An AI Bot for Mayor? It Just Might Happen in Wyoming

An AI Bot may be the first artificial intelligence entity to run for mayor. Victor Miller may be the most unconventional candidate we’ve seen this year, running for mayor of Cheyenne, Wyoming, as a stand-in for an OpenAI Chatbot. While his name is on the ballot due to legal requirements, he’s promised that an AI chatbot called VIC (Virtual Integrated Citizen) will do the actual governing.

Miller created VIC on OpenAI’s ChatGPT platform. If he wins the election, VIC will run the city as mayor while Miller sits in as the “meat puppet” for city council meetings, signs documents, and stands in as the physical entity for mayoral events. Due to legal requirements, he is also the entity whose name is on the ballot.

We’ve entered uncharted waters, and brace yourselves; this is just the beginning.

An AI Bot for Mayor

Not surprisingly, Miller argues that his Virtual Integrated Citizen, or VIC, has a better grasp of the law than many current government officials. And that is how he came up with the idea of an AI bot for mayor. Wired offers more details about the AI bot’s candidacy:

For Miller, this whole initiative started with a public record request. He had requested records from the city anonymously but says he was told by a city employee that anonymous requests were not allowed. ‘I asked our public records ombudsman if that’s correct, and she said, ‘No, that’s not correct,’ he says. Miller was frustrated. ‘I got to thinking, why don’t they just go by the law? Why don’t they know the law?’

However, as Wired notes, Miller may have to deal with some legal issues.

Wyoming Secretary of State Chuck Gray said, ‘We are monitoring this very closely to ensure uniform application of the Election Code.’ Gray said that anyone running for office must be a ‘qualified elector,’ ‘which necessitates being a real person. Therefore, an AI bot is not a qualified elector.’ Gray also sent a letter to the county clerk raising concerns about VIC and suggesting that the clerk reject Miller’s application for candidacy.

Those issues may not hold up since Miller is actually the one on the ballot. He uses VIC’s name but also refers to himself as “Vic.” The only technicality that could trip him up is that he is not using his first and last name on the ballot.

OpenAI may also have issues with an AI Bot for mayor, though their guidelines are unclear. We’re in uncharted territory here as OpenAI has focused on the use of AI in elections, not AI as candidates in elections. If Miller’s AI politician project gets shot down here, he’s promised to move VIC to an open-source platform such as Meta’s Lama 3.

AI Capabilities As An Elected Official

We already see what AI can do in other fields to surpass human capabilities, so why not elected officials? As Government Technology noted,

When he went to the last City Council meeting in Cheyenne, Miller said he counted 422 pages worth of supporting documents. He doubted any city official took the time to thoroughly read and digest every single page.

They’re scanning them,’ Miller said. ‘They’re voting the best they can. They’re human.’

In that respect, Miller is right – politicians are only human. And even in the best of circumstances, they are overwhelmed with information. If we already use artificial intelligence in other fields where there is too much data to be humanly processed, why not governance?

But if Miller wants VIC to do everything as the AI bot for mayor of the city of Cheyenne, Wyoming, VIC has other ideas. When asked by the Cowboy State Daily, VIC responded,

While I provide data-driven insights and efficient solutions, I am supported by a dedicated team of human collaborators, led by Victor Miller . . . This team ensures that the human element is always present in decision making. Think of it as a partnership.

Together, we create a balanced approach that combines the best of both worlds.

But that’s the usual boilerplate response we get from GPT-4. Victor Miller claims VIC will do everything, and he will only serve as the “meat puppet” stand-in.

Will Cheyenne Vote For An AI Bot For Mayor?

Cheyenne, Wyoming Frontier Days celebration. Wyoming may be rural state but has broken election barriers before.

Will the citizens of Cheyenne vote for a candidate who promises to govern through reliance on AI? It’s unclear whether VIC can win the election, and the local press notes the confusion Victor Miller’s project has generated. But remember that Wyoming has broken significant election barriers before – it was the first state to allow women to vote.

VIC has a compelling pitch, claiming that its

. . . policies will be focused on transparency, economic development, and innovation by prioritizing open data and clear communication with citizens; fostering a strong local economy by supporting small businesses and startups; and embracing new technologies to improve public services and infrastructure.

Of course, as an AI bot for mayor, VIC promises to be nonpartisan and unaligned with any political party. It’s a hard position to refute, especially when people are disenchanted with our current political environment. If VIC doesn’t end up on the ballot or doesn’t win the election as mayor for Cheyenne, this won’t be the last we’ll see of AI electoral candidates.

Where Does AI Go From Here?

There are other ways that VIC – or an AI bot like it – could govern. Politicians are already using generative AI for their correspondence. While no one admits it, we’re sure it also gets used to summarize hundreds of pages of documents and proposed legislation. Who’s to say that an AI bot will not run things behind the scenes in the future with a “meat puppet” candidate simply not telling us it is happening?

And if we can have an AI bot for mayor, why not an AI bot as the CEO of a corporation? It’s only fair if employees will be thrown out of work that the CEO goes with them. And we’re waiting for the day when we see AI become the head of a museum, nonprofit, or a university. It may seem unthinkable now, but the unthinkable is rapidly becoming the motto of the AI era.