But research takes time. And for many of us, time is in short supply. So the political action committee of ReCenter Indiana—a bipartisan not-for-profit striving to move Hoosier politics back to the mainstream—did what you might be tempted to do.
We asked Google’s generative artificial intelligence tool, Bard, to do the work for us.
We had Bard profile the mayoral races in Carmel, Evansville and Indianapolis. Each report came back in seconds. (We also researched those three races ourselves; that took hours.)
Then we provided the AI-produced profiles to the participating candidates before recording interviews with them this summer.
Artificial intelligence seems to be “making stuff up,” observed Natalie Rascher, Republican nominee for mayor of Evansville. “I was just very surprised at some of the fallacies that came up,” she said.
“Boy, I thought, this one’s not ready for prime time yet,” said Jefferson Shreve, Republican nominee for mayor of Indianapolis.
In the Evansville race, Rascher is running against Democrat Stephanie Terry. Bard told us: “Rascher is … a former Vanderburgh County commissioner,” and, “Terry is … a former city council member.”
Both those statements are false. Rascher has never held elected office, and Terry is a current member of the Vanderburgh County Council.
In the Indianapolis race, the chatbot told us, “Shreve … is a former Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department officer.”
He isn’t. But in 2016, Shreve ran for a state Senate seat against a former IMPD officer.
The ReCenter Indiana PAC asked Bard to generate at least two separate profiles in each race. Bard’s other response on the Indianapolis race described Shreve as a political “newcomer.”
That’s also false. Not only did he run for the state Senate, he has also been appointed twice to the City-County Council.
Now Shreve is running against incumbent Joe Hogsett, a Democrat seeking his third term as mayor. Hogsett did not schedule an interview with us.
In Evansville, there’s a third candidate running for mayor. He’s Libertarian Michael Daugherty. He has not talked with us, either.
Bard also told us this: “Moms for Liberty has endorsed Sue Finkam in the race for mayor of Carmel.”
In fact, Republican Finkam was a sponsor and a speaker at this year’s Carmel Pride festival. The event was condemned by Moms for Liberty, a group branded as extremist by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Another sponsor and speaker at that event was Finkam’s Democratic opponent, Miles Nelson. Bard told us Nelson is a former schoolteacher. He is not.
Overall, we asked Nelson, was the generative AI report a fair characterization?
“Absolutely not,” Nelson replied.
Bard scrapes the internet for information, then puts words together. But it “does not decide what is true and what is not,” The New York Times pointed out.
Google engineers created Bard. If you search Google for frequently asked questions about Bard, you’ll find: “Does Bard give accurate and safe responses?”
Google’s answer, right off the bat, is: “Bard is experimental, and some of the responses may be inaccurate, so double-check information in Bard’s responses.”
Further down in the FAQs, Google delivers this vivid admission: “Bard … can hallucinate and present inaccurate information as factual.”
The office overseeing technology in Indiana state government said “wildly inaccurate results” are not its only concern.
The Office of Technology “has blocked the largest artificial intelligence-powered service, ChatGPT, from our network out of privacy concerns,” spokesperson Graig Lubsen told ReCenter Indiana in an email.
ChatGPT keeps and collates the information contained in the queries it receives, Lubsen explained, meaning that “Hoosiers’ data could potentially be exposed.”
The candidates we talked to all recommend consulting demonstrably reputable sources and doing your own research. In particular, we encourage you to watch videos we have posted at ReCenterIndiana.org, where participating candidates lay out their positions side by side.•
Adrianne Slash, a Republican, and Linda Heitzman, a Democrat, are board members of the ReCenter Indiana political action committee.