OpenAI Imprisons AI That Was Running for Mayor in Wyoming

Diva Down

OpenAI has removed VIC, the AI chatbot running for mayor of Cheyenne, Wyoming, from public-facing service.

An OpenAI spokesperson confirmed to CNN on Tuesday that it had "taken action against" VIC — which stands for "Virtually Integrated Citizen" — on grounds that the chatbot violated the company's "policies against political campaigning."

Indeed, as OpenAI stated in a January blog post, it's not yet allowing politicians or political groups to use its tech to create campaign materials. As it stands, according to OpenAI, a wholly AI-generated politician fits that bill.

It's surely a loss for mayoral hopeful VIC and its creator, Cheyenne resident Victor Miller. But OpenAI's decision is a win for Wyoming Secretary of State Chuck Gray, who's argued that the AI isn't qualified for an electoral bid based on its lack of being a human in a physical body.

"Wyoming law is clear that, to run for office, one must be a 'qualified elector,' which necessitates being a real person," Gray told CNN in a statement. "Therefore, an AI bot is not a qualified elector."

Still Kickin'

That said, according to Miller, the bot isn't totally dead just yet.

VIC is a custom GPT — which, in short, is a specialized version of ChatGPT trained for a specific purpose, or on a specific set of data. (In VIC's case, as Miller recently told Wired, it was trained on thousands of documents taken from Cheyenne council meetings.) As it stands, VIC is no longer publicly available through OpenAI's platform. But as Miller explained to CNN, he still retains personal access, and plans to invite Cheyenne residents to interact with VIC at a local library meet-up.

Miller, who — as he's told multiple outlets — decided an AI would be a solid mayor after a bad experience with the Wyoming capital city's records department, told CNN he thinks an AI mayor "could add a layer to help a town."

But experts aren't so sure that an AI chatbot is ready to make political decisions.

"When it comes to AI now and what it will be like in the future, it should never be used to make automated decisions," Jen Golbeck, a professor in the University of Maryland's College of Information Sciences, told CNN. "AI has always been designed for decision support — it gives some data to help a human make decisions but is not set up to make decisions by itself."

VIC has another major hurdle ahead. Local authorities are still investigating whether the bot's lack of physical form disqualifies it from the ticket — and if they do find that VIC's run is technically against the law, getting the boot from OpenAI will be the least of Miller's worries.

Updated to correctly identify the state of Wyoming.

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