Now more than ever, it is vital for creative leaders to foster a deep connection to the people and planet they’re seeking to serve. In the uncharted territory of impact economics, there’s no room to demarcate between the different movements seeking to bring about ‘the big shift’. While no one can “win” at sustainability, we can all definitely lose. Mapping systems, pinpointing allies, and searching for common ground are just some of the ways we can identify points of leverage to combat inertia and avoid catastrophe.
But a lot of these tactics are much easier said than done. That’s where Nick’s latest venture comes in; enter, Sam. Billed as the world’s first “Virtual Politician”, Sam was born of a desire “to close the gap between what voters want, what politicians promise, and what they actually achieve.”
Going beyond data analysis and number crunching, Sam assesses the holistic views, values, and opinions of New Zealanders in order to synthesize and promote policies that serve everyone while minimizing harm to the planet.
“We asked ourselves, how we might effectively devise an accurate political persona that can be applied to every other geography or culture, enabling local governments to track down the best information before having to make difficult decisions,” Nick explains.
“Building an AI doesn’t mean signing up to IBM Watson and all of a sudden, everything is sorted for you. Along the way, we’ve learned that it’s an iterative process that takes a lot of time. You have to start from the ground-up. But compared to where we began, Sam has learned exponentially and its responses have become increasingly sophisticated as the data sets have grown.”
Since going public, the project has caught the attention of newspapers and media outlets in more than 90 countries. But, with so much interest building around AI’s role in governance, questions have also begun to crop up over its darker sides. What might happen if we allow all of our decisions to be made by algorithms? Who would be left at the wheel in the short-term, and what might become of our species in the longer term?
Nick doesn’t shy away when faced with these difficult questions.
“We can’t all serve in the government, but we all know that it should serve us. This is the same approach we should take with AI. If you cede all control to the algorithms, you can make a pretty quick jump to the singularity. We have to own AI and use it as a tool in order to avoid a doomsday scenario.”
AI has the power to radically reshape society. Though it may come with a vast number of risks and uncertainties, as a vehicle of social mobility, it has the potential to drive us from growth to impact-based economic systems.
“If any people can do it, it’s us,” Nick proclaims. “New Zealand was the first country to give women the right to vote, one of the first to offer its citizens cradle-to-cradle welfare, and a global leader of the nuclear non-proliferation movement.”
Freed from the constraints of our current modes of operating, we will inevitably face a torrent of questions without easy answers. Yet, the promise of impact economics and the dawn of AI signals a potential renaissance in human artisanship and ingenuity which will make the journey worthwhile if we choose to stay the course.