Supreme Court docket Justice Elena Kagan warns AI-powered gerrymandering might undermine US democracy

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Elena Kagan

  • Federal courts can not hear challenges to partisan gerrymandering, in line with a 5-Four Supreme Court docket resolution on Thursday.
  • In her dissenting, Justice Elena Kagan warned that within the age of machine studying and synthetic intelligence, this resolution might put US democracy in danger: “Someplace alongside this street, ‘we the individuals’ change into sovereign now not.”
  • To Justice Kagan’s level, software program is already at work that may assist “crack and pack” voting districts into preparations extra appropriate to 1 celebration or one other.
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The opportunity of ending partisan gerrymandering — the apply of redrawing voting districts in favor one celebration over  one other — was all however obliterated on Thursday, when the Supreme Court docket dominated in a 5-Four resolution that challenges to the controversial apply can’t be heard in federal court docket. 

In an impassioned dissent, Justice Elena Kagan warned that within the period of synthetic intelligence, such a transfer might put American democracy in danger.

“Gerrymanders will solely worsen (or relying in your perspective, higher) as time goes on — as knowledge turns into ever extra fine-grained and knowledge evaluation methods proceed to enhance,” she wrote. “What was doable with paper and pen — and even with Home windows 95 — would not maintain a candle (or an LED bulb?) to what is going to change into doable with developments like machine studying. And someplace alongside this street, ‘we the individuals’ change into sovereign now not.” 

Whereas gerrymandering is not new, machine studying — the method of creating algorithmic predictions primarily based on historic info, and a cornerstone of recent synthetic intelligence growth — actually is. Amazon, Google, Microsoft, and nearly each different main tech firm are making AI and ML core to their services and products, and the expertise is more and more accessible to software program builders to be used in their very own tasks. 

Subtle laptop applications are already getting used to extra effectively “crack and pack” voting districts into preparations extra appropriate for one celebration or one other; to Kagan’s level, the arrival of machine studying means that is unlikely to decelerate.

And if voting districts look unusual now — usually resembling stick-figure impressionist work, reasonably than distributed voter groupings — simply think about how they might seem when synthetic intelligence is ready to predict precisely which voters should be through which districts to ensure that a selected celebration to win. 

However Chief Justice Roberts didn’t appear perturbed by the chance. 

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“We conclude that partisan gerrymandering claims current political questions past the attain of the federal courts,” he wrote in his majority opinion. “Federal judges don’t have any license to reallocate political energy between the 2 main political events, with no believable grant of authority within the Structure, and no authorized requirements to restrict and direct their selections.”

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