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METI tests AI in drafting Diet replies

  • January 8, 2018
  • , Mainichi , p. 2
  • JMH Translation

A pilot project that the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry conducted to use artificial intelligence to draft replies to Diet interpellations shows that the technology lacks the ability to comprehend ambiguous remarks made by cabinet ministers and bureaucrats. METI officials often work all night to draft Diet replies for their minister. To improve the efficiency of its work, METI will identify problems by the end of the current fiscal year and study them for AI introduction.


A private consulting firm undertook the project for 18 million yen. Diet logs over the past five years were input in its AI language processing service program, which is designed to generate drafts (in a bullet point form) by studying similar questions and answers in the past when presumed questions from lawmakers are keyed in.


The service was tested for two weeks in February 2017. About 80 METI officials used it and 50 of them responded questionnaires afterwards. Of the respondents, 48% said AI “hardly” or “seldom” generated drafts they wanted.


The analysis of the outcome shows that AI focused on general terms, such as “initiatives” and “smooth,” instead of recognizing policy terms, such as “corporate tax rate” or “subsidies to monozukuri [craftsmanship].” This attributed to the low accuracy of searching similar questions. There were also cases that AI had to make tough decisions in drafting responses, as what was asked and answered regarding policy implementation in the Diet interpellation was not clear.     


METI will consolidate Diet responses each division prepared in the past, its minister’s press conferences and other information that is necessary for AI to lead to answers and will explore the feasibility of AI introduction. “In Diet sessions, people sometimes play politics, make ambiguous comments or dodge questions, so a higher level of language comprehension skills is required,” said a METI official. (Abridged)

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