Latest Essays

AI Disinformation Is a Threat to Elections – Learning to Spot Russian, Chinese and Iranian Meddling in Other Countries Can Help the Us Prepare for 2024

  • The Conversation
  • September 29, 2023

This essay also appeared in Fortune.

Elections around the world are facing an evolving threat from foreign actors, one that involves artificial intelligence.

Countries trying to influence each other’s elections entered a new era in 2016, when the Russians launched a series of social media disinformation campaigns targeting the U.S. presidential election. Over the next seven years, a number of countries—most prominently China and Iran—used social media to influence foreign elections, both in the U.S. and elsewhere in the world. There’s no reason to expect 2023 and 2024 to be any different…

The A.I. Wars Have Three Factions, and They All Crave Power

  • Bruce Schneier and Nathan Sanders
  • The New York Times
  • September 28, 2023

There is no shortage of researchers and industry titans willing to warn us about the potential destructive power of artificial intelligence. Reading the headlines, one would hope that the rapid gains in A.I. technology have also brought forth a unifying realization of the risks—and the steps we need to take to mitigate them.

The reality, unfortunately, is quite different. Beneath almost all of the testimony, the manifestoes, the blog posts and the public declarations issued about A.I. are battles among deeply divided factions. Some are concerned about far-future risks that sound like science fiction. Some are genuinely alarmed by the practical problems that chatbots and deepfake video generators are creating right now. Some are motivated by potential business revenue, others by national security concerns…

Robots Are Already Killing People

The AI boom only underscores a problem that has existed for years.

  • Bruce Schneier and Davi Ottenheimer
  • The Atlantic
  • September 6, 2023

The robot revolution began long ago, and so did the killing. One day in 1979, a robot at a Ford Motor Company casting plant malfunctioned—human workers determined that it was not going fast enough. And so 25-year-old Robert Williams was asked to climb into a storage rack to help move things along. The one-ton robot continued to work silently, smashing into Williams’s head and instantly killing him. This was reportedly the first incident in which a robot killed a human; many more would follow.

At Kawasaki Heavy Industries in 1981, Kenji Urada died in similar …

Nervous About ChatGPT? Try ChatGPT With a Hammer

Once generative AI can use real-world tools, it will become exponentially more capable. Companies and regulators need to get ahead of these rapidly evolving algorithms.

  • Bruce Schneier and Nathan Sanders
  • Wired
  • August 29, 2023

Last March, just two weeks after GPT-4 was released, researchers at Microsoft quietly announced a plan to compile millions of APIs—tools that can do everything from ordering a pizza to solving physics equations to controlling the TV in your living room—into a compendium that would be made accessible to large language models (LLMs). This was just one milestone in the race across industry and academia to find the best ways to teach LLMs how to manipulate tools, which would supercharge the potential of AI more than any of the impressive advancements we’ve seen to date…

Re-Imagining Democracy for the 21st Century, Possibly Without the Trappings of the 18th Century

  • The Conversation
  • August 7, 2023

This essay was also published by Chron,, and UPI.

Japanese translation

Imagine that we’ve all—all of us, all of society—landed on some alien planet, and we have to form a government: clean slate. We don’t have any legacy systems from the U.S. or any other country. We don’t have any special or unique interests to perturb our thinking.

How would we govern ourselves?

It’s unlikely that we would use the systems we have today. The modern representative democracy was the best form of government that mid-18th-century technology could conceive of. The 21st century is a different place scientifically, technically and socially…

Six Ways That AI Could Change Politics

A new era of AI-powered domestic politics may be coming. Watch for these milestones to know when it’s arrived.

  • Bruce Schneier And Nathan E. Sanders
  • MIT Technology Review
  • July 28, 2023

This essay also appeared in The Economic Times.

ChatGPT was released just nine months ago, and we are still learning how it will affect our daily lives, our careers, and even our systems of self-governance.

But when it comes to how AI may threaten our democracy, much of the public conversation lacks imagination. People talk about the danger of campaigns that attack opponents with fake images (or fake audio or video) because we already have decades of experience dealing with doctored images. We’re on the lookout for foreign governments that spread misinformation because we were traumatized by the 2016 US presidential election. And we worry that AI-generated opinions will swamp the political preferences of real people because we’ve seen political “astroturfing”—the use of fake online accounts to give the illusion of support for a policy—grow for decades…

Can You Trust AI? Here’s Why You Shouldn’t

  • Bruce Schneier and Nathan Sanders
  • The Conversation
  • July 20, 2023

This essay also appeared in CapeTalk, CT Insider, The Daily Star, The Economic Times,, Fortune, GayNrd, Homeland Security News Wire, Kiowa County Press, MinnPost, Tech Xplore, UPI, and Yahoo News.

If you ask Alexa, Amazon’s voice assistant AI system, whether Amazon is a monopoly, it responds by saying it doesn’t know. It doesn’t take much to make it lambaste the other tech giants, but it’s silent about its own corporate parent’s misdeeds.

When Alexa responds in this way, it’s obvious that it is putting its developer’s interests ahead of yours. Usually, though, it’s not so obvious whom an AI system is serving. To avoid being exploited by these systems, people will need to learn to approach AI skeptically. That means deliberately constructing the input you give it and thinking critically about its output…

AI Microdirectives Could Soon Be Used for Law Enforcement

And they’re terrifying.

  • Jonathon W. Penney and Bruce Schneier
  • Slate
  • July 17, 2023

Imagine a future in which AIs automatically interpret—and enforce—laws.

All day and every day, you constantly receive highly personalized instructions for how to comply with the law, sent directly by your government and law enforcement. You’re told how to cross the street, how fast to drive on the way to work, and what you’re allowed to say or do online—if you’re in any situation that might have legal implications, you’re told exactly what to do, in real time.

Imagine that the computer system formulating these personal legal directives at mass scale is so complex that no one can explain how it reasons or works. But if you ignore a directive, the system will know, and it’ll be used as evidence in the prosecution that’s sure to follow…

Will AI Hack Our Democracy?

  • Harvard Kennedy School Magazine
  • Summer 2023

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Back in 2021, I wrote an essay titled “The Coming AI Hackers,” about how AI would hack our political, economic, and social systems. That ended up being a theme of my latest book, A Hacker’s Mind, and is something I have continued to think and write about.

I believe that AI will hack public policy in a way unlike anything that’s come before. It will change the speed, scale, scope, and sophistication of hacking, which in turn will change so many things that we can’t even imagine how it will all shake out. At a minimum, everything about public policy—how it is crafted, how it is implemented, what effects it has on individuals—will change in ways we cannot foresee…

Snowden Ten Years Later

  • RFC 9446
  • July 2023

In 2013 and 2014, I wrote extensively about new revelations regarding NSA surveillance based on the documents provided by Edward Snowden. But I had a more personal involvement as well.

I wrote the essay below in September 2013. The New Yorker agreed to publish it, but The Guardian asked me not to. It was scared of UK law enforcement and worried that this essay would reflect badly on it. And given that the UK police would raid its offices in July 2014, it had legitimate cause to be worried.

Now, ten years later, I offer this as a time capsule of what those early months of Snowden were like…

Sidebar photo of Bruce Schneier by Joe MacInnis.