TECH NEWS – The Romanian cabinet unveiled its newest member on Wednesday: Prime Minister Nicolae Ciucă called Ion, the artificial intelligence, an “honorary adviser”.
Ion is an artificial intelligence tool developed by Romanian scientists that, according to Ciucă, is designed to sift through data and “quickly and automatically capture citizens’ opinions and desires”. “We are talking about the first government adviser to use artificial intelligence.”
Nicu Sebe, the research team’s coordinator behind Ion, said the technology gives Romanians the “possibility to make themselves felt”, and the government can “hear this voice, look at this synthesis and also understand the emerging fields that may arise from these interactions with the Romanians.”
Ion’s algorithm is said to learn from the input over time. Its creators believe it could be used in other areas, such as education and public information. “The project is thought out in phases, that’s how artificial intelligence works,” says Government Minister Sebastian Burduja. “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, synthesise them and be able to produce reports that will inform decisions and policies of the Government.”
Both Burduja and Ciucă stressed that this was not a government initiative, nor was it publicly funded. According to Ciucă, both the government and citizens should see the use of Ion “not as an opportunity but as an obligation”, which could lead the Romanian state to “the adoption of better-informed decisions and of course for the improvement of communication and interaction between state institutions and citizens.”
Of course, some questions need to be answered about Ion. How exactly it works, whether it sorts the data correctly and whether it really prioritises accurately the things that the public wants to deal with. Depending on the extent to which Ion is integrated into Romanian governance, the public will need to understand its nature. There is also the simple fact that AI often does not behave as its creators predict. Will special interest groups outwit it, or will it become the Nazi that Bing’s chatbot was a few years ago?
Then there is the broader question of what this means for governments outside Romania if AI does what it says it does.
Maybe it’s just a clever PR stunt that will never be discussed again. But it is also possible that the future is being built before our eyes. Ion is now live, so we may get a clearer picture of which one it is in the coming weeks and months.