Earlier this week, we voted in the primary election in this state. Thinking about voting reminded me of a story I read many years ago (and don't remember its title or author). This speculative piece on how elections might work in the distant future proposed a unique procedure that could function only with a near-omniscient AI accumulating immense amounts of data.
After analyzing the demographics of the country in depth, the central computer picks a designated voter. This person, chosen as most effectively combining the typical characteristics of all citizens, votes in the national election on behalf of the entire population. The really unsettling twist in the tale is that the "voter" doesn't even literally vote. He (in the story, the chosen representative is a man) answers a battery of questions, if I recall the method correctly. The computer, having collated his responses, determines which candidates and positions he would support.
This method of settling political issues would certainly make things simpler. No more waiting days or potentially weeks for all the ballots to be counted. No contesting of results, since the single aggregate "vote" would settle everything on the spot with no appeal to the AI's decision.
The story's premise seems to have an insurmountable problem, however, regardless of the superhuman intelligence, vast factual knowledge, and fine discrimination of the computer. Given the manifold racial, political, economic, ethnic, and religious diversity of the American people, how could one "typical" citizen stand in for all? An attempt to combine everybody's traits would inevitably involve many direct, irreconcilable contradictions. The AI might be able to come up with one person who satisfactorily represents the majority. When that person's "vote" became official, though, the political rights of minorities (religious, racial, gender, or whatever) would be erased.
A benevolent dictatorship by an all-knowing, perfectly unbiased computer (if we could get around the GIGO principle of its reflecting the biases of its programmers) does sound temptingly efficient at first glance. But I've never read or viewed a story, beyond a speculative snippet such as the one described above, about such a society that ultimately turned out well. Whenever the Enterprise came across a computer-ruled world in the original STAR TREK, Kirk and Spock hastened to overthrow the AI "god" in the name of human free will.
Margaret L. CarterCarter's Crypt