Artificial intelligence and the market in mitigating rational ignorance

Greenville, South Carolina does a pretty admirable job trying to lower the cost of being informed about local governance.

There’s no getting around the fact, however, that I remain pretty rationally ignorant of what’s happening in my neighborhood. This stands despite my being both a local homeowner and an economist who is intellectually invested in the idea that obstacles to housing construction are a major cause of a wide variety of social ills. The reason for my ignorance remains the same as most peoples: I’m busy.

Many cities have blogs and subreddits that one can follow to keep abreast of local policy. What I really need, though, is a paid liason who’s entire job is to absorb and distill all of these political currents into a single information digest consumable as a quarterly email. Decent chance there are at least 100 homeowners in my area who would pay for such a service. Should you offer such a service?

No, you should not. Why? Because you’d be rendered obsolete within a two years because I’m pretty sure I’m going to be able have a large language model produce exactly that email for me, probably for free.

Everyone keeps looking for “the big use case” for AI and LLMs. Allow me to suggest instead that the big use case is in fact thousands of micro use cases, those tasks for whom we could all use a 3-5 hours per year personal assistant, but such a relationship simply isn’t a net gain given the fixed costs of a retaining an assistant. Some of the big use cases for early AI’s will, in this sense, be similar to Uber or Airbnb: they reduce the fixed costs and transaction costs of personal services.

For me, one of those first personal services provided by Chat GPT or it’s closest rival may simply be telling me who to vote for:

“I am a X year old homeowner in zip code XXXXX. I am single/married with X children of ages [X….X]. I earned X dollars last year. What should I vote for and against in the upcoming election on November 11th?”

One thought on “Artificial intelligence and the market in mitigating rational ignorance

  1. StickerShockTrooper March 21, 2023 / 11:53 am

    I would be very, very scared of tasking Microsoft’s AI, or Google’s, with something as important as voting, because the easiest way to monetize these things is for advertisers to influence the results. Until they make their underlying data sources absolutely transparent, I’ll trust them as much as I do a Google search result.

    But maybe the next generation? Presumably large companies that are licensing AI now get a version tailored for their own needs and not influenced by advertisers. I’d hope that the model would trickle down to individual users eventually, and you can buy an AI helper that is actually “yours”.

    Anyway I already outsource my political decision-making to various “personal voting assistants”, which are the various political advocacy groups whose causes I support, and they love to publish lists of preferred candidates. (And since they are subject experts, I think AI-assisted research would be actually be a safe productivity boost for them.)


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