Digital artist Dries Depoorter has created an artificial intelligence (AI) algorithm that trawls through footage of politicians engaged in debates, then publicly shames anyone who gets distracted by their phone while parliament is in session.
All meetings of the Flemish government in Belgium are streamed on YouTube. The Flemish artist used AI software to go through the footage, scanning for any smartphones in view. When it detects phone use, it uses facial recognition to figure out which politician is distracted from the meeting and clips the video for social media. It then publishes the clip to Twitter and Instagram, and includes the perpetrator's social media handles, while telling them to stay focused.
When it's not looking at new footage, for instance when parliament is not in session, the machine learning algorithm will scour through old footage, according to Depoorter's website.
People generally seem on board with the idea, though some have pointed out that phones are now pretty productive tools, on which the politicians may be consulting figures or checking related emails. However – as Mashable points out – the Flemish Minister-President was spotted playing Angry Birds on his phone during a debate in 2019, about five years after the height of the game's popularity.
In 2013, Senator John McCain was caught playing a poker game on his phone during a Congressional hearing on Syria.
“As much as I like always listening in rapt attention constantly [to the] remarks of my colleagues over a three and a half-hour period, occasionally I get a little bored," the Senator told CNN. "But the worst thing is I lost thousands of dollars in this game [...] thousands and thousands of fake dollars.”
The program started running on Monday (July 5, 2021) and has already caught out four politicians who couldn't resist their shiny phone's lure. So far, none of them have been seen at an angle that would reveal what was so goddamn interesting that it took their focus away from proceedings.