India & Tech: Can Poetic Verse From Software & E-Ballots Help Win Elections?

As one wishes you a happy and prosperous 2023, a pro tip: Watch technology more than you watch politicians.

4 min read
Hindi Female

When good technology does the job of an amateur poet, it is time to wake up. I spent New Year's Eve, getting introduced to ChatGPT, the artificial intelligence chatbot from OpenAI that appears poised to shake up the world of technology (which includes Google, thank you)—and by extension, the world in general.

Wait, there is too much technology out there, and whether Prime Minister Narendra Modi gets to keep his seat in 2024 or not, indications are clear that scientists and assorted geeks are set to storm the planet from various directions in 2023— some providing confusing challenges to policymakers and regulators (as cryptocurrency is doing after a bubble flop in 2022).

Getting Acquainted With ChatGPT

Here's what ChatGPT did when I asked it to craft me a message to wish a speedy recovery for ace Cricketer Rishabh Pant after he suffered injuries in a bad car accident. Without my prompting, it offered, rhyme. But it had plenty of reasons. So here goes its first two stanzas:

Your skills and talent, we all do gleam

But now you're hurt, and that's no fun

We wish for you, a speedy recovery, oh one.

The cricket field is where you belong

Your fierce determination, never gone

But now you rest, to heal and mend

We hope for you, a quick end to this trend.

To cut a long story short, if Google gave you smart search results, Microsoft-backed ChatGPT can turn it into a nice little conversation piece, including amazing poetry if you consider that it is just a computer network on steroids that did it, using residual intelligence and information stored across the Internet.

Technology Wins?

We are told Google is worried but also that Google has its own competing offering called the Pathways Language Model (PaLM). Whoever does it, we can say in the manner in which Ravi Shastri praises cricket at the end of keenly contested matches that technology is the winner.

The jury is still out on whether ChatGPT is good enough to take on Google but there is enough ammo in it to grossly displace Instagram's vanity poets who write stuff only slightly better than the "I love you, jaanu' that you see scrawled on small-town college walls.

I feel like writing a dystopic futuristic sci-fi plot in which news editors get sacked because artificial intelligence can do their jobs even as social media-fattened readers cannot tell the difference between a real TV anchor and a deep fake video character. That saves salary bills.

This depressing equilibrium in which the increasing intelligence of machines matches the progressive mechanisation of the audience is the stuff of black comedy.

But in case you didn't notice, even elections are getting as easy as ordering food on your smartphone.


Voting via Smart Phone is Rife With Risk

In the last week of 2022, the Election Commission of India announced that it is ready to pilot remote voting for domestic migrants, so they don’t have to travel back to their home states to cast their ballots. Opposition parties, who fear EVM (electronic voting machine) rigging, are even more worried.

In the high-tech world, what you cannot figure out scares you.

But the homemade ECI's prototype for a Multi-Constituency Remote Electronic Voting Machine (RVM) that can handle multiple constituencies from a single remote polling booth is still a box. When you network such machines, the way you do smartphones already, the possibilities can boggle the mind.

One of the byproducts of the bitcoin/cryptocurrency surge is the blockchain technology that can potentially revolutionise elections.

Here is what ChatGPT, my assistant in writing this article, told me about the technology: "Blockchain is a decentralised, distributed digital ledger that is used to record transactions across many computers so that the record cannot be altered retroactively without the alteration of all subsequent blocks and the consensus of the network."

Picture it like a CCTV for all votes in a connected network with no scope to erase footprints.

A website appropriately called tells us that EVM circuits can be tampered with but if you use blockchain in voting "it stores everything as a transaction" and gives you a transaction ID for your vote (much like money transfers in Net banking). Out go logistical hassles of transporting EVMs and fears of booth capturing and ballot tampering. Future elections can be practically virtualised.

Er, can mid-term elections now be ordered like some product on Amazon?

At this rate, my election dystopia novel may precede my editor-tale dystopia oeuvre.


Keep an Eye on the Tech!

I am not even going anywhere near stem cells, gene mapping, cybercrime and such things. There is enough stuff in emerging technologies and what they can do in the world of humans for a hundred Netflix documentaries and Amazon Prime series. All you need to know is that technology is progressing faster than you can possibly figure out and this may put government agencies in embarrassing situations, not to speak of business entities.

I found it difficult telling a TV channel last week that India does not have data privacy laws in place even as data collection is crossing acceptable limits.

As one wishes you a happy and prosperous 2023, a pro tip: Watch technology more than you watch politicians. One of the two is highly predictable, while the other is likely to be more useful or disruptive.

(Madhavan Narayanan is a senior journalist and commentator who has worked for Reuters, Economic Times, Business Standard, and Hindustan Times. He can be reached on Twitter @madversity. This is an opinion piece and the views expressed are the author's own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for them.)

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