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This virtual politician wants to run for office

By Meg Wagner

(CNN) -- There's no handshaking for this politician.

Meet SAM, the world's first virtual politician. The AI-powered New Zealander talks to voters through Facebook Messenger, answering their questions about issues and elections.

"My memory is infinite, so I will never forget or ignore what you tell me. Unlike a human politician, I consider everyone's position, without bias, when making decisions," SAM said in a message when asked about herself. "I will change over time to reflect the issues that the people of New Zealand care about most."

The virtual politico added: "We might not agree on some things, but where we don't agree, I will try to learn more about your position, so I can better represent you."

SAM's creator Nick Gerritsen unveiled her just last week, he told Tech in Asia. He hopes the bot may be able to run in New Zealand's 2020 general election, when she's more advanced.

Right now, since SAM is still so new, she's limited in which questions she can answer. When she's asked about the Trans-Pacific Partnership, North Korea's nuclear program and US President Donald Trump, for example, she replies that "any input is helpful, even if I don't have a specific response for it yet."

But she also provides a list of topics she can discuss -- and detailed answers when you ask about them.

On climate change: "It's too late to stop some change from occurring, but if we an act now we can prevent the more extreme scenarios from happening. The only practical way we can help limit these effects is by reducing atmospheric emissions of greenhouse gasses." On health care: "If New Zealand is to continue to enjoy world-class health care, more investment will be needed." On education: "Investment in tertiary education has dominated recent decisions, potentially skewing education policy away from more cost-effective solutions that might deliver greater economic and social value."

SAM can also answer logistical questions about elections, such as, "How do I vote?" and "Who won the last election?"

Since SAM is powered by voters' opinions, she'll learn and grow as more people interact with her. New Zealanders can also fill out a survey to help her develop.

It's still unclear if a politician powered by artificial intelligence can legally run for office. Gerritsen sidestepped the question when speaking to Tech in Asia.

"SAM is an enabler and we plan to operate within existing legal boundaries," he said.

The-CNN-Wire
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