Like many of you I watched last week’s Senate Judiciary Committee hearings, and I was struck by the fact that they seemed to be more about the Democrats fighting with Republicans to see which party could corrupt the Supreme Court more effectively than they were about senators doing their jobs. What bothers me most about that is, regardless of the goal, if you corrupt the highest court in the land you effectively destroy the Constitution — and by doing so, the country.
What artificial intelligence could bring to the table, assuming it were done as IBM wants to do it (bias free), is a focus on fixing problems, instead of the endless political exercise of one party beating the other.
In watching last week’s testimony, I saw four serious problems:
- The process for reporting a problem concerning a Supreme Court candidate, particularly if the complaint involves an allegation of sexual assault, is convoluted. It puts both the complainant and the candidate at excessive risk.
- The process of selecting and confirming a Supreme Court Justice has been corrupted, both by the executive branch and by Congress.
- There is a distinct lack of focus on problem-solving (even identifying what the problem to be solved is).
- There appears to be no attempt to even find out what the will of the people is, let alone ensure that will is executed.
I’ll explain how an AI solution like IBM Watson, if implemented into all three branches of government, could improve the democratic process. I’ll close with my product of the week: the Windows Virtual Desktop announced at Microsoft Ignite, which takes us back to where we have wanted to go for years — to an appliance PC experience.
Protecting the Candidate and the Complainant
In watching Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony, it was painfully clear she was put at excessive risk. Further, her complaint damaged Judge Brett Kavanaugh before it was vetted. It was delayed, so it didn’t influence the initial selection as Ford had intended. Blame for parts of this can be assigned to both parties.
A deep learning AI system can be made into an expert at looking at patterns. With access to a government level of information, it quickly could determine whether a complaint was likely to be credible. It could be secured so that the complaint would not leak. It could determine near instantly if a complaint was obviously bogus.
It could score a complaint’s potential credibility and forward it to the appropriate agency for expedited processing and confidential investigation. It also could provide the complainant with recommendations as to what to do as an individual, inform about personal risks entailed by stepping outside the process, and even engage law enforcement to protect the complainant and the candidate, or recommend criminal actions against either if warranted.
Corrupting the Supreme Court Process
The president is empowered to fill an open seat on the Supreme Court. Congress then is missioned to ensure the candidate is qualified — not that the candidate is liberal or conservative, but that the person can do the job.
In a short period of time, we have seen both parties in Congress subvert this process in what appear to be to be separate efforts to corrupt the highest court in the land. This should be unacceptable to all of us.
A deep learning AI — given access to the Constitution, the complete background information on a candidate (because it could be secured), and any allegations brought forward — could provide a reliable recommendation. With no political agenda, it could provide a recommendation to Congress that would be separate from politics and consistent with the role of each branch of government.
It also could rank a list of candidates based on the quality of their public and private work. We want the best judges we can get in the Supreme Court, and a properly trained, vetted and secured AI could give us that. We desperately need this approach to safeguard the future of the U.S.
Focus on Problem Solving
One of the things that really upsets me in the aftermath of the hearings is the lack of focus on the problems they brought up. For instance, how many schools and colleges are putting people at risk due to inadequate oversight? We send our kids to school in order to ensure their future, yet we see kids getting shot, being killed by peers due to hazing, and being sexually abused. This is all unacceptable.
An AI can both categorize and rank problems based on the criteria that the voters’ value, and suggest approaches to solve those problem separate from lobbyists, foreign governments or political gain. I would suggest that keeping children safe should be one of our highest priorities.
One outcome might be to introduce classes on male-female interactions. Such an approach could fight the current trend to praise boys for being aggressive and not taking no as an answer. It could help to protect women by encouraging women to protect each other and even, if needed, to help protect male friends who also might be targets of abuse.
We see a Congress that thrashes about and seems unable to prioritize. An AI could do a great deal to fix that — particularly if the priorities it suggested were ignored. Those priorities could be based on accurate surveys to identify what we, the people, want them to be. I expect that we would collectively place keeping kids from being raped toward the top of the list.
The Will of the People
One thing that is eminently clear to me is that our representative government either doesn’t know or doesn’t care what the will of the people actually is. This is incredibly irritating, because companies like Facebook and Google know more about us than we know about ourselves.
If they really want to execute our will, the information is available to them — but I can see no effort to capture it. In fact, if the government really wanted more of us to vote, it could allow online voting. Today, we could secure online access better than we can secure antiquated voting machines. Look at ATMs or online banking. It would cost less, too.
An AI could look at massive amounts of information and determine what is causing the greatest amount of anger, frustration and problems for citizens. It could parse this information by states, counties, districts, or any method programmed into it.
It could give representatives reports that tell them what voters want them to do, and it could give voters reports on how well their representatives are meeting their individual needs. We could use those reports to make more informed voting decisions, and our elected officials could use them to become better representatives.
What I saw both Ford and Kavanagh go through was unacceptable. Sexual assault is unacceptable. Bringing a vetted and sitting judge to tears is unacceptable. The crap show that is our government is unacceptable.
We have the technology to make sure this never happens again. Technology needs to stop being a problem for government and start becoming the solution. I was disgusted with what I saw last Thursday. We can fix this — we must fix this.
Ever since we moved from terminals and mainframes to PCs for desktop productivity, we’ve wished for the appliance experience to return. Sun tried to bring it back with the fascinating but flawed SunRay One.
Well, decades after we killed off the terminal and Sun, we finally have what appears to be the real answer to our prayers: a full cloud-based Windows implementation that behaves just like a desktop implementation.