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AI and Democracy Summer Reading List

This list, curated by the GETTING-Plurality Research Network at the Allen Lab for Democracy Renovation, highlights a mix of foundational texts and new thinking on the timely issue of how AI will impact democracy, especially as we head into election season.

Graphic that includes all of the book covers mentioned in this list.

2024 is a historic election year for the future of our world’s democracies with over 80 countries voting in elections. This year has also been notably impacted by the rise in novel artificial intelligence systems, which present unprecedented challenges and opportunities for democratic institutions.

The reading list below on AI and Democracy, curated by the GETTING-Plurality Research Network at the Allen Lab for Democracy Renovation, highlights a mix of foundational texts and new thinking on these issues—connecting questions of technology ethics and governance to broader works in democratic theory. The selected material aims to support ideas that technological development should serve broader collective aims and interests, as well as that deliberative democratic governance provides just procedures and most effectively steers towards just ends.

The books and articles below explore the intersections of AI and Democracy rooted across disciplines from philosophy, economics, political theory, history, policy development, and more.

 Books

Power and Progress: Our Thousand-Year Struggle Over Technology and Prosperity by Daron Acemoglu and Simon Johnson Cover photo of the books "power and progress"

Daron Acemoglu and Simon Johnson tell a sweeping story challenging economistic conceptions of technological progress and automation.

Justice by Means of Democracy by Danielle Allen Cover photo of "Justice by Means of Democracy"

Danielle Allen outlines her mature theory of democratic justice, a product of several decades of work on deliberation, democracy, policy, and political economy.

The Political Philosophy of AI: An Introduction by Mark Coeckelbergh Cover photo of "The Political Philosophy of AI"

Coeckelbergh builds on a decade of work on the philosophy of technology to develop a manageable yet thorough introduction to various approaches in the philosophy of AI.

Atlas of AI: Power, Politics, and the Planetary Costs of Artificial Intelligence by Kate Crawford Cover photo of "Atlas of AI"

This is a magisterial overview of the material inputs and physical substrates behind abstract, data-based AI systems. Crawford identifies the power struggles and submerged politics behind contemporary technological systems.

Political Theory of the Digital Age: Where Artificial Intelligence Might Take Us by Mathias Risse Cover photo of "Political Theory of the Digital Age"

Risse’s book deals significantly with the kinds of epistemological threats posed by novel digital technologies, examining questions of verification and public discourse in the ‘digital age.’

How Data Happened: a History from the Age of Reason to the Age of Algorithms by Chris Wiggins and Matthew L. Jones Cover photo of "How Data Happened"

This history of the emergence of data as a fundamental unit of knowledge contextualizes the epistemology of contemporary AI, examining how it came to be that technologists believed human behavior could be so thoroughly measured and transformed into discreet packets of “data.”

Articles and Essays

A Roadmap for Governing AI: Technology Governance and Power Sharing Liberalism by Danielle Allen, Sarah Hubbard, Woojin Lim, Allison, Stanger, Shlomit Wagman, and Kinney Zalesne Cover photo of "A Roadmap for Governing AI" paper

Allen and her co-authors outline an approach to AI governance drawing on her political theory, one which aims to govern technology with an eye towards human flourishing and power-sharing liberalism.

Artificial Intelligence, Humanistic Ethics by John Tasioulas Cover photo of the journal "Daedalus"

Tasioulas makes a necessary case for humanistic values behind technological development.

Can Democracy Survive Artificial General Intelligence? by Alex Pascal and Seth Lazar Ballot box featuring a human head on the left side, and a human outline with cogs filling the inside on the right

Alex Pascal and Seth Lazar question the phantasmagoric aim of “AGI” that drives much of contemporary technological development in places like OpenAI, arguing that it is neither a clear nor necessarily desirable goal.

AI Nationalism(s): Global Industrial Policy Approaches to AI by AI Now Cover photo of the AI Now journal

AI Now, a leading organization conducting research and advocacy on AI, produced this powerful series of essays on industrial policy and AI governance, arguing for robust regulatory action to curtail the monopolistic power of big tech.

Other

Convening: Allen Lab for Democracy Renovation Conference on the Political Economy of Artificial Intelligence Swirly abstract AI desing with a play button in the bottom right corner

This convening invited experts in political economy, the history of science, and the ethics of technology to discuss the ways contemporary paradigms in technological development privilege the powerful and enable the centralization of corporate power.

New America Roundtable on Power and Governance in the Age of AI Abstract chip design with a play button in the bottom right corner

This roundtable featured leading voices from the Ash Center (including Bruce Schneier) and other organizations demanding greater power-sharing and accountability in technological development.

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Our Top Spring 2024 Events
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Will AI-assisted polls soon replace more traditional techniques?

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Experts gathered at the Allen Lab conference to examine the incentives and structures of AI development, as well as to discuss the past, present, and potential future of steering AI towards better serving the public interest.