AI Can Be Democracy’s Ally, But Not If It Works for Big Tech

Bruce Schneier says we need a public AI option and a regulatory agency to ensure that artificial intelligence becomes a public good.

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Kennedy School Adjunct Lecturer in Public Policy Bruce Schneier says artificial intelligence has the potential to transform the democratic process in ways that could be good, bad, and potentially mind-boggling. The important thing, he says, will be to use regulation and other tools to make sure that AI tools are working for everyone, and just not for Big Tech companies—a hard lesson we’ve already learned through our experience about social media and other tech tools.

Bruce Schneier’s policy recommendations:

  • Create a public AI option that is managed in the public interest by the government or an NGO
  • Establish a new federal regulatory agency to ensure that AI is a societal benefit while limiting potential harms

When ChatGPT and other generative AI tools were released to the public late last year, it was as if someone had opened the floodgates on a thousand urgent questions that just weeks before had mostly preoccupied academics, futurists, and science fiction writers. Now those questions are being asked by many of us—teachers, students, parents, politicians, bureaucrats, citizens, businesspeople, and workers. What can it do for us? What will it do to us? How do we use it in a way that’s both ethical and legal? And will it help or hurt our already-distressed democracy? Schneier, a public interest technologist, cryptographer, and internationally known internet security specialist whose newsletter and blog are read by a quarter million people, says that AI’s inexorable march into our politics is likely to start with small changes like using AI to help write policy and legislation. The future, however, could hold possibilities that right now we may have a hard time wrapping our minds around—like AI systems leading political parties or autonomously fundraising to back political candidates or causes. Overall, like a lot of other things, it’s likely to be a mixed bag of the good and the bad.

Categories: Audio, Recorded Interviews

Sidebar photo of Bruce Schneier by Joe MacInnis.