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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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It’s not too late to reimagine AI’s role in the world
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Feature

It’s not too late to reimagine AI’s role in the world

Computer scientist turned social scientist Ashley Lee discusses how policymakers and technologists alike can change the way AI is used — or not used — across the globe.

Disclosure Dilemmas: AI Transparency is No Quick Fix
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Commentary

Disclosure Dilemmas: AI Transparency is No Quick Fix

In a new essay, Mary Graham argues that transparency measures can help curtail AI-related risks but not overnight — transparency efforts require sustained, long-term engagement and effort.

GETTING-Plurality Comments to White House OSTP on National Priorities for Artificial Intelligence

Policy Brief

GETTING-Plurality Comments to White House OSTP on National Priorities for Artificial Intelligence

The GETTING-Plurality Research Network submitted a series of memos which respond to various questions posed around the topics of bolstering democracy and civic participation; protecting rights, safety, and national security; and promoting economic growth and good jobs.

AI could shore up democracy – here’s one way
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Commentary

AI could shore up democracy – here’s one way

What if AI turns out to be the one tool able to identify what makes your ideas special, recognizing your unique perspective and potential on the issues where it matters most?

How AI could take over elections – and undermine democracy
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Commentary

How AI could take over elections – and undermine democracy

In a new article for the Conversation, Ash Center Director Archon Fung and Harvard Law School Professor Lawrence Lessig introduce Clogger, a hypothetical political campaign in a black box.

Putting Flourishing First: Applying Democratic Values to Technology
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Policy Brief

Putting Flourishing First: Applying Democratic Values to Technology

In this short web ethics research brief, the authors unpack and comment on the four-step logic at the core of GETTING-Plurality’s foundational white paper, Ethics of Decentralized Social Technologies: Lessons from Web3, the Fediverse, and Beyond. They outline four assertions from the paper that demonstrate the power and the challenge of web ethics – and above all, the urgency – of placing human flourishing at the center of technology governance.

Plural Publics
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Policy Brief

Plural Publics

The authors highlight why we believe the problem of “plural publics” to be a core challenge of data governance, discuss existing tools that can help achieve it and a research agenda to further develop and integrate these tools.

Bruce Schneier Wants to Recreate Democracy
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Feature

Bruce Schneier Wants to Recreate Democracy

Arguing that American democracy has been hacked, the computer security expert doesn’t want to just fiddle on the margins when it comes to re-envisioning what a new 21st-century American democracy should look like.

How AI could write our laws

Commentary

How AI could write our laws

ChatGPT and other AIs could supercharge the influence of lobbyists—but only if we let them.

Book Talk – A Hacker’s Mind: How the Powerful Bend Society’s Rules, and How to Bend them Back

Video

Book Talk – A Hacker’s Mind: How the Powerful Bend Society’s Rules, and How to Bend them Back

You’re invited to watch a book talk with Harvard Kennedy School’s Bruce Schneier, author of “A Hacker’s Mind: How the Powerful Bend Society’s Rules, and How to Bend them Back.” Schneier was joined in conversation by moderator Archon Fung, Director of the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation and Winthrop Laflin McCormack Professor of Citizenship and Self-Government.

We Don’t Need to Reinvent our Democracy to Save it from AI
Text from the ChatGPT page of the OpenAI website is shown in this photo, in New York, Feb. 2, 2023.

Commentary

We Don’t Need to Reinvent our Democracy to Save it from AI

When is it time to start worrying about artificial intelligence interfering in our democracy? Maybe when an AI writes a letter to The New York Times opposing the regulation of its own technology.

Hacking to harm and heal democracy

Q+A

Hacking to harm and heal democracy

In a new book, Bruce Schneier details how tricks, exploitations, and loopholes are benefiting those in power — and how a ‘hacking’ mindset can help us set things right.

Digital Humanism: The Time Is Now

Digital Humanism: The Time Is Now

Digital humanism highlights the complex relationships between people, society, nature, and machines. It has been embraced by a growing community of individuals and groups who are setting directions that may change current paradigms. Here we focus on the initiatives generated by the Vienna Manifesto.

How ChatGPT Hijacks Democracy

Commentary

How ChatGPT Hijacks Democracy

“… for all the consternation over the potential for humans to be replaced by machines in formats like poetry and sitcom scripts, a far greater threat looms: artificial intelligence replacing humans in the democratic processes — not through voting, but through lobbying.”