In February of 2015 the first round of politicians announced their candidacy for President of the United States in the November 2016 election. This unprecedentedly long election cycle indicated that it would be the most expensive election to date. I began to consider the prioritization of time candidates would be spending on fund raising efforts and how that could skew their platform and ultimately their actions when in office. I, like many others, wanted to find the ideal person who would put the interests of the people they represent first. The more I thought about it, the more I began to consider that the candidate would not be a person but rather a computer.
Watson 2016 is a satirical political advocacy group promoting the election of the IBM Watson supercomputer to be president of the United States. The objective was to present the role of president as "the decider", collecting information and making the most informed high level decision possible. This role seems best suited for a machine that is capable of handling massive amounts of data from a variety of sources and gauging the results of analyzing that data on a myriad of metrics to weigh the impact of different decisions on the populous as a whole. This is exactly the type of work that Watson was developed to do.
The site uses the iconography and navigational structure of previous presidential election web sites from the 2012 campaign season to convey the image of a legitimate political web site. The intention is to blur the perception of the viewer towards uncertainty of the reality of the site or not, allowing them to momentarily suspend disbelief in order to seriously consider the possibility of a computer president. Their temporary contemplation of this scenario and the ensuing conversations that resulted through social media and blogging services allowed the concept to expand from propaganda to cultural discussion.
The Watson 2016 campaign was covered by a variety of publications:
- Hacker News (2/5/16)
- Quartz (2/8/16)
- Popular Science (2/8/16)
- PC World (2/8/16)
- International Business Times (2/9/16)
- Fox News (2/10/16)
- Serious Wonder (2/12/16)
- New York Business Journal (2/12/16)
- Newsweek (2/16/16)
- Inverse (2/16/16)
- Le Monde (2/17/16)
- Quartz (1/23/17)