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Just want to observe a couple things about Salesforce's latest AI romp, this time into economics. Fortunately it's not been too widely reported on, so I was tempted to just leave it, but a couple of things need pointing out.
Before I start let me preface this by saying that I know this is "preliminary" work but it's also heavily backed by Salesforce's PR and has been widely reported in the press, and I think it should be discussed as seriously as it might be taken.
The first is that, like all models, this is based on assumptions about human behaviour, and simplifications to make them calculable. The addition of AI does not make it less of a model, even if it's very nicely presented. AI is not a crystal ball, it is a calculator.
The second is that it is ideological (like all economics). Presenting this as AI work, as usual, makes it feel more clinical. But the work is done with economists, and builds on specific views of the field (it also feels distinctly American, too, but maybe that's just me).
The most obvious example of this: the paper cites various economic sources and backs up many of its claims, but it also states several times that "taxation can discourage people from working" with no citation (that I could see). This work is built on very specific foundations.
AI research that intersects with society should be treated like a policy proposal from a political party. You should ask yourself what biases affected the proposal, what assumptions the proposal is built on, and to what end the research is being conducted. All the time.
Even well-intentioned research can be built on unstable ground, be blinkered to real-world issues, or be directed to bad ends. It doesn't need to be malicious. But we should be realistic in discussing it, because such ideas are rapidly filtering through to governments.
Above all, we should remind everyone that these systems are not truth. We all collectively need to agree how society should work. Even if we mathematically proved that the best way to run a society was to Logan's Run everyone at age 55, we would not be compelled to do it.
That's all for now. The work itself actually wasn't as complex as I thought - it feels not that different to the kind of modelling people have been doing with AI societies for decades. But I'm increasingly worried about AI/policy crossover, so I wanted to say a few things.
As a kind of closing tweet, I wanted to clip this bit from an article about hidden politics of systems. Sometimes at conferences I hear people discuss SimCity as a base to build AI simulations in to help design government policy. But whose model for society should we start with?
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