For the NORFACE Governance Online Lecture Series, I gave a talk on the Impact of Artificial Intelligence on Democracy.
Abstract: The success and widespread deployment of artificial intelligence (AI) have raised awareness of the technology’s economic, social, and political consequences. Each new step in the development and application of AI is accompanied by speculations about a supposedly imminent but largely fictional artificial general intelligence (AGI) with (super-)human capacities, as seen in the unfolding discourse about capabilities and impact of large language models (LLMs) in the wake of ChatGPT. These far-reaching expectations lead to a discussion on the societal and political impact of AI that is largely dominated by unfocused fears and enthusiasms. In contrast, this talk provides a framework for a more focused and productive analysis and discussion of AI’s likely impact on one specific social field: democracy.
First, it is necessary to be clear about the workings of AI. This means differentiating between what is at present a largely imaginary AGI and narrow artificial intelligence focused on solving specific tasks. This distinction allows for a critical discussion of how AI affects different aspects of democracy, including its effects on the conditions of self-rule and people’s opportunities to exercise it, equality, the institution of elections, and competition between democratic and autocratic systems of government.
The talk will show that the consequences of today’s AI are more specific for democracy than broad speculation about AGI capabilities implies. Focusing on these specific aspects will account for actual threats and opportunities and thus allow for better monitoring of AI’s impact on democracy in an interdisciplinary effort by computer and social scientists.
The talk is based on two recent articles on Artificial Intelligence and Democracy and Artificial Intelligence in the Public Arena: