A recent article in Wired offers the modest proposal of electing an artificial intelligence computer as President of the United States. The theory is that an AI president would not make dumb decisions based on ego or any other human failing. The idea is a supremely stupid one, even if one has never seen a science fiction film in which such things go terribly wrong.

The theory of an AI president

A president that is a computer without human emotions would be able to make decisions based, as the author of the piece puts it, maximizing the greatest happiness for the most Americans.

The proposal would allow Americans to vote for a “Democratic” AI or a “Republican” version. Or, alternately they could vote on a list of issues they want their new cybernetic overlord to address. The AI president would not make “dumb” decisions such as getting involved in Vietnam or invading Iraq. The author, revealingly, does not mention other silly ideas such as Obamacare or tax increases.

Movie depictions of AI computers argue against giving them power

Of course, as the author acknowledges, film depictions of computers which go rogue, such as “The Terminator,” “The Matrix,” or “2001” argue against making them president. A more appropriate example would be a film called “Colossus: The Forbin Project” in which a supercomputer is given control of the world’s nuclear arsenal and uses that power to take over human civilization for its own good.

The computer overlord is willing to see individuals murdered for the good of humanity, as it sees it. Human Freedom is extinguished for the sake of eliminating ills such as war and poverty.

The problem with AI presidents

George W. Bush noted in his memoirs “Decision Points” that presidents often have to make decisions based on incomplete and sometimes inaccurate information.

The decision to invade Iraq was a prime example. Every intelligence service on the planet had concluded that Saddam Hussein was developing weapons of mass destruction. Giving the same information, it is by no means certain that President HAL 9000 would not order the invasion of Iraq as President Bush did.

Also, the author of the article does not grasp why modern societies insist on preserving freedom.

If the purpose of a nation is for its leaders to always make the right decision, that they could just as well appoint a Philosopher King in the style of Plato and give him absolute power. Instead, countries such as the United States have chosen a representative government with a Constitution to limit the powers of said government. Such countries do not always make the right decisions or elect the best people, but such decisions are left in the hands of the people and not with a computer overlord. Tyranny by machine is still tyranny.