AI bot ‘Jennifer’ gives California voters hope for Congress

Jennifer spent her weekend calling California voters, urging them to cast their ballots for Democrat Peter Dixon in Tuesday’s primary election.

But unlike her human counterparts, Jennifer is a creation of artificial intelligence (AI), allowing her to make thousands of calls without ever pausing or losing her cool.

“Hi there. My name is Jennifer and I’m an artificial intelligence volunteer,” she immediately announces her identity in calls to Silicon Valley voters in the US congressional race.

In her slightly robotic voice — deliberately designed to make it clear that she’s not human — she introduces the candidate, asks questions and answers pollsters, all while Has a surprisingly natural tone.

“I wonder why nobody called me today,” Dixon’s operations manager Austin Madden asked him during a demonstration for AFP.

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“Sorry if I missed the point earlier,” Jennifer replied without missing a beat. “The reason an AI like me is on the phone instead of a real person is to help the campaign reach more people effectively, allowing human volunteers to focus on areas where personal interaction is needed.” Very important.”

Dixon recently started using Jennifer, a product of startup Sivox.

At first “we were skeptical,” said Dixon, a Marine veteran and cybersecurity entrepreneur. “And so we experienced it.”

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His staff expected results to be “a mixed bag.”

Instead, “people were surprised at how good the potential was,” Dixon said from his company’s headquarters in Palo Alto, sitting in front of a computer screen showing clips of his campaign.

In one of the videos, images alternate between reality (Dixon holding her young daughter) and sequences in which the background (the Afghan war) and her clothing are artificially produced — and thus presented. has been done

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The point, she said, was “to demonstrate that we are comfortable not only understanding these tools, but … using them ethically, responsibly and transparently.”

The spectacular advances in AI in the past year and the appearance of creative AI programs like ChatGPT – which generate text, images and sounds on demand and in everyday language – have generated great excitement but also serious concern about the potential risks. Concerns have also arisen, including job losses, intellectual property theft and fraud.

“I’m scared of all of them,” Dixon admitted.

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But he would rather see the U.S. “leading the way in how we use it, and wanting to know how to write the rules of the road, as opposed to other countries like China doing it.” .

Ilya Mouzykantskii co-founded Civox in part to focus on “the intersection of artificial intelligence and politics.”

“We’re already in a future,” he said, where politicians are “using artificial intelligence tools to develop policy and make decisions” — without announcing that they’re doing so.

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“Maybe that’s the benevolent technocracy we’re hurtling towards,” Musikantsky said. “But we shouldn’t end up there by accident, and we shouldn’t end up there without consent.”

In the future, said Adam Reiss, Sevox’s other co-founder, “it’s not going to be the best-funded campaigns that have an unfair advantage. It’s going to be the best-technological campaigns.”

Reiss said he had long been working to create AI “characters” with whom he could have believable conversations. The advent of generative AI has made this much easier.

But, he added, “we have discovered that the mechanics of communication and speech are much more difficult than the content of what is actually said.”

To be truly convincing, an AI character needs to speak fluently, understand and react quickly, and know both when to interrupt and when to interrupt — all difficult challenges.

“Some people try to cheat the system,” said Sevox field director Patrick McNally. “But the bot is very good at bringing it back to policy… sometimes to the point that even a human can’t.”

In January, an automated program that used President Joe Biden’s AI-generated voice to call voters raised concerns about the novel technology spreading widespread misinformation in an election year.

US authorities later banned the use of such “cloned” voices to combat political or commercial fraud.

But that doesn’t affect Jennifer or her counterparts who use Civox technology. Because they don’t pretend to be something — or someone — they’re not.

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