Guernsey Press

Leave it to the robots

How can we make this government less toxic and more efficient? Horace Camp has an idea...

Wooden robots having a debate (32124026)

I’VE been playing around with artificial intelligence.

Mostly ChatGPT and a few of the AI art programs.

It’s been fun and if I was still a working man I can see many ways I could use it. But for me it’s purely an amusement which gives me a break from monitoring the natural intelligence of our elected representatives.

The ‘Toxic States’ letters that appeared last week in this publication made me wonder if AI (I always chuckle a little at the acronym, given an identical one from a former industry I worked in) could help in any way.

I started with Deputy Sue Aldwell, who was quite convinced the toxicity comes from outside of the Assembly and not within it. Which came as a bit of a shock to me because I thought Deputy Aldwell and Deputy Andy Cameron were like the opposite poles of magnets and must always be kept in separate rooms.

If true, that sounds a little toxic to me. But what do I know?

That’s when it came to me. If we could remove people from the Assembly, the toxicity would be removed at a stroke. Possibly it was this sort of forward thinking that the man in the hat had in mind when he promoted island-wide voting.

IWV had only one purpose, or so I thought, which was to kill the consensus system and replace it with party politics. It hasn’t quite achieved that yet, but it has introduced division deputies, which is a good first step.

We will see more parties organised on a left/right basis in 2025.

But now I’m thinking that is a stepping stone to the Ultimate Solution. Basically a party is a group of individuals who will vote as they are told to vote.

Now here is where AI comes into the mix. AI works off prompts. You basically prompt it to provide you with what you are looking for. A manifesto or a declaration of political beliefs would make ideal prompts.

You need humans to come up with the prompts and I foresee the Guernsey system developing as follows.

A group of like-minded individuals get together and create a party. The members decide what they stand for and write it down. Then they determine what they will aim to achieve for the period they are in charge, their manifesto.

Both are fed into the AI, which now knows the desired political alignment and the preferred outcomes.

At the general election, no humans will stand and we will purely be asked to vote for each party. If we retain ‘first past the post’, then the winning AI will be our government. If we move to proportional representation, then the AI will scrupulously represent each party proportional to its share of the popular vote.

Possibly the prompts could include expressions of partnering to enable coalitions.

And that’s it.

Absolutely no toxicity, just efficient government with no possibility of corruption or personal feuds taking place. The AI would also run the committees and ensure the parties were correctly represented on each. It wouldn’t need any physical space to operate, freeing up the court and countless meeting rooms.

It would require no payment as such, just a regular supply of electricity and good IT support. The latter may need a bit more investigation. Speeches will not be required because the AI will be fed the Billet, which it will analyse and then determine how to vote using the party algorithms.

It will be lightning fast.

A few minutes will cover the business and it could process and vote on as many proposals as it itself will be drafting.

I expect this AIsembly will need to meet for only five minutes a month. The number of officers could be drastically reduced and I imagine the AI could draft the proposal, present it to itself, vote for it and draft the legislation which it could then approve.

You want efficient government, well it couldn’t get more efficient than this.

But it wouldn’t suit me.

I was brought up in the Guernsey system of politics, which really doesn’t involve politics at all, in the modern sense of the word. I think that although we knew we were the most privileged people on Earth and that our island was the centre of the universe, we also knew that as we are a small island with thousands, not millions, of people, our government doesn’t have to change the world.

Parties are needed where most people will never meet the people who represent them and their representatives work at a very high level.

For instance, the Westminster Parliament may debate a proposal to build 100 new schools. They probably won’t look at the roads around every school or wonder if any will be close to a prison. No, they vote for the principle and to allocate the money.

County councils look at the detail. In the UK, they also have parties at that level but at micro level it’s more about pragmatism and local knowledge than party politics.

Our Assembly is mostly county council, parish council sometimes, with some national government thrown in.

The county councils look after more people and tend to have more representatives than our States.

Even at this level, knowing the candidate is unlikely and the vote goes to the ribbon colour.

We can do better than that, and we have done better than that in the past. The decline started as unforeseen circumstances instigated by the Harwood Report. In a, in my view misguided, belief that our consensus system of part-time or retired deputies wasn’t right for the modern world, Peter Harwood, as you would expect from such a man, delivered an excellent report which clearly mapped the path from Guernsey consensus to executive government.

This was then watered down by the Assembly, which loved the minister titles but didn’t want to give up executive power to a chief minister. Ever since then, the beggars’ muddle of trying to be executive with no executive powers has cost us dearly. And now has produced the most toxic and divisive Assembly I’ve ever seen.

I beg you to not support either a party system or an executive government. Even though a party system would help me fulfil political ambitions because as a backbencher I could happily nap on the court benches, or have a chat outside with Deputy Inder.

I wouldn’t even need to know what I was voting on.

I could be wheeled in for the vote, told which button to press. Job done and another pay cheque earned.

However, I don’t want our island to be run by robots, be they actual machines, or elected deputies who are whipped to ensure they vote with party and not be swayed by conscience.

We are donkeys, you whip us at your peril.