Meet Ion; World's First AI Goverment Adviser

The Romanian Prime Minister, Nicolae Ciuca, has introduced the world's first political AI advisor named Ion. The AI advisor will analyze the people of Romania's opinions on certain topics and policies, and inform the government on the results. Ion was developed voluntarily by a group of academics and engineering experts. The Romanian citizens will interact with the bot via a government website, and as the country's inhabitants convey their opinion, Ion takes it as an input and that way trains itself. The more citizens interact, the faster the bot will be able to give accurate feedback to politicians on certain key issues. However, there are concerns raised around the bot, including privacy concerns, and the ethics of data scraping.

In a world where technology is rapidly advancing, the world’s first political AI advisor is being utilized in the decision-making progress by the Romanian Prime Minister, Nicolae Ciuca. The politician presented his ‘’new honorary adviser’’ called Ion. The bot’s main task will be to analyze the people of Romania’s opinion on certain topics and policies and inform the government on the results.  At its launch, the bot described itself as a ‘’mirror’’ for the Romanian population. The text generating bot Ion said: “Hello! You gave life to me. I am ION. My role is to now represent you. Messages to me represent a portrait of us, Romanians. Teach me to be Romanian. What do I need to know about Romania?” So how does Ion work? And what do experts think about this recent development?

The advisor, completely run on artificial intelligence, was developed by Romanian researchers. It was a voluntary initiative created  by a group of academics and engineering experts. The country is often described as the Silicon Valley of Eastern Europe, even though it belongs to one of the poorest nations of the European Union. The region has been thriving in the tech startup scene. Nicu Sebe, the leader of the research team that developed the bot, said the technology will give the Romanian citizens the ‘’possibility to make themselves heard’’.  The citizens will have the opportunity to interact with the bot via a government website. As the country’s inhabitants convey their opinion, Ion takes it as an input and that way trains itself. The more citizens interact, the faster the bot will be able to give accurate feedback to politicians on certain key issues. The Romanian Minister of Research and Innovation Sebastian Burduja said: “Ion is in the learning phase, so it is very important for Romanians to convey their thoughts to him, what problems they have, later, based on this data, Ion will process them, synthesize them and be able to produce reports that will inform decisions and policies of the Government.’’ The AI advisor will also scan social media to get insights on the people’s thoughts on implemented policies or certain events. Users also can tag Ion by using the hashtag @noisuntemIon, and the bot will process the information.

Experts around the world have been expressing their opinion on this new tool. Alan Woodward, a cybersecurity professor at the University of Surrey stated that its accuracy would be hard to interfere with. He said it would be hard to interfere with the AI, although the researchers in charge of the initiative should be cautious and train the bot accordingly to certain biases. “One of the things that has been found is that social media is an amplifier for people expressing negative sentiment. The people who are very happy with something don’t tend to go out there and say it, but the people who are unhappy do. That’s all part of sentiment analysis but you have to adjust the models accordingly.” But there are also experts who are concerned about user privacy. Professor Tracy Harwood of digital culture at De Montfort University said that the ethics of data scraping (a technique where data is extracted from human-readable output coming from another platform) need to be considered. Harwood stated: ‘’What data is being scraped and how is personal data that identifies individuals being managed? It is likely that information scraped will include the unique identifiers of each of those posting content’’, meaning that Ion will be able to recognize individuals’ identities by their social media usernames and other traits. She further said that “Ultimately, there needs to be transparency with implementing this kind of system, not just around the use of data but the intentions for its application, with clear statements for citizens to understand.” The research team working on the bot said that they will be monitoring Ion and will implement changes if things don’t go as they planned it.

Even though there are different opinions and concerns raised around the bot, the one thing that’s sure is that this breakthrough in politics and technology will bring a change to the way policies are implemented and governments their decision-making processes.

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Published on
April 5, 2023
Philip Gast

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