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country often rely on software that assesses the likelihood of recidivism. But this system gives black and white defendants “who are otherwise identical” different recidivism scores “because blacks are re-arrested at higher rates than whites… at least in part because of racial profiling, ineq-

It seems unlikely that AI can really map out a plan to ameliorate gender disparities in the workplace, for example, because these issues require an understanding of abstract social notions of equality rather than tangible goals like GDP growth. uities in enforcement, and harsher treatment of blacks within the justice system.”¹¹ Would you trust the judgement of this AI to shape the outcome of your criminal case? Would you trust it to shape the outcome of your public policy? True, we already have bias in politics. But this bias is more understandable and remediable (through elections) than the far more hidden and nuanced bias of algorithms. AI, then, does not necessarily promote more reason than is capable with human beings, and adds an obstacle to removing racism, sexism, and other bias from democratic institutions. OBJECTION 3: THAT DIGITOCRACY SUBVERTS THE ESSENCE OF DEMOCRACY. There is another issue we must address first: is technology like that discussed by Mr. Erickson compatible with democracy? We think not. Even ignoring daunting questions like who creates the AI? or who maintains the programs? or how much public policy will be controlled by Noah, the IT guy? we can still observe that AI is the hallmark of modern tyranny and dictatorship. As Steven Feldstein writes, “around the world, AI systems are showing their potential for abetting repressive regimes and upending the relationship between citizen and state, thereby accelerating a global resurgence of authoritarianism.”¹² In Malaysia, China, Kenya,¹³ and Iran (to name just a few examples), governments have

taken advantage of facial recognition technology and other AI to aid in their crackdown of opposition and enforcement of policies. In developed nations like the United State, the issue is different. But even in the United States, the specter of Orwellianism exists in the form of private companies like Facebook and Google. The question must be asked: are we really moving in the right direction when that direction is to “Google-ize” government?¹⁴ It makes no difference if AI starts its time in government in an experimental or limited capacity. Mr. Erickson thoughtfully proposes to initially limit the role of AI to deciding court cases or advising lawmakers. But once entered into, the influence of technology will only grow—as will our reliance upon it. Government rarely curtails itself. Look, for example, at how much and how continually the powers of the executive branch have grown over the course of American history. As Milton Friedman once quipped, “there is nothing more permanent than a temporary government program.” The most impending danger of digitocracy in the United States is not that AI will take over the government, or that an AI government will take over the populace, but that this kind of technology will change the very way we think about democratic society. Robert Kanigel warns of the “credo of rational efficiency,” which promotes a view of government not as an embodiment of citizens, but as mechanisms for interpreting raw data and making decisions.¹⁵ Democracy, in other words, is not a real-life game of Civilization V. Civil society cannot and should not be programmed, and reliance on technology as a deciding or even advising instrument misses the point of democratic society by weakening the bonds between state and citizen, as well as between citizens themselves. Democracies are fundamentally about relationships between people. As Peter Berger and Richard Neuhaus observed in 1977, healthy public life revolves around the neighborhood, the family, the church, and other voluntary associations. Without these associations, “the political order becomes detached from the values and realities of individual life” and “delegitimated.” Delegitimation then usually leads to increasingly 23

Profile for Rebuttal

Spring 2019  

We proudly present our first issue! The topics include abortion, the Iran deal, voter ID laws, targeted killings by governments, Hamilton: A...

Spring 2019  

We proudly present our first issue! The topics include abortion, the Iran deal, voter ID laws, targeted killings by governments, Hamilton: A...

Profile for rebuttal
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