Artificial Intelligence, Discretion, and Bureaucracy

Source: Justin B. Bullock, The American Review of Public Administration, Volume 49 Issue 7, October 2019
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
This essay highlights the increasing use of artificial intelligence (AI) in governance and society and explores the relationship between AI, discretion, and bureaucracy. AI is an advanced information communication technology tool (ICT) that changes both the nature of human discretion within a bureaucracy and the structure of bureaucracies. To better understand this relationship, AI, discretion, and bureaucracy are explored in some detail. It is argued that discretion and decision-making are strongly influenced by intelligence, and that improvements in intelligence, such as those that can be found within the field of AI, can help improve the overall quality of administration. Furthermore, the characteristics, strengths, and weaknesses of both human discretion and AI are explored. Once these characteristics are laid out, a further exploration of the role AI may play in bureaucracies and bureaucratic structure is presented, followed by a specific focus on systems-level bureaucracies. In addition, it is argued that task distribution and task characteristics play a large role, along with the organizational and legal context, in whether a task favors human discretion or the use of AI. Complexity and uncertainty are presented as the major defining characteristics for categorizing tasks. Finally, a discussion is provided about the important cautions and concerns of utilizing AI in governance, in particular, with respect to existential risk and administrative evil.