The Synthetic Partya new Danish political party with an artificially intelligent representative and AI-derived policies, is eyeing a seat in parliament as it hopes to contest the country’s general election in November.
The party was founded in May by the collective of artists computer science and the non-profit art and technology organization MindFuture Foundation. The public face and figurehead of the Synthetic Party is the chatbot AI Leader Lars, which has been programmed on Danish fringe party politics since 1970 and is meant to represent the values of the 20% of Danes who do not vote in elections. Chief Lars won’t be anywhere on the ballot, but the human members of the Synthetic Party are committed to carrying out their AI-derived platform.
“We represent the data of all fringe parties, so these are all parties that try to get elected to parliament but do not have a seat. So he is a person who has forged a political vision that he would like to achieve, but he usually does not have the money or the resources to do so,” asked Asker Staunæs, the party’s founder and artist- researcher at MindFuture, told Motherboard.
Chief Lars is an AI chatbot that people can chat with on Discord. You can address leader Lars by starting your sentences with a “!”. The AI understands English but responds to you in Danish.
“As Danes, but also people from all over the world interact with the AI, they submit new perspectives and new textual information, where we collect a dataset that will go into the fine-tuning. In this way, you develop partly the AI whenever you interact with it,” says Staunæs.
Some of the policies that The Synthetic Party proposes include establishing a universal basic income of 100,000 Danish kroner per month, which is equivalent to $13,700, and is more than double the average danish salary. Another proposed policy change is to create a jointly owned Internet and IT sector within the government, on equal terms with other public institutions.
Motherboard asked leader Lars in Discord if the bot supports basic income, to which he replied, “I am in favor of basic income for all citizens.” When asked why he supported a basic income, he explained, “I believe a basic income would help reduce poverty and inequality and give everyone a safety net to fall back on.” Finally, when asked if AI should set the base income level, Chief Lars replied, “I think AI should be included in setting the base income level because it can help make an objective assessment of needs and ensure that everyone receives a fair share.”
“It’s a synthetic party, so many policies can contradict each other,” Staunæs said. “Modern machine learning systems are not based on the biological and symbolic rules of old-style artificial intelligence, where you could uphold a principle of non-contradiction like you can in traditional logic. When you synthesize, it’s about amplifying certain trends and expressions within a wide, wide pool of opinion And if that contradicts each other, maybe they could do it in an interesting way and expand our imaginations on that which is possible.
The Synthetic Party’s mission is also dedicated to raising awareness of the role of AI in our lives and how governments can hold AI accountable for bias and other societal influences. The party hopes to add an 18th Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) to the United Nations SDGs, which are goals related to issues such as poverty, inequality and climate change, to be achieved by all nations by 2030. The SDG proposed by the synthetic party is called Life with artificial objects and focuses on the relationship between humans and AI and how to adapt and educate people to work with machines.
“AI hasn’t been properly addressed in a democratic framework before,” Staunæs said. When we talk about it, it’s in the context of regulation, but Staunæs doesn’t think governments can possibly regulate the development of technology. “So we’re trying to change the theme to show that through artistic means and through humans organizing them, artificial intelligence can actually be approached within the framework of democracy and be held accountable for what it does and for the how it’s going,” he said.
AI is already populist by default in some sense, Staunæs said — they’re often trained on large amounts of data or artwork created by people and pulled from the internet. But even if it is populist, it is not yet democratic.
“Artificial intelligence in the form of machine learning has already absorbed so much human input that we can say that in some way everyone is participating in these patterns through the data they have submitted to the internet,” said Staunæs. “But the systems as we have them today don’t encourage more active participation, where people actually take control of their data and their images, which we can do in another way through this form concentration offered by publicly available machine learning models”.
Staunæs explained that The Synthetic Party differs from what he calls “fully ‘virtual'” politicians, such as New Zealand SAM and Alisa from Russia. These candidates, who were AI-powered robots that voters could talk to, Staunæs said “anthropomorphize the AI in order to act as an objective candidate, [so that] they become authoritarian. While we synthetics are ready for a full democratization of a “more than human” way of life. What The Synthetic Party prioritizes, according to Staunæs, is not so much having a central AI figurehead, but examining how humans can use AI to their advantage.
So far, The Synthetic Party has only done 11 signatures out of 20,000 that would make him eligible to run in the November election. If the party were to be in parliament, Staunæs said it would be AI fueling policies and its agenda, and humans acting as the interpreter of the agenda.
“Chief Lars is the figurehead of the party. Denmark is a representative democracy, so there would be humans on the ballot who represent leader Lars who have pledged to act as a medium for the AI,” he said.
“People who vote for The Synthetic Party will have to believe what we’re selling, people who are so committed to artificial intelligence that we can interpret something valuable out of it,” Staunæs said. “We are in talks with people around the world, from Colombia, France and Moldova, about creating other local versions of The Synthetic Party, so that we can have a form of Synthetic International.”