Reshaping our relationship with the state through technology
A government is a group of people with authority to administer a country. As any other institution, people manage it, and as such, the weakest part of the system is the human element. People get tired, their decisions are not always sound, and as a result, make mistakes. Because of this, governments need a new way of interacting with citizens. A system which provides their people with the services they require but stripped of all the red tape. It might sound like a panacea, but in reality, the foundations for such a system are already in place, all we have to do is create a Citizen Twin.
A Citizen Twin is a virtual copy of a real person whose goal is to help everyone lead an enjoyable life. It proposes a radical way of communicating with our governments by acting as a mediator between the virtual world and the physical space. People will no longer be restrained to their devices (such as a mobile phone, tablet or computer screen), but they will interact with governments using more natural interfaces (such as speech). Sensors, located nationwide, will become their extended feelers. The information collected is then analysed using advanced Artificial Intelligence (AI) algorithms and fed back to people in various forms. Whereas before, most of the connections were physical, now everything is shifting to digital. But I’m sure you’re wondering how it affects you as a citizen?
- Imagine a person waiting at a bus stop to go for an appointment with a public servant. The Citizen Twin will automatically communicate with his mobile device and push real-time bus scheduling information. The person did not request the data, but the bus stop provided the required data. If the bus is delayed, the Citizen Twin alerts the public servant concerned; automatically rescheduling the appointment.
- Elderly people who are still independent do not need to wear an annoying bracelet or worse, get institutionalised. A non-intrusive system will silently monitor the person in his house and raise automated alerts if the need for assistance arises.
- Governments will no longer issue carpet schemes with the hope of reaching the intended beneficiaries. The incentives will be automatically designed by the system and personalised for the individual’s needs. The Citizen Twin will learn from past experience, it will combine data from various departments and optimise government spending. People would not need to apply either. A shop closed due to the pandemic would simply have its incentives calculated by the AI, based on past performance. The owner would then receive a message on his phone asking him whether he would like to benefit from the scheme and if he approves, he’ll simply receive the money in his bank account.
- If we look at medical screening programs currently in use, most of them utilise statistical analysis. Take breast cancer; screening involves all women after the age of 40. But some women are more prone than others, so why not focus on those? A Citizen Twin can be much more precise; it can check if the person is physically active, overweight, drinks alcohol, their medical history, and so much more. If these factors are combined, the system can predict with high accuracy whether the person is more prone to develop cancer and in that case, refer her for testing while excluding those within the low-risk category.
- A Citizen Twin can easily combine data analytics, machine learning and AI to predict financial mishaps before they happen. The state can identify who is not getting the support they are entitled to and reach out to them ahead of time. A person who has just been diagnosed with an illness might not be aware that he is entitled to free drugs financed by the state. These programs will help people get all the assistance they need, thus ensuring that everyone benefits from the welfare state, especially those in need.
- Some countries tag offenders under house arrest with electronic bracelets. These people are not expected to stay home all day but have restricted mobility and well-defined time windows. The Citizen Twin can create a geofence for them and raises an alert if they venture beyond their restricted zone. However, it can do much more; it can calculate the probability of meeting a past victim. If a person accused of domestic violence walks close to his partner’s house, then the likelihood of relapsing increases. To avoid such situations, the Citizen Twin will direct the person towards choosing an alternate route, thus helping him throughout his reformation process.
But the idea of a Citizen Twin goes much further. A significant barrier to such a system is, without doubt, the fear of living under the vigilant eye of a big brother. But there are solutions to that. Today’s algorithms store the personal data on the person’s own device. The AI programs will then use techniques that access the device, learn the trends, and upload only anonymised data to the central server. If this is not reassuring enough, citizens can always stop the learning algorithms from accessing their data. Such a system will ensure that data access is both ethical and secure.
By using a Citizen Twin system, the AI can assist people in their daily lives. As a whole, this process brings new value to society in ways not previously possible before. People will get what they’re entitled to. Public funds will be channelled to those who really need them and taken from those abusing the system. The Citizen Twin will promote equity in society while ensuring that no one lags behind.