The notion of AI-optimized politics has been circulating for a while already, but it often clings onto one of two possible sides: the solutionists, who consider machines as tools to improve what humans haven’t properly managed, and the alarmists, who dread the possible loss of control should we entrust computers with managing our lives. But beyond these two basic imaginaries hide more questions and implications — algorithmization of politics is not just a question of ‘how,’ but also ‘why?’ What are the current rules of political representation, and what needs to be improved? Which voices are amplified in the current system, and which are suppressed? Are we using the correct metrics to define social well-being, administrative efficiency, or public responsibility? And could it be fair to vote with our data instead?
Meet Simones: Four Heroes from Beyond, Programmed to Optimize French Society
Simones De Gaulléon is a fictional candidate to the 2022 French presidential elections. Backed by a platform called 'France Ultime,' this political figure is an artificial intelligence merger of four prominent and idealized personalities who, each in a different way, contributed to the grandeur of France: Simone de Beauvoir, Simone Veil, Charles de Gaulle, and Napoléon Bonaparte.
Culturally progressive, historically aware, politically resilient, and diplomatically ambitious, the algorithm is as arbitrary and biased as the country it represents. Simones crawls the web, feeds on people's data to extract contemporary topics, and is trained to calculate solutions that can accommodate the political agendas it embodies while pushing French politics past partisanship. In a political landscape where anyone can make the dead say anything, Simones De Gaulléon claims to be the ‘true’ voice of the nation’s historical heroes and of their people.
The official narrative behind this project is that of a collaboration between two universities — one specializing in political sciences and future representation systems, the other in machine learning solutions carrying a key project to algorithmically recreate the personality of historical figures. The AI program is run daily and calculates a new measure which is then posted online for all to read, evaluate, and discuss.
A Fiction Brought to Life by Media Coverage
Simones' story and ideas have been extensively relayed by the press during the elections period, offering various takes on the proposals, their legitimacy, and the grey zones they reveal. For newspaper Libération, the focus was on the insightful absurdity of the candidate; Usbek & Rica picked up on the strangely out-of-time social realism and opened up the floor to questions from the audience; The francophone Swiss radio RTS discussed the value of AI-backed politics in highlighting challenges rather than answering them; L'Express looked at the democratic exercise provided through the experiment and asked, in a second article, for the AI's analysis of the Macron — Le Pen debate prior to the second round of voting.
A Fictional Politician Detached from Political Fictions
In reality, no AI was ever used in drafting Simones’ program — the fictional neural network served as a narrative black box that let us decouple controversial topics from their ideological anchors. It provided a pretext to present radical, absurd, and challenging proposals in a serious way, and a platform to discuss these for their inherent values rather than the attached stigmas.
Simones De Gaulléon addresses the people of France ahead of the presidential elections
French, with English subtitles
A Selection of Simones' Measures that garnered the most votes
to recognize domestic care as billable work
to set up a medical service on the model of the military service
to make hunting the only allowed source of meat
to lower the age of citizenship
to account for all hidden costs in defining the price of goods and services
to teach emotional skills in school
to offer days off for menstrual incapacity
to randomly draw olympic athletes among the population
to relocalize energy production and waste management
to store nuclear waste in orbital capsules
to integrate and refund sexual care as a medical practice
to make the four-hours workday the new standard
and other controversial ideas that benefit from being debated in fiction.
Just like a Mechanical Turk, the fiction proposed by the France Ultime movement and embodied by Simones De Gaulléon uses smoke mirrors to distract the audience from its illusory nature and instead focus on its implications.
Through a dedicated website, visitors were invited to voice their opinions on the proposed measures, and chat with a 'Simones light' restricted to simple conversations. They were able to access the fictional yet official genesis of the project and could see the candidate give a formal speech to the nation. The tone is slightly off, the grammar odd, yet what the machine has to say has a logic of its own.
Expanding The Fiction
Once the fiction was launched, it lived online and in the news. Simones took a life of their own, appropriated by users, visitors, citizens. Of course no one considers Simones a viable contender, but its proposals are heard and discussed with serious. No one questions the reality of the algorithm, however — that a machine may have a say in how to run a nation doesn’t seem to phase anyone anymore.
A final reveal of the fiction was done by our partner Max Mollon during the 'Calculated Lives' conference at the Paris Cité des Sciences et de l'Industrie.
A Collaboration With
Simones are voiced by
We would like to thank the journalists who showed interest in the project, either for its value as an art project or as political insight, and who gave it an additional platform to exist.
Signals that appeared since the project went live
12 FEB 2024 — Aljazeera
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