born3_Kelly Born, former founding director of Stanford University’s Cyber Policy Center_chatgpt Jaap Arriens/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Will Generative AI Make or Break Democracy?

While generative AI tools could offer significant benefits in fields such as medicine, manufacturing, and education, how they are applied to electoral politics must be carefully regulated. Otherwise, they will undermine, rather than strengthen, rule by the people.

SILICON VALLEY – Predicting how generative artificial intelligence might affect democracy is a formidable challenge, given that its potential applications are still largely unknown – and seem virtually limitless. While narrow AI tools, designed for specific tasks like reconciling voter records, are already in use in various countries, the impact of generative AI is harder to foresee. This technology is not merely another app, like a social-media platform, but rather a foundational technology more akin to the emergence of the internet itself. It will influence democracy both directly, transforming the mechanics of elections and governance, and indirectly, as it threatens to shift the very foundations of information ecosystems, public trust, and opinion.

In terms of direct impact, generative AI could revolutionize policymaking by enabling a more accurate and nuanced understanding of potential policy outcomes. Organizations like Climate Change AI, for example, already use this technology to explore how “roads, power grids, and water mains must be designed to account for the increasing frequency and severity of extreme weather events.” Law-enforcement agencies use it for surveillance and predictive policing. More recently, lawyers and judges have begun to employ generative AIs like ChatGPT to assist them in filing cases and even in issuing court rulings.

Meanwhile, concerns are growing regarding how generative AI will affect elections. At least 45 countries will hold elections in 2024, including globally consequential races in the United States and the European Union.