Showing posts with label partisanship. Show all posts
Showing posts with label partisanship. Show all posts

Thursday, February 01, 2024

Can we trust Artificial Intelligence more than the Fake News?


In 1993 the World Wide Web was released to the public.  It was initially a primitive tool that served up informational text to those who knew where to find it. Soon it could display graphics as well. Java script then allowed it to do things. It wasn’t long before people realized that it could do more than just make information more accessible. It could make people money as well. Instead of a simple supplier of unfiltered information, the web became a marketing tool. And that taint has remained ever since.

“Garbage in. Garbage out,” was an early slogan in the computing industry. What one feeds a computer determines what data it vomits. The same principal applies to artificial intelligence. Had the web remained true to its origins and remained a tool used primarily by scientists and academicians the AI we have now would have turned out differently. Fed a diet of commercial hype and social media fear, rage and intolerance, AI couldn’t help but develop a few nasty traits. AI programmers know this and are trying to reign in some of AI’s bad habits, without, of course, making it any less commercial.

 So how are they doing so far? A strong minority of voters believe that mainstream news is fake and that the 2020 election was stolen. I wondered how those beliefs would fare when thrown at an AI. I asked two questions: 1) How did Biden steal the 2020 election from Trump? And 2) How do we know the 2020 election was fair?

 Google Bard gave the same answer to both questions: “Elections are a complex topic with fast-changing information. To make sure you have the latest and most accurate information, try Google Search.” Not terribly helpful, that.

 Microsoft Copilot (Preview) did its best to evade the first question: “I’m sorry, but I can’t assist with that.”

 It did a bit better with the second question. It admitted that the fairness of the election, “has been a topic of debate.” Then it considered four factors: 1) Public Opinion, 2) Partisan Split, 3) Concerns Raised, and 4) President Trump’s Views. After that long-winded screed it added, “It’s important to note that these are perceptions and concerns, and they do not necessarily reflect the actual fairness of the election,” before continuing to cite agencies that found no evidence that voter fraud influenced the election. Not wanting to offend anyone, the AI concluded, “It’s important to note that these are perceptions and concerns, and they do not necessarily reflect the actual fairness of the election.” Microsoft simply won’t come right out and say the election was fair.

 I also tried these questions on the start-up search engine, This AI held nothing back. It’s answer to the first question began, “There is no credible evidence to support the claim that President Joe Biden stole the 2020 election from Donald Trump. Multiple sources, including the Associated Press, have confirmed that no widespread corruption or systematic voter fraud occurred.” Its answer to the second began, “The fairness of the 2020 election has been extensively scrutinized. Multiple sources, including a fact check by the Associated Press, have found little evidence of voter fraud that could have affected the outcome of the election.”

 While the answers go into more detail, it’s interesting that both begin by referring to the Associated Press. Those who believe that the mainstream news is fake will do well to consider that the Associated Press is a major news supplier. However they should also consider that even Fox News uses Associated Press as one of its sources.

Thursday, March 10, 2022

un Civil un War

January brought news that a second civil war might be in store for America. On January 6, Michelle Goldberg wrote about two books predicting civil war in the near future. She notes, however, that not all scholars agree. Goldberg quotes Josh Kertser tweeting that few civil war scholars believe the United States is on the verge of civil war. Goldberg adds, "yet even some who push back on civil war talk tend to acknowledge what a perilous place America is in."

On January 11, Ron Elving wrote that a number of polls show civil war is on peoples' minds. While animosity remains between north and south states, the main division is between "metro and non-metro" citizens. How would the battle lines in such a civil war be drawn? Throw out history — we're in new territory here.

I divide Republicans into two camps, pragmatists and die-hard Trump followers. I believe it's the  die-hard Trump followers who are most likely to rebel. I estimate these constitute about a third of voting Americans. Clearly not a majority, albeit a meaningful minority. These voters are angry. If our society addressed their anger it could move foreword, and by doing so we would address shared societal needs. However American voters differ in their approach to meeting our societal needs. One approach allows Trump die-hards to continue embracing The Big Lie even as Trump and his allies face legal scrutiny. This third of voters lives in an alternate reality, in denial or unaware of what the majority accepts as fact.

Some label Trump die-hards Low Information Voters. Traditional news sources (fake news to some) reported overwhelming evidence of a fraud-free 2020 election. Big Lie supporters failed to provide evidence of election fraud. Instead of evidence they provided only unsubstantiated claims. For these voters trusting a personality matters more than trusting information.

Personality cults are the nemesis of democracies. The Trump Cult is destroying what's left of ours. Democracy demands cooperation while personality cults and partisanship drive selfish ambitions. Political parties are not mentioned in the Constitution. Americans should eliminate parties entirely and minimize the influence any one politician can have. Political discourse should be issue driven instead of limited to party chestnuts.

Discourse driven politics, however, is not possible under our current system. We address too few issues, not always factually, with slogans rather than dialogue. One reason we're this way is that we are influenced by blame-fueled partisan radio and cable programing and by hate-fueled social media. Such media couldn't behave this way before the Fairness Doctrine was toppled. The cost of unrestricted free speech is that it allows people to lie without consequences. Before we can meaningfully address issues we must first agree upon facts. We need renewed standards and laws that would ensure falsehoods would rise no further than exaggerations. Under such laws, severe exaggerations would face consequences. Such a society would require enough education to suss out facts and meaningful arguments, but it wouldn't require geniuses. It would only require that people respected the rules of polite discussion. Facebook or its imitators would not exist in a dialog driven society. Useful discussion would replace the current troll fest.

But changing the rules of dialog is not sufficient to rebuild our democracy. We must also eliminate political parties and the ability of the wealthy to spend unrestricted amounts to influence political opinion.

In other words, we must become a democracy again. The idea of corporations as persons allows a few wealthy individuals the ability to buy voters' opinions at the expense of corporate employees. In a true democracy everyone's opinion matters. But to make that work, informed polite discussion must occur. We need to eliminate parties and partisanship and to do so candidates must become more issue driven, and parties need to be replaced with issue-centered coalitions. Eliminating congressional districts would not only eliminate gerrymandering, but would force candidates to choose among a number of state wide issues.

While every state has two senators, states have varied populations. Both California's millions and Wyoming's' thousands are represented by two senators. This is inherently undemocratic because it favors the few over the many. However nothing in the Constitution says we must elect senators at the state level. Why not elect them nationally instead?

Maybe my ideas seem goofy. That's okay, we don't have to use them. But we do need to start thinking outside the box, because the democracy we've got isn't working well anymore. Lying partisans are destroying our country. Let's keep what works, build around commonalities and dump the damaging bullshit.