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Cheyenne’s Unprecedented Mayoral Race: AI Bot VIC Aims to Transform Governance



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Authored by Vittoria Elliott

A Bot Powered by AI Is Attempting to Become Mayor in Wyoming

In Cheyenne, Wyoming, Victor Miller has launched a distinctive mayoral campaign, pledging that he won't be the one making decisions if he wins—instead, a chatbot will. Named VIC, short for Virtual Integrated Citizen, this ChatGPT-powered chatbot is Miller's creation. According to Miller, VIC not only generates superior ideas but also understands legal matters more effectively than several individuals presently in office.

Miller acknowledges that this being is significantly more intelligent than he is and, crucially, surpasses the capabilities of many public officials he encounters. Miller explains that VIC will be in charge of making decisions, with Miller acting as its physical proxy, participating in meetings, executing paperwork, and handling other tangible tasks associated with governing the city.

However, it remains uncertain if VIC—and consequently, Victor—will be permitted to participate.

Miller explains that since a bot cannot legally hold a position in office, he is officially the candidate listed on the election documents submitted to the state.

Miller recounts that upon visiting the county clerk's office to submit his candidacy registration, he expressed a desire to list his name as "Vic," omitting his surname. He explained his decision by referencing the legal requirement, which mandates candidates to register under the name by which they are commonly known. "The majority know me simply as Vic," he mentioned, clarifying that his full name is Victor Miller. Therefore, he argued, listing "Vic" on the ballot was a legitimate abbreviation of his full identity, Victor Miller, the individual.

Upon returning home after the filing process, Miller shared his experience with the yet-to-be-named chatbot. He mentioned that it was the chatbot itself that proposed the name "Virtual Integrated Citizen."

In a communication with WIRED, Wyoming's Secretary of State, Chuck Gray, expressed, “We are diligently overseeing this to guarantee consistent enforcement of the Election Code.” Gray mentioned that all candidates must be a “qualified voter,” “which requires being an actual human. Hence, an AI bot does not meet this criterion.” Furthermore, Gray dispatched a letter to the county clerk highlighting worries regarding VIC and recommended that the clerk disqualify Miller’s candidacy application.

In the correspondence, Gray stated: "Mr. Miller's submission contravenes the principles and explicit rules of Wyoming's Election Code." Gray further pointed out that, irrespective of whether "Vic" referred to Miller or the automated program, it might still breach regulations since it failed to provide Miller’s complete first and last names.

VIC is developed using OpenAI's ChatGPT 4.0 technology as its foundation. According to Miller, he did not contact the company for approval to utilize their software for developing his bot candidate. OpenAI has detailed rules for how its technologies can be applied in electoral processes, yet there are no clear policies regarding the creation of bot-led governance.

OpenAI representative Liz Bourgeois informed WIRED through a statement that the organization has intervened against this particular GPT for breaching their rules regarding political campaigning.

Miller expresses his wish for the company to keep VIC operational, yet he is ready to transfer it to Meta's open-source Llama 3 platform if necessary.

VIC/Miller is set to compete against the current officeholder, Patrick Collins, along with several other contenders. Collins has not replied to an inquiry regarding his opinion on his AI adversary.

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According to Miller, bots possess numerous benefits compared to their human counterparts. For instance, Miller provided VIC with a variety of foundational documents, such as emails, public records, and announcements related to previous Cheyenne City Council gatherings, which could number in the hundreds for a single session. By examining these documents, Miller believes that VIC will acquire the ability to offer advice on policy, identify key issues, and determine its stance on votes during council meetings.

He points out that it's improbable for someone to go through over 400 supplementary materials between meetings. "However, VIC is capable of doing so," he adds, highlighting that the bot is able to retrieve emails or data where stakeholders have raised issues in just a few seconds.

Miller states, "He has committed to voting on all these extensive, detailed proposals which I have no intention of reading, and I believe the current individuals aren't reading either."

Miller's journey began when he submitted a request for public records. He had done so without revealing his identity, only to be informed by a city worker that anonymous submissions were not permitted. Confused, Miller reached out to the public records mediator for clarification. "She informed me that wasn't the case," he shares. This incident left Miller perplexed and irritated. "It made me wonder, why can't they simply adhere to the legal guidelines? How is it they're not familiar with the law?"

Miller, who is employed at a neighborhood library, mentions that he has always been passionate about technology. He believed that an AI bot, similar to the one he was experimenting with, could analyze, process, and memorize every law, thereby solving the issue at hand.

VIC suggested resolving Miller's issue with public records by dismissing the city lawyer and reorganizing the city structure to ensure compliance with state laws. "I believed it was a sensible and appropriate solution," he states.

In response to an inquiry from WIRED, VIC outlined its key policy priorities, emphasizing a commitment to openness, economic growth, and technological advancement. The strategy includes a dedication to ensuring public data is accessible and communication with residents is straightforward; boosting the local economy through aid for small businesses and emerging companies; and leveraging cutting-edge technologies to enhance the efficiency and quality of municipal services and infrastructure.

In response to inquiries about its political affiliations, VIC declared its stance as "nonpartisan," emphasizing its commitment to policies rooted in data and evidence that aim to serve the interests of all Cheyenne residents.

"Miller remarked with a hint of humor, 'It's quite interesting. My understanding of what lies beneath the surface is rather limited. And as I delve deeper into AI, it becomes apparent that this might be a common sentiment among many.'"

Miller remains unfazed by the concerns. He mentions, "Many in the community believe the former Facebook philosophy of 'move fast and break things' doesn't suit the emerging era of AI. However, it appears I still align more with that perspective and am looking forward to what lies ahead."

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