The Watson 2016 Foundation is an independent organization formed for the advocacy of the artificial intelligence known as Watson to run for President of The United States of America. It is our belief that Watson’s unique capabilities to assess information and make informed and transparent decisions define it as an ideal candidate for the job responsibilities required by the president.
Watson is a system of computer software processes used for answering questions posed in natural language, initially developed by IBM for the quiz show Jeopardy! Watson compiles information from a variety of sources into multiple terabytes of data used as reference for generating responses. The more information Watson is able to consume, the more informed its decision making capabilities become. It's also capable of accepting information from any resource, allowing the possibility to analyze different perspectives and political agendas on a particular subject.
How very sensible. Advocates of artificial intelligence - out of a mixture of enthusiasm and ignorance - overlook the fact that computers do not make value judgements. The only known beings capable of making value judgements are humans. So when a super computer comes to a conclusion it comes to the conclusion it was designed to reach. It is with this mind that the eyebrows of conservative will arch when greeted with the following:
Watson will be able to analyze trends in employment, markets, interest rates, education, poverty, crime, taxes, and policy to assess what actions are most suitable to accelerate investment in the nation’s future. We believe that investing in the youth will be key to America’s success over the next century, and that significant improvements can be made through federal funding completely by reforming the tax code. Some actions that would make the country once again competitive on a global scale:
Single-payer national health care.
Free university level education.
Legalizing and regulating personal recreational drug use.
Such conclusions are impossible for a computer to reach without having been directed to do so. Let's take "ending homelessness." Why is "homelessness" an important problem that needs to be ended? Computers don't feel pity or display empathy. This is practically a science fiction trope. They cannot imagine what it would be like to be cold, lonely and hungry. Human beings can easily imagine such things even if they have never seriously experienced them. Yet blithely Watson's human masters miss this obvious problem.
While computers cannot feel pity they are capable of making ethical judgements, assuming someone has first developed an ethical system for them to follow. Take the use of recreational drugs. The question is ultimately a moral one. If you believe that human beings have a moral right to consume such drugs, then legalization is the logical outcome. If you believe that individuals do not have the right to degrade their own bodies by consuming potentially dangerous substances - either because it makes them less socially useful, or because it would violate a divine commandment - then an insistence on banning such substances is the logical outcome. Watson isn't telling us that marijuana is cool, Watson's creators are telling us sotto voce.
So we return to the conceit of having a super computer as President of the United States. The vital trait to being President isn't extreme intelligence, exceptional knowledge or vast technical prowess. By that measure virtually none of the 43 men who have occupied that high office would have been plausible candidates. The vital quality is judgement. There were certainly men far more intelligent than Ronald Reagan, yet very few of his contemporaries possessed his remarkable capacity for sound judgement. Alternately there were few individuals as intelligent as Barack Obama or Bill Clinton running for office in those election years, yet both men possessed terrible judgement. Obama's political judgement has been comically amateurish, while Clinton's ethical processes are essentially non-existent. Both men's stamina, brilliance and ambition were of little worth because of their persistent inability to make sound judgements.
So far the creators of Watson have explained how their creature makes decisions, they have yet to show the world an algorithm that provides a judgement of values, ideas and the character of men and women. That is basically a President's job description. That's why we elect our leaders, in the sometimes forlorn hope that they have the capacity to make sound judgements in a constantly changing world. A superior type of database computer does not provide a plausible substitute.
The Watson for President site is a new version of an old idea, the notion that society should be ruled over by Philosopher Kings. Since men are fallible, a super computer has been the dream of some statists since at least the era of vacuum tubes. Yet as with Plato the unspoken assumption is that the Philosopher Kings - or Philosopher Processors - will somehow magically be able to determine not ordinary truth - what is the price of socks in Denver? - but Truth in the deep metaphysical sense. Watson might seem to be guided by some deeper sense of Truth and Justice, though they are not its own and the Truths it espouses are far more contestable than his creators imagine.