.... "Whoever becomes the leader in this sphere [Artificial Intelligence], will become the ruler of the world." Russian Pres. Vladimir Putin
What if voters in Liberia had the ability to decide who to vote for by using an ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE-based (AI-based) software, installed on their mobile devices, or any computing device?
What if a voter could simply enter the names and credentials of presidential candidates, into an AI-based system that has the capacity to do a comparative analysis of those candidates, based on their qualifications, previous and present contributions, moral and ethical history, etc., and predict whether he/she would be a good leader?
What if this "AI-based software" had algorithms that leverage "trained data" (candidates' credentials) to predict the winner of an election? Would you be comfortable voting that way?
Using the approach mentioned above, candidates would not have to invest the kinds of resources (money, time, etc.) they currently invest in campaigns; all they would need are their qualifications, and past and present history since those are the "data" the "software" will use to make predictions. Could all this happen anytime soon? Of course! In fact, they are happening now!
Now, let us look at political campaigns. What if a political candidate uses Artificial Intelligence as a campaign tool to overpower the competition? Let us assume for a moment, he/she uses "Deepfakes" as a propaganda tool (mind you, we have no laws in Liberia against deep fakes, do we?).
Knowing how gullible our Liberian society is, this could be effective in manipulating the sentiments of voters. "DEEPFAKE is a video of a person in which their face or body has been digitally altered so that they are someone else, typically used maliciously or to spread false information." Deepfakes use advanced AI (ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE) techniques to first encode features, then reconstruct images from the encoded features.
For example, a political party develops a distasteful video of another candidate to play on the sentiments of voters, especially the gullible ones. Obviously, such a video can and will have the propensity to destroy the other candidate's campaign and his/her chances of winning. Is this possible in Liberia? Of course!
Note that Liberia now has a higher internet penetration rate now (2023), while smartphones have incredibly permeated our society. These days, folks in rural areas have access to smartphones, so even the most illiterate person has access to social media, which uses videos and other visual mechanisms to play on the sentiments of people.
So, to paraphrase Russian president Vladimir Putin, in modern presidential and general elections, whoever becomes the leader in the use of Artificial Intelligence or any other technology, will become the winner.
In presidential and general elections, money and propaganda have been the most effective and ubiquitous tools used by candidates. In some cases, especially in developing countries like Liberia, low literacy and the epidemic poverty rates are vehemently exploited. But this is not exactly the case in modern day electioneering, especially since the advent of the Internet and its accompanying technologies. Who would have imagined this?
The internet and social media have changed the way many things are done today, including the way presidential and general elections are held. And just as these technologies have shifted the paradigms in politics, so too have political candidates and other politicians shifted the paradigm in the way they conduct their affairs, including campaigning.
Oftentimes, this paradigm shift is articulated as the "ELEMENT OF SURPRISE" thus, catching their opponents off guard. This gives them (politicians) a competitive advantage over their opponents and helps them ultimately achieve victory.
Can all this happen in Liberia or any part of Africa? Certainly, and it has! The recent scandal of Cambridge Analytica's significant role in African politics, notably in Kenyan and Nigerian elections, is an example of how African politicians and economic elites can connive or collude with foreign AI firms to capture sensitive data of citizens.
Another case of AI use in elections is the one of 2016, in which the major opposition party in Ghana won a historic election by using a data analytics system to avoid the controversy that surrounded the previous election results. This party predicted the 2016 election results before the electoral commission declared it the winner.
We are now in 2023, a time referred to as the Fourth Industrial Revolution or 4IR, driven by another "phenomenon", known as ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE, which will impact the world more disruptively than the internet had done years ago. It has emerged as a significant technology in many fields, including politics.
In Liberia, while AI is still relatively new to the multitude, it has the potential to bring a significant metamorphosis to our national politics and electoral process. In our presidential and general elections, AI can be utilized in several ways including voter registration, data analysis, and security. The implementation of AI technology in these areas can be beneficial, as it helps to improve transparency, efficiency, and accuracy in the election process.
What follows is a delineation of a few ways in which AI can be used to change the political landscape, through the National Elections Commission, political campaigns, and voters' actions.
Voter Registration: The process of voter registration can be complex and time-consuming, with a high possibility of errors. However, AI technology can be used to streamline this process and reduce the potential for errors. For instance, AI algorithms can be used to automatically verify and authenticate voter information, such as fingerprints and facial recognition, which helps to prevent voter fraud and ensure that only eligible voters are registered.
Voter Outreach: AI-powered chatbots can be used for voter outreach and education, answering questions, providing information on polling locations, and even reminding voters to cast their ballots.
Data analysis: AI can help to streamline this process by automating data collection and analysis, which helps to identify patterns and trends that might be missed by human analysts. This data analysis can help to identify voter preferences, assess campaign effectiveness, and even predict election outcomes.
Security: AI-powered surveillance systems, security personnel can detect and prevent potential threats to the election process, such as voter intimidation and violence. For instance, to ensure Nairobi, Kenya's capital city, is safe, the government is using AI-powered facial recognition video surveillance technology to complement policing efforts and expedite case-solving.
Social Media Monitoring: AI-powered social media monitoring tools can be used to detect and prevent potential threats, such as fake news and disinformation campaigns that may influence the election outcome.
Task Automation: There are AI-powered election management tools that can be used to automate tasks, such as ballot counting and reporting, which can reduce errors and speed up the electoral process.
Predictive Modeling can be used to forecast election outcomes and identify factors that may influence voting patterns.
In political campaigns, AI tools can be used in many ways to give a candidate a competitive advantage over his/her competitor. For example, AI can be used to analyze voter sentiment, predict election outcomes, target specific demographics, automate campaign activities and so on. Some AI tools that can be used in political campaigns include:
Chatbots are AI-powered digital assistants that can interact with voters and answer questions in real-time. Chatbots can be used to automate the process of responding to voter inquiries and providing personalized campaign messaging.
Predictive analytics involve using statistical techniques to analyze large data sets and make predictions about future events. Predictive analytics can be used to forecast election outcomes and inform campaign strategies.
Natural Language Processing (NLP) is a branch of AI that focuses on the interaction between computers and human language. NLP can be used to analyze social media posts, news articles, and other forms of online communication to identify trending topics, sentiment, and other insights that can be used to inform campaign messaging.
Machine Learning (ML) can be used to predict voter behavior, identify swing voters, and target specific demographics with personalized campaign messages.
Image and speech recognition technologies can be used to analyze videos and images of political rallies and events to gauge audience sentiment and engagement.
Another AI-based tool that could impact elections and campaigns is FACT-CHECK SYSTEMS. Fact-Check Systems are systems that allow citizens and marginalized groups to participate in the elections process by counter-checking statements made by candidates to ensure that they are factual. This system draws from previous data relating to candidates that are stored on the Internet.
I have just listed a few ways that AI can be used in elections. Let me end by noting that while AI tools can provide valuable insights and efficiencies in political campaigns, they should be used responsibly and in compliance with ethical and legal standards. Doing so will ensure fairness and transparency in the democratic process.
Irresponsible use of AI could influence policy discussions negatively and change the political narratives of the country. So, let's not forget what President Putin said, "Whoever becomes the leader in this sphere [Artificial Intelligence], will become the ruler of the world."
Until next week, CARPE DIEM!!!