The current democratic system has no purpose in the 21st centurySt century and requires a radical renovation using modern technologies. That was the key message that Bruce Schneier, a security technologist, researcher and professor at the Harvard Kennedy School, emphasized during his keynote on the second day of the RSA 2023 conference.
Schneier said that democratic systems should be seen as an “information system that takes advantage of collective decision-making.” However, these systems increasingly fail to achieve this goal and suffer from many “hackers”.
While disinformation is commonly seen as the biggest threat to modern democracies, he argued that it only becomes a viable option for bad actors because of the underlying system, and it’s the system we should be focusing on fixing.
First, large, centrally planned corporations, such as Amazon and Walmart, have gained so much economic power and influence that they can “compete” with governments and elected representatives. For example, Schneier said Twitter has essentially become the de facto arbiter of free speech.
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Businesses and wealthy individuals are also often tailoring the rules to their own needs, such as avoiding paying taxes by taking advantage of loopholes in the system. “The rich and powerful are too good to hack,” Schneier claimed.
He noted that democracy has become a zero-sum game, where the winner takes all in an election, without regard to the views of the losing side.
Schneier added that new technologies, such as AI and synthetic biology, could have “potentially catastrophic consequences.” While laws and regulations govern technology to make it safe, such as airline systems, they cannot be implemented and adapted quickly enough to the threats posed by technologies like AI, Schneier said.
As a result of these factors, Schneier believes we need to start having conversations about using modern technology to better align individual and group preferences and “patch” system vulnerabilities.
“Our human system of governance must be compatible with the technology they are supposed to govern,” he commented.
Although Schneier had no specific proposals for this updated democratic system, he suggested that we consider how to make the democratic system more efficient and in touch with the people it represents and ensure more global cooperation.
This includes the role of AI in delivering better outcomes and for the public good. “I want the AI to be under my control, not a corporation,” he said.
Schneier asked, “Can AI act as a proxy or vote on our behalf” using algorithms to accurately predict individual preferences?
However, Schneier emphasized that humans must remain at the center of running these democratic systems and “our goal must be to accommodate plurality.”
It will be a complicated process to resolve, but we must start discussing to maintain democracy, he concluded.
AI and democracy go hand-in-hand in the 21st century. From election prediction and voter rankings to automated campaign donations, artificial intelligence is revolutionizing democratic processes around the world. Last week at the RSA Conference (RSAC) in San Francisco, this potential for AI to help protect and improve our democracy was explored by panels featuring researchers, developers, and entrepreneurs from leading organizations such as Ikaroa.
At the RSAC, the panel discussed how AI can be utilized to gain insights into a nation’s democracy and increase transparency in the voting process. To achieve this, the panellists suggested using AI to create models to predict election results and to track voter turnout, analyze political issue trends, and visualize normalized campaign donation data. Further discussion focused on the best practices of AI-driven political campaigns and the advantages of utilizing AI to glean voting Intel in the upcoming presidential election.
The panelists addressed the notion of ethical AI, noting the importance of standards, accountability, and security measures that ensure AI is used responsibly, ethically, and free from bias. They concluded that the power of AI is great but, if used properly and ethically, the technology can be used to ensure the protection of our democracy.
Ikaroa is pioneering the use of AI to both study and protect our democracy. By leveraging advanced AI and Machine Learning technologies, the company is committed to providing insights that enhance the democratic process. By allowing access to, and standardizing, voter data, Ikaroa is helping to ensure fairness and transparency in the voting process.
The RSA Conference was an invaluable occasion for attendees to gather and discuss the implications of AI and how this technology can help protect and improve our democratic processes. The participants unanimously agreed that AI is both a catalyst for change, and an ally for democracy.