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This article was published on July 12, 2023

Budding politician ‘has no policies,’ will use AI to legislate

Is machine learning the future of government?


Budding politician ‘has no policies,’ will use AI to legislate

A wannabe politician says he “has no policies” and will instead use AI to write his manifesto.

Andrew Gray, who wants to become the new Member of Parliament for Selby and Ainsty, UK, will tap machine learning to assess what people want.

“If elected, I will vote in Parliamant [sic] in accordance with the consensus. Simple,” Gray wrote on LinkedIn.

The tool he’s using, Polis, collects and analyses public opinion in real time. The software first attracted attention in Taiwan, where it powers a platform for political debate. Dubbed vTaiwan, the project invites citizens and government to co-create legislation.

Polis has also been used by public authorities in America, Canada and Singapore, and indeed, by Gray. A lawyer in his day job, the 43-year-old also leads the non-profit Crowd Wisdom Project, which taps Polis to crowdsource solutions to contentious problems.

“Having used Polis throughout the UK, I can tell you that there is so much that people agree upon,” said Gray. “I want to find these consensus points and use them as my policies.”

Gray is already running Polis across Selby and Ainsty, where he’s standing as an independent candidate in a by-election in July 20. The seat became vacant when Conservative incumbent Nigel Adams joined Boris Johnson, his close ally, in resigning as an MP.

Incidentally, Gray has also been an activist for the Conservatives — as well as for Labour and the Liberal Democrats. With that level of political indecisiveness, a move to AI-powered lawmaking seems a logical next step.

“If mandated, I will vote for the government, or against, or abstain.

Gray is now using Polis to collect views on statements that are posed. Constituents can also propose further ideas, which can then be voted on anonymously. According to Gray, the tool has already proven it’s up to the task.

“In Harrogate, which is the neighbouring constituency where I live, I deployed Polis AI on the topic of a town centre development, as well as on a Default 20mph question,” he said. “Although both these issues appeared to polarise people, consensuses were easily found. Sadly, the consensuses were given little attention by the council.”

Governance experts have also praised the tool — albeit in limited settings. While the system suits smaller constituencies where there’s pressure on authorities to act, it’s less adept in older, larger, and messier democracies.

Selby and Ainsty’s size and Gray’s faith in Polis could make for a promising testbed, but the deployment would also raise concerns. The general risks around AI transparency, biases, privacy, and accountability are amplified in politics.

Gray, however, wants Polis to disrupt traditional party politics.

“If mandated, I will vote for the government, or against, or abstain. Therefore, by electing me, my constituents are getting more democracy, more power in their hands. Selby and Ainsty will be the country’s bellwether constituency.”

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