Artificial Intelligence (AI) plays a significant role in politics today. Since 2006 as the 2008 election cycle started, the introduction of AI has proved to be the most disruptive technology innovation in political history, and it is just the beginning. Politicians current and many new and upcoming movements are embracing AI and machine learning and leveraging various data. Realize data comes in all forms and all sizes and is often just plain crude in form, like oil, and needs to be refined and processed across all lines of demographics, organizations, even religion, and business.
However, although political movements are beginning to understand AI’s importance and potential impact, they often need help to move from the idea that everyone else has about dipping their toe into the water to fully understanding how algorithms work, how data works, what information you should access and from where to full-blown production mode.
The political spectrum is now experiencing the early stages of understanding the technology and the cost-benefit-cost-benefit ratio. The technology is not osmosis; you can’t buy it and expect it to work miracles. From my experience, the most significant challenge politicians have to address is how to scale AI initiatives and include algorithms. Second are costs (i.e., hardware accelerators and computer resources), lack of personnel, lack of technical data tools, current, and emerging technologies, lack of adequate volume and quality of data, trust, Cybersecurity, and governance issues. This challenge is immense for smaller or rural areas and political organizations.
Not all data is the same, just like not all crude oil coming out of the ground is the same or is processed the same.
Once a political organization decides to move into the world of AI and secures all the necessary equipment, languages, tools, and personnel, the real work begins.
- Understanding patterns and trends in data, the art of breaking down silos in demographics, and then understanding the crude data first, then processing and refining the data you discover.
- Having the correct data strategy, especially having a data strategist on the team and the teams working with different tools, algorithms, and languages to search, discover, and, most significantly, the algorithms to analyze patterns, movements, and trends daily.
- Understand the core of Cybersecurity and understand the FUD factor in technology, meaning Fear-Uncertainty-Doubt that will haunt the operations daily.
What AI is doing is what we call pattern recognition. Think of the old days of political buttons, yard signs, billboards, and the “art” of guessing about voter preferences based on the number of switches and yard signs. We were thinking about the mass distribution of pamphlets and where they go in neighborhoods. This is all being replaced by more accurate; multi-tasking AI functions through discovering the data produced by the humans where one is gathering the data. The emergence of AI and an understanding of big data have fundamentally changed how political organizations today will engage with the American electorate. We are just at the early stages of this development. As AI and robots, think software robots advance over the years to come and how the intrapersonal norms surrounding voter enfranchisement will change and give new meaning to data.
Politicians need to understand the patterns, recognize the movement of patterns, and leverage the know-how, quantity, and diversity of information about voters meandering through all things cyberspace. All data must include all forms of politics, government movements, anti-government movements, and social, religious, and educational groups who all will have more tools and similar tools to push agendas and candidates, making it all more important to have a solid strategy on data and how to interpret the data one is collecting.
As this all rolls out, the key will be the implementation of effective policy-making to protect democracy from potentially dangerous influences.
As we begin to experience more and more the shift in American politics towards running campaigns driven by big data, pattern recognition, highly specialized algorithms, and data-gathering-based voter analytics tools, we will begin a new form of leadership emerge.
For example, the toe in the water using big data and patterns was seen during President Obama’s initial successful application of pattern recognition during the 2008 and 2012 campaigns; the 2020 campaigns shifted to new heights with greater use of data. This past year we have seen AI use in governor races, most especially in the Senate races. And We are starting to experience, and I suggest watching the up-and-coming campaigns for the 2024 elections and seeing how much AI will drive the election cycle. Look for patterns and begin to understand how to recognize the art of pattern recognition. Based on data, we will see campaigns decide where to air television ads, where to do talk shows, where to do gatherings, and when it is time to duck and take cover.
As AI begins to mature and become a tool for human decision-making, the sophistication of the analysis will determine where the “blue wall” and the “red wall” are developing. And don’t forget those “alternate-color” walls growing deep in cyber data.