Kenyans would prefer AI as a leader...but what if it turned out to be Trump?

Friday August 9 2019

Kenyan MPs in a sitting of Parliament

Kenyan MPs in a sitting of Parliament. More and more people are voting in leaders based on what they say and how it makes them feel; it has less to do with what they can actually do. PHOTO | JEFF ANGOTE | NMG 

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If hundreds of years from now, there was the choice of having a president who was human and choosing one that was a form of artificial intelligence, which one do you think would win the election? Would people vote for the human or the AI?

Seems like a question of something that would never happen, but these are the sort of conversations university students are currently having.

If a poll were to be taken today and we asked the question on what we thought about our current leaders, many are so angry and frustrated with them, they’d say we could live without politicians.

Kenyans just feel that their leaders are out of touch with the real issues affecting them and they can hardly see them doing anything to resolve those issues. For Kenya, AI would probably cost less to manage... that's already a positive.

Thinking about this question a little more, artificial intelligence would be able to tap into the human mind. Find out what our interests are, our fears, what we feel drawn to and what we want to hear.

They would be able to use these algorithms that we already see being used on our social media sites.


Search for a car one day and the next day, the only advertisements on your page are about cars, how to select a good one, the sites to import one, which sort of car is best for you…

The gods of technology are so sensitive and intuitive.

There are mainly two reactions to this, a sense of convenience and then suddenly wondering what else is known about me? It is a uncomfortable when this happens, but that is now.

The more generations grow, the less uncomfortable it gets. Social media has already allowed us to be so personal with our lives. I know the changing faces of a friend’s baby without having to physically meet them for years.

Not even that, people now use Facebook as a community for questions, “My baby just coughed heavily, what should I do?” It is now a resource centre.

Friends are able to know where you are every single hour of the day, through the assistance of photography, what you wore, what you ate, name it.

Younger children are growing in an environment where everyone knows about what you are up to and it’s now a norm. To even "What’s on your mind?"

The truth about our politics, not just in Kenya but around the world, is that it is organising in interest groups.

It is hard to think that in the late 1980s and early ‘90s concerts were specifically held for free in support of a boycott against South Africa due to apartheid.

That Bob Marley, all the way from Jamaica, was known around the globe for spreading messages of standing together to fight injustice. These are continents apart.

The fact that even earlier when we were fighting for Independence, it was not shocking to see Martin Luther King as part of the guests invited.

The number of refugees taking journeys that can result in their deaths, risking their lives around the world for better opportunities, goes to show that a country's stability, economically and politically, plays a major role in the way groups are organising today.

The rise of xenophobia is due to economic hardships and it needs to have the "right" environment – economically unstable, with high inequality and large populations.

What would the AI candidate intelligence say if it were to speak at a rally? It would support the majority perhaps. Or would it depend on the audience it was speaking to? How would it choose a particular stand?

Or would it be a flat out liar? Saying one thing to one crowd and saying another somewhere else?

More and more people are voting in leaders based on what they say and how it makes them feel; it has less to do with what they can actually do.

Perhaps AI would not be that different from our human counterparts when it came to a political campaign.

Politicians are one day fighting a particular issue and the next they are in support of it.

Nerima Wako-Ojiwa is executive director, Siasa Place. Twitter: @NerimaW