Yeah, yeah, I know. I should stay out of politics and current events; certainly, if I do, I shouldn’t contribute to our current state of tribalism by affiliating with any political tribe.
But I have to, because (Warning: Breaking Political News follows) in case you missed it, the inmates really are trying to run the asylum. Only they’re failing; also, I’m not being fair to the non-metaphorical asylums, let alone their inmates.
Call me naïve; I can’t help thinking that if we could limit every inmate to statements that are factually correct, then our asylum’s governance couldn’t help but improve.
No, this isn’t a particularly novel sentiment. Worse, merely bemoaning that our public discourse has been polluted by Jewish Space Lasers and preposterous braggadocio about power poles and power lines. doesn’t accomplish very much.
Bemoaning is useless. Fortunately, I think I’ve just designed a way to leverage artificial intelligence technologies to improve the quality of our great nation’s political dialog.
It starts with an ankle bracelet.
But not just any ankle bracelet. This one wouldn’t track its wearer’s location to make sure they don’t violate the terms of their parole.
This one would track the factualness of its wearer’s statements. On uttering something completely or mostly false, the ankle bracelet would emit a deafening sound effect (ah-ooooo-ga!(?)) along with a loud voice yelling “Liar, liar, pants on fire!” or something equally pithy. And unless the wearer immediately retracted the statement it would be ‘posted (what used to be “tweeted”) along with a snarky and disparaging commentary.
The goal would be to humiliate any and every public servant who doesn’t respect basic honest discourse.
Who would have to wear one of these undecorative but useful pieces of information technology?
That would be anyone and everyone who holds or aspires to holding elective or high-level appointive office.
But … I can hear critics complain … wouldn’t this violate the office-holder’s first amendment rights?
I don’t think so, for two reasons.
The first: Nobody (and nothing) stops anyone from saying or publishing anything. The magic AI gadget would be responsive, not preventive.
And second: Very much like a driver’s license, we can define running for office as implied consent.
Now I’m the first to caution that machine-learning-style AI insights aren’t completely reliable. The KJR Honesty-Assessment Ankle Bracelet would only be as reliable as its training data.
A technology and process like this would certainly require an appeals process. We might even imagine that this appeals process would be fair, with published retractions when necessary, and with the cost of investigating the appeal paid by the bracelet manufacturer if the appeal is affirmed, but … fair is fair … paid by the offender if the bracelet’s assessment is upheld.
Bob’s last word: This week’s screed might strike you as satire. Satire was, in fact, my plan.
But as long-time readers know I’ve been warning about the dangers of intellectual relativism and the organizational importance of a culture of honest inquiry for a very long time now, and recent events just reinforce that we as a society need to do something, and the fact-checkers we have in place, no matter how good they are, just don’t scale up enough to cope with the scope of the problem..
I’m not yet convinced we need to do anything quite this radical. But a concerted effort to reinforce the importance of factualness in our public dialog? Absolutely. A process that ridicules, lambasts, embarrasses, and otherwise humiliates the propagandists who increasingly control our public dialog?
Sign me up!.