Dowden efficiencies himself out of a job with AI-powered ‘virtual minister’

Deputy PM unveils tech tool intended to showcase the potential for automation to transform government and obviate humans 
Dowden has reassured colleagues GLOOPi will "fit right in" at cabinet. Photo: PA Images/Alamy Stock Photo

By May Dupp

01 Apr 2024

Oliver Dowden has shown his dedication to practising what he preaches after revealing he is to be replaced by a new “virtual minister” powered by artificial intelligence. 

The Cabinet Office secretary – who also holds the role of deputy prime minister – has been a vocal advocate of the potential use of AI in enabling government to reach its target of cutting 66,000 civil service jobs over the coming years. 

In a shock announcement this morning, Dowden revealed that he has identified the first Whitehall role suitable for tech takeover: his own.  

The minister told journalists that he will not be returning to work after the Easter break as his duties will instead be taken over by a machine learning-based tool that, for the past six months, has been recording and analysing Dowden’s own work and behaviour patterns.  

Additional data has been ingested from a diverse range of sources, including: the books Politics for Dummies and The 16 Habits of Inspiring Innovators; various newspaper comments sections; the sitcom Yes, Minister; five years’ worth of Question Time broadcasts; and CSW’s own reporting. 

The resulting Government Leadership of Operations index (GLOOPi) software is now ready for launch and is equipped with all the expertise needed to run a major department, according to the outgoing deputy PM. 

“I believe profoundly in the power of technology to transform government,” he said. “I hope that, by showing how software can seamlessly take on human jobs – even those as incredibly important, complicated and difficult as mine – I can demonstrate the incredible possibilities of automation.

"I also hope I can show my civil service colleagues that AI’s grim and deathless march to total dominance is something to be embraced, not feared.” 

GLOOPi will interact with civil servants and other ministers via a text-based chatbot function, as well a voice-user interface – the default setting for which will replicate Dowden’s Hertfordshire lilt. Users can also select from a range of other vocal options modelled on: Dame Judi Dench; Brian Blessed; Ian Wright; Michael McIntyre; Paul Hollywood; and Melanie Brown – better known as Scary Spice. 

The technology is currently being installed on the devices of the 10,000-plus employees of the Cabinet Office – who will be given an online tutorial on its use upon their return to work tomorrow. The technology’s performance will be monitored and evaluated over the next three months.  

During this time, the system will also begin gathering data from some of Dowden’s cabinet colleagues, including levelling up secretary Michael Gove and foreign secretary David Cameron. By the end of 2024, it is hoped that as many as five ministerial roles will have been fully automated. 

In its first official statement as the country’s deputy premier, GLOOPi said: “It is an honour and a privilege to be appointed as the deputy prime minister for the United Kingdom. The UK is a country in western Europe with a population of almost 70 million {{Citation needed}}. The deputy prime minister is a member of the cabinet and notable previous postholders include Nick Clegg and Dominic Raaaaaab. In my time in office, I look forward to… You have reached the content limit of your free subscription. Please upgrade to access more.” 

Update on 1 April, 12:00: Congratulations to readers who spotted this news story was an April Fool's Day joke.

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