLITICO

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