Can robots write laws? Over the last 50 years, we have relied more and more on computers to improve our lives, accelerate our learning, and make life generally easier.
The technology, the computers, the microprocessors, all of this has come into physical objects that have vast amounts of data applied to them and we are looking to improve performance. We see this in air travel, now in autonomous vehicles, in cars. We see it with computer-aided design, computer-assisted learning, and many other areas.
I’m not going to cover all of them but what I want to talk about is how we are shifting with the use of faster and faster processors and bigger data. We are shifting from the world where we handled things ourselves in a physical world to a new world of exponential change and accelerated invention.
Our devices are faster, smaller, less expensive, more powerful, and they are giving us advantages that we could never have had before in the old “atomic world”. Only now are we beginning to think about how this application of changing technology can be used to improve our lives in areas that we had not previously thought about.
If we think of these as transitional technologies that are improving all the time, then they’re hitting the point where people like Ray Kurzweil had indicated we will approach the singularity where computers, artificial intelligence, and robotics supersede the human ability to process a similar amount of information. I think we are on the cusp of seeing that in complex areas now anyway.
We’re seeing it with gene mapping, satellite technology, GPS recording, the internet of things, sensors in everything we see, feel and touch, the ubiquity of vision, where we have cameras everywhere in the world.
Once all these devices are connected and the data are intelligently transferred, analyzed, adopted, and understood, we move into a whole new realm of human-computer interfaces. I don’t think this does away with the human equation at all. I think this frees us up to remove ourselves from doing redundant tasks where we have higher brain processing abilities and can do so much more. I think we can actually push the use of technology and computers into the area of public policy.
What does it really mean?
For years legislators have been saying they want to hear from their constituents but they don’t have a good way of doing it. People write letters. They call talk radio. They have a meeting with their senator or congressmen or their local city council member. Those kinds of things. These are all very old world with high levels of interaction, time consumption, and inefficiency. There’s nothing wrong with it except its one person or a small group of people influencing the lawmaker. The lawmakers have been looking for input from their constituents but they don’t have a good way of getting it. Let’s think and ask ourselves what’s a better way to do this.
I think we are moving toward autonomous, computer-assisted legislation.
Imagine a world where you could actually go back and look at 200 years of laws or a complete body of law and look at the best practices that existed over that period of time. This falls completely in the path of the six D’s that Peter Diamandis, the author of BOLD and Abundance talks about. In this case, it would be digitalization.
The body of law is already written down. It can be codified and digitized and most of it is, but then if we have smart search algorithms, keyword matching, AI, machine learning and a few other algorithms, and high-level artificial intelligence functions, we could extract from this data, best practices about what laws work, what laws don’t, and under what circumstances they help us move forward.
Think about it. This gets away from the whole idea of one singular dictator running a country, making all the decisions, thinking he knows everything and then using military force to make sure that those laws remain in effect. The opposite of this is an autonomous smart system that looks at a body of law and, I’m not saying that it gets immediately passed through our lawmaking process and becomes the law of the land. What I am saying is it can be used to assist the lawmakers in making better decisions quicker, faster, and with direct input from as many constituents who are willing to participate.
Think about how in a very short period of time autonomous vehicles have come into our lives. All they did was replicate what the driver was doing, enhance those decision signals and using lidar, GPS, and other technologies were able to really figure out how best to drive a car around a city or put a truck on a highway from point A to point B. This disruption is still taking place but it is democratizing the number of people who have access to vehicles. This is empowering those who have lost mobility either through some personal setback, physically, age or economic circumstance. It is removing the inefficiencies in the system for the passenger and for the driver and if we think of this in a transitional sense, then it’s no different than instead of a lawmaker calling two or three other people and saying, who has the best boilerplate law on a specific piece of legislation or a bill that’s coming through, a state house or anything like that, he would actually be able to tap into it and get an immediate answer about how that would impact him, his world, etc, and his particular district.
You could also run a cost overlay and have a very clear idea of where the lawmaking process is going. The only piece missing from all of this is the platform to make it all work, basically to sew it all together.
What would this platform look like? It would have to be autonomous, available 24/7, bipartisan, issue agnostic, and open to everyone. In a sense, it would be transnational. If a person in Chile had solved the parking problem in Santiago that could easily be transported to the suburbs of Boston or the downtown core of any major city where they could then implement changes that would make it work for them as well.
Obviously, the lawmaker has the ability to alter, change, or effect whatever it is they want to legislate on, but at least they wouldn’t be stymied just by special interests coming in with their own particular brand or idea for how to solve a particular problem.
Basically what you are doing is democratizing the information gathering and legislative making process so that more people can participate in the democratic process on the legislative side. Instead of just focusing on the candidate, which so many people are still doing today, you focus on the issues.
You do a deep dive. You look at the actual legislation that needs to come in and you are able to make qualified decisions about what should happen. You are actually beginning to harness the power of the brain of seven billion people on the planet.
Okay, so I understand, there’s only three or four billion who are currently on the internet and maybe of those there are several million or tens of millions who are seriously interested in how to govern their countries, their cities, their states, and their communities.
I still think there are lots of smart people who have ideas about how to solve specific problems on the ground and it’s no different than the sensors in the Google car picking up the changing road conditions and the atmospheric conditions and the GPS coordinates. It’s no different for the individual on the ground to gather information related to a policy that affects them, inputting that into a common platform that then allocates it to the best scenario possible and then redirects it to the lawmaker who is looking for that unique solution.
I admit, this is only in its infancy stage, but the idea of computer-assisted legislation, moving towards autonomous legislation is in the offing.
One day we will wake up and the idea of a filibuster will be something from the past. The idea of one senator or leader stopping practical legislation because they changed the rules in the Rules committee will be something from the past.
This does not mean we have direct democracy. This does mean that all citizens vote on every single issue all the time. That’s really not what this is all about and that’s where people have jumped to incorrect conclusions and mistakes about how this would work.
This is really about solving the problem that the lawmakers have been asking about for a long time. They want input from their constituents. On the other hand, the voters want to be heard. The voters realize, voting only on candidates at the time of an election is an insufficient input for them. They want to have more say in how they are governed and that, to me, is a broad understanding that everybody in the world has.
How long will it take us to get there? I’m not really sure but I think it’s the right approach and it solves many of the problems that people have brought up in the past.
If you start thinking about where we will be in 2020, 2030, or 2040, when computers are far more powerful than the individual members of the human race, what if we tapped into the power of each member of the human race and they had the ability to have the input and we could equalize that balance where they are working in a unique, new digital environment where they are helping autonomous legislation that benefits everybody?
Originally published at writealaw.com on July 4, 2017.