Belgium Figured Out How To Stop Lazy Politicians

"The Flemish Scrollers" Project Could Limit the Bad Habits Of Politicians.

Image of the Flemish Scroller project

Artificial intelligence (AI) is advancing by leaps and bounds, so the possibilities for its use are also increasing. Photo: TW-FlemishScroller

LatiAmerican Post | Luis Angel Hernández Liborio

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Artificial intelligence (AI) is advancing by leaps and bounds, so the possibilities for its use are also increasing. However, technology can be used in a negative way, a latent danger for artificial intelligence as well. For this reason, the Belgian artist Dries Depoorter has presented in his most recent work a critique of the risks of this technology and at the same time a kind of protest towards the legislators of his country with the project The flemish scrollers , with which he seeks to raise awareness about the limits of the use of artificial intelligence.

The flemish scrollers

The scroll in the name refers to the movement that people make with their finger to slide and move on a phone screen. The flemish scrollers , by Belgian artist Dries Depoorter, analyzes the broadcasts of the Flemish Parliament through the use of artificial intelligence and facial recognition. The technology looks for legislators who are distracted or using the cell phone, and as soon as it detects one of them in this situation, a screenshot is made and a tweet is published labeling it, according to the project page.

The artist sought to denounce the invasiveness of facial recognition technology, not precisely to expose the legislators. However, the success of the project has been due to the latter, so in the end, it has fulfilled part of its mission, which is to make people reflect on the power of artificial intelligence and facial recognition, in addition to the dangers that carries. 

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Would AI work against unpopular Latin American legislators?

It is not a secret at all how unpopular Latin American politicians are in general, especially legislators, due to their high salaries, bonuses, excessive spending, corruption, and even  their behavior in congress sessions where they are usually caught sleeping, distracted or absent . The technology used by Depoorter could be used directly in Latin America since the different congresses in the region have the transmissions of their sessions available through television channels and the Internet. However, citizens and authorities would have to assess what would be the ideal sanction for legislators who incur bad habits, beyond a call for attention on social networks.

The salaries of legislators in Latin America are usually high, for example in Chile they earn $ 9,400 a month, in Colombia $ 9,000 and in Mexico $ 3,700 , in all cases, the figures refer to dollars and do not include other earnings such as Christmas bonuses. . However, in general, the penalties for unjustified absences are minimal or null, and in terms of distractions in the sessions there are none. How to sanction a legislator who has fallen asleep in congress? 

Therefore, the Orwellian "legislative Big Brother" proposed by Depoorter is an interesting exercise, but for the Latin American case, it would lack the necessary sanctioning tools for it to be successful. If it were possible to link the vigilance of legislators with exemplary sanctions, it would be a totally different case, since the simple display on social networks does not seem to generate any impact on lazy politicians, that are accustomed to being hated. 

Current tools

Projects such as Legislatina, Latinobarometer, Barometer of the Americas, etc, give us indicators on the operation of the congresses and the public perception of them. For example in 2018 the project Visible Congress of the Faculty of Social Sciences of the University of Los Andes showed us the fall of the confidence of Colombians in their congress , with figures of between 18% in cities like Bogotá, up to 30% on average in the Pacific region. However, at the moment, the only real tool that the citizen has is his vote, to "punish" or "reward" those who wish to obtain public office. It is possible that in the future technologies such as facial recognition, artificial intelligence or big data could work to improve legislative work, as long as their results have an impact on congressmen.