Could artificial intelligence benefit democracy?

Article by Brian Wheeler: “Each week sees a new set of warnings about the potential impact of AI-generated deepfakes – realistic video and audio of politicians saying things they never said – spreading confusion and mistrust among the voting public.

And in the UK, regulators, security services and government are battling to protect this year’s general election from malign foreign interference.

Less attention has been given to the possible benefits of AI.

But a lot of work is going on, often below the radar, to try to harness its power in ways that might enhance democracy rather than destroy it.

“While this technology does pose some important risks in terms of disinformation, it also offers some significant opportunities for campaigns, which we can’t ignore,” Hannah O’Rourke, co-founder of Campaign Lab, a left-leaning network of tech volunteers, says.

“Like all technology, what matters is how AI is actually implemented. “Its impact will be felt in the way campaigners actually use it.”

Among other things, Campaign Lab runs training courses for Labour and Liberal Democrat campaigners on how to use ChatGPT (Chat Generative Pre-trained Transformer) to create the first draft of election leaflets.

It reminds them to edit the final product carefully, though, as large language models (LLMs) such as ChatGPT have a worrying tendency to “hallucinate” or make things up.

The group is also experimenting with chatbots to help train canvassers to have more engaging conversations on the doorstep.

AI is already embedded in everyday programs, from Microsoft Outlook to Adobe Photoshop, Ms O’Rourke says, so why not use it in a responsible way to free up time for more face-to-face campaigning?…

Conservative-supporting AI expert Joe Reeve is another young political campaigner convinced the new technology can transform things for the better.

He runs Future London, a community of “techno optimists” who use AI to seek answers to big questions such as “Why can’t I buy a house?” and, crucially, “Where’s my robot butler?”

In 2020, Mr Reeve founded Tory Techs, partly as a right-wing response to Campaign Lab.

The group has run programming sessions and explored how to use AI to hone Tory campaign messages but, Mr Reeve says, it now “mostly focuses on speaking with MPs in more private and safe spaces to help coach politicians on what AI means and how it can be a positive force”.

“Technology has an opportunity to make the world a lot better for a lot of people and that is regardless of politics,” he tells BBC News…(More)”.

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