Minority Report? AI to rank Communist Party members
By Gavin Neale Blackburn

2017-07-21 17:01 GMT+8

1518km to Beijing

A cloud-based AI system will soon be scoring Communist Party members in southwest China on their job performance and ideological correctness.

The “Smart Red Cloud”, which has been developed by tech startup Yunshu Weilai under the University of Electronic Science and Technology (UESTC), will also monitor attendance at party events and social media posts.

The Party school in Sichuan Province is collaborating with the platform in the hope of making the selection and assessment of cadres “smarter”.

"We are going to digitalize the information of individual Party members as well as their connections and input the data into the cloud. A big data analysis and AI predictions will contribute to improving the construction of the party organization," said Lu Chuan, Deputy Dean of the Chengdu Research Institute at UESTC.

The Smart Red Cloud uses AI and cloud computing technologies. /VCG Photo

Developers claim that the platform, first devised in 2012, can also analyze past performance to predict future ideas and behavior.

"The CDO mode is a digitalized simulation of human relationships which enables the analysis of the activities of an organization in the past and the prediction of its future moves," Lu added.

But Sarvapali Ramchurn, an Associate Professor in Electronics and Computer Science at the University of Southampton, told CGTN about the risks of expecting computers to do too much for us.

“AI is only as good as the data you feed to it. In terms of politics-related activities, the only measurable parts are what someone records on some medium. We cannot measure people’s beliefs, we can only hypothesize about them,” he said.  

“There’s a real danger that algorithms will be profiling people and suffer from what is termed ‘algorithmic bias’, whereby some people may be incorrectly classified just because they diverge from the norm in minute ways.

Could the Smart Red Cloud see a national rollout? /VCG Photo

“Letting algorithms decide on who’s being 'ideologically correct' means that it may curb innovation and forward thinkers that diverge from the norm. Algorithms trained on past data cannot foresee the value of new thinking and importantly are devoid of any kind of emotion or understanding of it.”

But Tang Zhiwei, Dean of School of Political Science and Public Administration at UESTC, said the system will be helpful. “The project will contribute to enhancing the construction of basic-level party organizations with refined analysis, artificial intelligence and coordinated efforts," Tang said.

In addition to tracking members, the “Smart Red Cloud” also features an app providing information on new policies, activities and training events.

The platform has already been adopted by more than 50 organizations across the country, including the Communist Youth League and the Ministry of Education.