The Matter of Identity: Will AI Politicians still be Representative in Identity Politics?
Mon, 20 May 2019 || By Janitra Haryanto

The Future of AI in Politics

The evolution of machine learning which had preoccupied the field of computer science has gone far beyond to not only arts, but also politics. Today, we are about to witness the age of when AI is not only used to assist human stakeholders in decision making process, but also to autonomously be in charge of our rights and life as citizens. That is the vision which entails the concept of “AI politician” – a virtual (if not, robotic) personality created to represent our interests in a democratic political system.

SAM, which aim to run in NZ election in 2020[1], is one of some robotic personalities which are claimed to be more effective, unbiased, and just than the current human representatives. The superiority they claim to possess comes from their existence as AI which enable them not to have the weaknesses of human, yet to perform more objectively and tirelessly.

While some of the current AI politicians remain a form of criticism towards the downfall of the current political statuesque, the idea of having a fully autonomous AI politician may be feasible and can be the answer of political distrust among modern societies. Regardless of its existence in the future, I argue that the concept of AI politician is still exclusively imagined to the Western, moderates and pragmatic society and less developed to conform to some society which follows the rule of identity politics.

The Challenge of AI Politicians in the Landscape of Identity Politics

There is a unique characteristic which can be found in some groups within a society – associating themselves with certain political figures who have a similar, if not, related identity.  This phenomenon is the consequence of identity politics.[2] The paradigm of a representative leader for the society which adhere to identity politics is not due to the missions carried by the leader, but of the race, religious affiliation and tribe of the political figure. The last Indonesian primary is one of the perfect examples to describe the role of identity in attracting mass support.

During his presidency, President Jokowi was often being defamed as the descendant of the Indonesian Communist Party member (which has been framed as a national enemy since the reign of President Soeharto) and as a Christian (which considered as minority and less representative to lead). Feeling insecure of losing the support from the majority Islamic group in the country’s 2019 election, President Jokowi tried to frame himself as a true Moslem by countering each digital attack toward his identity during his campaign[3] and appointing K.H. Ma’aruf Amin, a renowned Moslem cleric and the chairman of MUI (Indonesian Islamic Leaders), as his vice-president candidate.[4]

Prior to such political landscape, the concept of AI politicians will hardly become relevant. AI politicians are designed to overcome the issues which are related to political distrusts, such as politicians’ inability to fulfill the promise they give to their constituent due to their incompetent execution on policy which adhere to the constituent’s interest. In addition, the way of understanding the mass support works is established under the pragmatic framework of thinking. Consequentially, the society are assumed as a group of rational beings who address their vote to representatives who carry the relevant agendas towards the society.

The prior perspective certainly does not match the characteristic of the society which adhere to identity politics. To such society, the agendas carried by the politicians are not count as the main fuel of their support. This is due to their traditional tendency to perceive identity as the main source of legitimacy. Within this logic, AI-Politician which basically a robot without any sense of belonging to any racial, religious and tribal groups will hardly be associated by the aforementioned society.

Will AI Politician be Trustworthy?

We have learned that AI politicians may not be the conservative’s favorite. However, we have also seen that pragmatism has risen within the society and becomes the foundation of rational voters. In addition, AI politicians may be more desirable for rational voters. But even if so, the question on whether giving up our civic rights to a fully sovereign virtual being is still a matter of debate. Having said that AI is capable of being more unbiased than human, question remains, can AI still be objective and effective when being put to regulate themselves?

Up until today, machine learning is still proven to be far from the envisioned future – The current AI-judge technology, as well as Google and Facebook’s AI program is still under the superintendence of the designated AI boards to prevent and cater the problem of AI ethic.[5] Finally, while it is safe to conclude that AI politicians may be the forthcoming solution to fix our broken political system, it can still hardly serve a society which perceive identity as the main variable which underlie the support of certain political figures.

Editor: Anaq Duanaiko

Read another article written by Janitra Haryanto

[1] Wagner, M. (2017). This Virtual Politicians Wants to Run for Office. CNN (Online). Available at: https://edition.cnn.com/2017/11/23/tech/first-virtual-politician-trnd/index.html. [Accessed on: May, 6th 2019].

[2] Neofostitos, V. (2013). Identity Politics. Oxford Bibliographies (Online). Available at: http://www.oxfordbibliographies.com/view/document/obo-9780199766567/obo-9780199766567-0106.xml. [Accessed on: May, 6th 2019].

[3] A. n. (2019). Empat Tahun Diam, Jokowi akan Bantah Isu Dirinya PKI. CNN (Online). Available at: https://www.cnnindonesia.com/nasional/20190109171750-32-359658/empat-tahun-diam-jokowi-akan-bantah-isu-dirinya-pki. [Accessed on: May, 6th 2019].

[4] Santoso, T. B. (2019) Mengapa Publik (Terpaksa) Harus Menerima Paket Jokowi-Ma’aruf Amin?. Tirto.id (Online). Available at: https://tirto.id/mengapa-publik-terpaksa-harus-menerima-paket-jokowi-maruf-amin-cZTW. [Accessed on: May, 6th 2019].

[5] Vincent, J. (2019). The Problem with AI Ethics. The Verge (Online). Available at: https://www.theverge.com/2019/4/3/18293410/ai-artificial-intelligence-ethics-boards-charters-problem-big-tech. [Accessed on: May, 6th 2019].