AI-Powered Avatar Runs for UK Parliament

June 20, 2024 by No Comments

Are you concerned about AI taking over your job? You might soon be writing to your local MP, who could be an AI themselves.

Businessman Steve Endacott is one of hundreds of candidates running in the July 4 national election in Britain to become a member of parliament (MP).

Here’s his unique approach: the face on his campaign leaflet is an AI avatar of the 59-year-old, not the man himself.

If successful, this would make him the world’s first AI lawmaker.

Standing next to a life-size cutout of “AI Steve”, Endacott held a mobile phone outside Brighton pier, encouraging passersby to interact with the AI.

The avatar engages in real-time conversations with locals on issues like LGBTQ rights, housing, bin collection, and immigration. It then presents policy ideas and solicits feedback.

Charity worker Eona Johnston, 23, from Brighton, is open to AI Steve, but wants evidence of its efficiency and trustworthiness.

“We’re using AI in many areas, work, social interactions, why not politics? But how would we do it. We shouldn’t be closed off to the idea,” she said.

Endacott, whose Neural Voice company powers his AI alter ego, said his frustration with “standard politics” led him to run as an independent for the Brighton Pavilion seat, expected to be retained by the Green Party.

He aims to demonstrate the technology’s ability to give voters greater access to their parliamentary representatives: “We want democracy reformed, we want people connected to their MPs, because the current system is broken and not working.”

In his second electoral run after losing a local council election in 2022, Endacott stated that the AI co-pilot would engage with voters around the clock and develop policies, which would then be submitted to a group of 500 validators for review.

“Even when a policy is created, it’s got to get past the validators … Nobody could easily hack the validators,” he told Reuters.

When asked about AI Steve, the Electoral Commission stated that the MP would be the elected candidate, not “any AI generated application they choose to use.”

Most locals seemed hesitant to vote for an AI candidate yet, but recognized Endacott’s effort as an important conversation starter.

While AI has been in use for decades, the rapid rise of ChatGPT since its launch in 2022 has brought the technology to the forefront, prompting calls for stricter regulation from prominent figures like Pope Francis and Elon Musk.

Britain has been deeply divided in the lead up to and since Brexit, with public trust and confidence in government at record lows, potentially leading to the governing Conservatives’ “electoral extinction.”

AI Steve has not been met with universal approval, with death threats directed at the technology.

“We just said: if you’re big enough, see if you can find the plug,” said a chuckling Endacott, who describes himself as someone from a working class background who has made money.

Jim Cheek, a 37-year old accountant from Brighton, pointed out that an MP must be proficient in public speaking as they need to advocate for their constituents in parliament, something an AI lawmaker cannot do.

“I think an AI is only a small part of what makes a good MP or a bad MP so I would suggest perhaps it is ,” Cheek said.

Another resident, Andy Clawson, 42, said: “AI and politicians have the one thing in common … they can’t be trusted.”