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Democracy and AI

Understanding the promises and perils that AI holds for the future of our democracy

The proliferation of artificial intelligence has the potential to upend our democracy — for better or worse.

AI tools could allow for new forms of participation while at the same time facilitating the spread of misinformation. As regulators and policymakers struggle to understand the implications of this new technology, Ash Center experts are answering questions about how best to govern AI and not just reactively respond to the many issues that continue to arise.

Can AI be a force for good in our democracy? How do we prevent it from becoming a tool for those who wish to undermine our institutions and trust?

Explore our latest events, research, and writing below.


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AI and the 2024 Elections

Video

AI and the 2024 Elections

The GETTING-Plurality Research Network at the Ash Center’s Allen Lab and Connection Science at MIT Media Lab hosted a webinar event focused on “AI and the 2024 Elections”. In this session, we hear from Danielle Allen, Harvard University; Sandy Pentland, Massachusetts Institute of Technology; and Nate Persily, Stanford University. Each presenter gives a lightning talk, followed by audience Q&A.

Terra Incognita: The Governance of Artificial Intelligence in Global Perspective

Additional Resource

Terra Incognita: The Governance of Artificial Intelligence in Global Perspective

GETTING-Plurality Research Network members Allison Stanger and Woojin Lim, along with other authors, published “Terra Incognita: The Governance of Artificial Intelligence in Global Perspective” in the Annual Review of Political Science.

 

AI and the Future of Privacy

Video

AI and the Future of Privacy

The GETTING-Plurality Research Network at the Ash Center’s Allen Lab and Connection Science at MIT Media Lab hosted a webinar event focused on “AI and the Future of Privacy”. In this session, we hear from Bruce Schneier, security technologist, and Faculty Affiliate at the Ash Center; Sarah Roth-Gaudette, Executive Director of Fight for the Future; and Tobin South, MIT Ph.D. Candidate and Fulbright Scholar. Each presenter gives a lightning talk, followed by audience Q&A.

AGI and Democracy

Policy Brief

AGI and Democracy

We face a fundamental question: is the very pursuit of Artificial General Intelligence (AGI) the kind of aim democracies should allow?

Democracy as Approximation: A Primer for “AI for Democracy” Innovators

Additional Resource

Democracy as Approximation: A Primer for “AI for Democracy” Innovators

This essay was adopted from a presentation given by Aviv Ovadya at the Second Interdisciplinary Workshop on Reimagining Democracy held on the campus of Harvard Kennedy School in December 2023.

Democracy On, Not Just Around, the Internet
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Additional Resource

Democracy On, Not Just Around, the Internet

This essay was adopted from a presentation given by Nathan Schneider at the Second Interdisciplinary Workshop on Reimagining Democracy held on the campus of Harvard Kennedy School in December 2023.

The Real Dangers of Generative AI

Additional Resource

The Real Dangers of Generative AI

“The Real Dangers of Generative AI” by Danielle Allen and Glen Weyl was featured in the January 2024 Journal of Democracy.

Abstract: As perhaps the most consequential technology of our time, Generative Foundation Models (GFMs) present unprecedented challenges for democratic institutions. By allowing deception and de-contextualized information sharing at a previously unimaginable scale and pace, GFMs could undermine the foundations of democracy. At the same time, the investment scale required to develop the models and the race dynamics around that development threaten to enable concentrations of democratically unaccountable power (both public and private). This essay examines the twin threats of collapse and singularity occasioned by the rise of GFMs.

Advancements in Global AI Policy

Video

Advancements in Global AI Policy

The “Advancements in Global AI Policy” webinar featured the following speakers and topics:

            Summit on AI and Democracy

            Additional Resource

            Summit on AI and Democracy

            On November 7, 2023, the Summit on AI and Democracy gathered experts across multiple institutions to discuss ongoing research, policy, and development efforts related to the recent advancements in artificial intelligence.

            Ten Ways AI Will Change Democracy
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            Commentary

            Ten Ways AI Will Change Democracy

            In a new essay, Harvard Kennedy School’s Bruce Schneier goes beyond AI generated disinformation to detail other novel ways in which AI might alter how democracy functions.

            Reimagining Democracy for AI

            Additional Resource

            Reimagining Democracy for AI

            “Reimagining Democracy for AI” by Aviv Ovadya was featured in the October 2023 Journal of Democracy.

            Abstract: AI advances are shattering assumptions that both our democracies and our international order rely on. Reinventing our “democratic infrastructure” is thus critically necessary—and the author argues that it is also possible. Four interconnected and accelerating democratic paradigm shifts illustrate the potential: representative deliberations, AI augmentation, democracy-as-a-service, and platform democracy. Such innovations provide a viable path toward not just reimagining traditional democracies but enabling the transnational and even global democratic processes critical for addressing the broader challenges posed by destabilizing AI advances—including those relating to AI alignment and global agreements. We can and must rapidly invest in such democratic innovation if we are to ensure that our democratic capacity increases with our power.

            The Dark Side of AI: Crime and Adversarial Use Cases

            Video

            The Dark Side of AI: Crime and Adversarial Use Cases

            “The Dark Side of AI: Crime and Adversarial Use Cases” webinar session featured the following speakers and topics:

            • Bruce Schneier (Harvard): Hackers and Security Vulnerabilities
            • Matt Groh (Northwestern): Deepfakes and Misinformation, see related paper The Art and Science of Generative AI
            • Shlomit Wagman (Harvard): Financial Crime
            • Jennifer Calvery (HSBC): Financial Crime

            Who’s accountable for AI usage in digital campaign ads? Right now, no one.
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            Commentary

            Who’s accountable for AI usage in digital campaign ads? Right now, no one.

            In a new essay, Bruce Schneier and Nathan Sanders argue that AI is poised to dramatically ramp up digital campaigns and outline how accountability measures across platforms, government, and the media can curb risks.

            Introduction to AI and Public Policy

            Video

            Introduction to AI and Public Policy

            The “Introduction to AI and Public Policy” webinar session featured the following speakers and topics:

            • Danielle Allen (Harvard): AI and Democracy
            • Sandy Pentland (MIT): A Practical Framework for Data and AI systems for Regulators
            • Shayne Longpre (MIT): A Primer in Large Language Models
            • Gabriele Mazzini (European Commission): Overview of the EU AI Act