Chatbot vs. Bloomington candidates for city office

With each election cycle, the League of Women Voters hosts a website with candidate profiles. It’s called Vote 411.

Chatbot icon with text: As an AI language model, I cannot seek elected office in the city of Bloomington, Indiana.

Included below are links to all the LWV profiles for all candidates in Bloomington’s city primary elections—for mayor, clerk, and city council.

The Vote 411 profiles include the answers that candidates have written to questions posed by LWV.

What if the same questions were posed to a chatbot that has been trained on a giant corpus of text, to respond to conversational prompts?

The B Square posed the LWV’s questions to ChatGPT, which is an artificial intelligence chatbot developed by a company called OpenAI. It was released late last year. (GPT stands for Generative Pre-training Transformer.)

The LWV questions were given minor tweaks, like swapping in “Bloomington, Indiana” for “the city” to give ChatGPT a shot at providing answers that reflect the unique circumstances of Bloomington.

Another tweak: In places where the LWV questions use the second-person pronoun “you,” some kind of passive voice construction was swapped in. That’s because ChatGPT tends to respond with a disclaimer of sorts when asked about itself. For example, “As an AI language model, I have never tasted maple syrup, …”

Readers are invited to use ChatGPT as a kind of baseline, to judge the answers given by candidates. Is a given candidate’s answer better than a chatbot’s?

A chatbot answers League of Women Voter questions

The B Square: If you had to answer a question with a response that has fewer than 750 characters, does your programming allow you to do that?

ChatGPT: Yes, as an AI language model, I can provide responses with fewer than 750 characters. In fact, I can generate responses of varying lengths, depending on the complexity of the question and the level of detail required in the response.

The B Square: OK, here’s a question I need answered in 750 characters or fewer. What role, if any, should the city of Bloomington, Indiana have in improving mental health and reducing drug dependence, and why?

ChatGPT: The city of Bloomington, Indiana should have an active role in improving mental health and reducing drug dependence. The city can provide accessible mental health resources and services, promote prevention and education, offer support to individuals struggling with addiction, and collaborate with other organizations. By doing so, the city can help individuals lead healthier, happier lives, and build a stronger, more resilient community.

The B Square: In fewer than 750 characters, what, if anything, should the city of Bloomington, Indiana, do to increase local affordable housing?

ChatGPT: To increase local affordable housing, the city of Bloomington, Indiana can implement policies such as zoning changes to allow for more affordable housing development, incentivize developers to build affordable housing, and partner with non-profit organizations to create affordable housing projects. Additionally, the city can provide financial assistance to low-income residents to help them secure housing.

The B Square: In fewer than 750 characters, please tell me: Given the recent attack in Bloomington, Indiana on a woman of Asian descent, what should be done to ensure that all Bloomington residents, particularly those who have been made vulnerable or marginalized, feel safe in public spaces?

ChatGPT: To ensure that all Bloomington residents, particularly those who have been made vulnerable or marginalized, feel safe in public spaces, the city should implement measures such as increased police presence in areas where attacks have occurred, community outreach programs, public awareness campaigns, and diversity and inclusion training for city employees. The city should also collaborate with local organizations to address the root causes of discrimination and promote cultural understanding and acceptance.

The B Square: Bloomington Indiana’s 2021 Climate Action Plan has numerous goals for mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions and adaptation to climate change. In fewer than 750 characters, what should be done to achieve these multiple goals?

ChatGPT: To achieve the goals outlined in Bloomington Indiana’s 2021 Climate Action Plan, the city should implement a range of strategies, including improving energy efficiency in buildings, promoting alternative modes of transportation, increasing the use of renewable energy sources, reducing waste and promoting recycling, and preserving and expanding green spaces. Additionally, the city should engage with community members, businesses, and organizations to promote collective action and support for climate mitigation and adaptation efforts.

The B Square: In fewer than 750 characters: How should the city of Bloomington, Indiana handle the varying traffic needs of bikes, busses, cars, delivery vehicles, pedestrians, and scooters?

ChatGPT: To handle the varying traffic needs of bikes, busses, cars, delivery vehicles, pedestrians, and scooters, the city of Bloomington, Indiana should prioritize safe and efficient transportation for all modes. This can be achieved by implementing infrastructure improvements such as bike lanes, sidewalks, and pedestrian crossings, improving public transit options, promoting alternative modes of transportation such as biking and walking, and enforcing traffic laws to ensure safety for all. Additionally, the city can partner with local businesses and organizations to encourage the use of sustainable transportation options.

The B Square: Is the level of apparent conflict among local government officials in Bloomington, Indiana, a legitimate concern? If so, in fewer than 750 characters, what should be done to decrease conflict and increase collaborative problem solving?

ChatGPT: The level of apparent conflict among local government officials in Bloomington, Indiana is a legitimate concern as it can hinder effective decision-making and harm the community’s trust in government. To decrease conflict and increase collaborative problem solving, the city should prioritize open communication, establish clear goals and priorities, promote transparency and accountability, and foster a culture of mutual respect and understanding. Additionally, the city can provide training and support for officials to improve their conflict resolution and collaboration skills.

 

Links to League of Women Voter profiles

Mayor

Don Griffin, Jr (Dem)

Susan Sandberg (Dem)

Kerry Thomson (Dem)

 

Clerk

Nicole Bolden (Dem)

 

City Council District 1

Joe Lee (Dem)

Isabel Piedmont-Smith (Dem)

 

City Council District 2

Kate Rosenbarger (Dem)

Sue Sgambelluri (Dem)

 

City Council District 3

Ron Smith (Dem)

Hopi H Stosberg (Dem)

Conner Wright (Dem)

Brett Heinisch (Rep)

 

City Council District 4

Dave Rollo (Dem)

 

City Council District 5

Shruti Rana (Dem)

Jenny Stevens (Dem)

 

City Council District 6

David Wolfe Bender (Dem)

 

City Council At Large

Isak Asare (Dem)

Matt Flaherty (Dem)

Andy Ruff (Dem)

Lois Sabo-Skelton (Dem)

Jonas Schrodt (Dem)

Ryne Shadday (Dem)

Stephen Volan (Dem)

 

 

 

5 thoughts on “Chatbot vs. Bloomington candidates for city office

  1. Good one, Dave. I only hope — vainly — that the candidates won’t sound the same. Of course, how concrete can you be in 750 characters. . . .

  2. An acquaintance once wryly noted that she will never vote for a candidate that blows off the LWV’s candidate profile. Presumably, while no one wants an official that just Shows Up, this is not even Calling It In.

  3. No answers from Don Griffin yet, I see. I prefer ChatGPT’s answers to the transportation question over either Sandberg or Thomson. Thomson does not seem to be aware of the master plan or the bicycle grid that have been planned for many years.

  4. Dave, With every article I enjoy and appreciate the B-Square more and more. This is clever, insightful and, yep, somewhat concerning. Look out… here come the AIs !Sincerely, Bess Bohon Lee

  5. this bland boilerplate is indistinguishable from most of the candidates’ responses

Comments are closed.