In shaping AI policy, stories about social impacts are just as important as expert information

Blog by Daniel S. Schiff and Kaylyn Jackson Schiff: “Will artificial intelligence (AI) save the world or destroy it? Will it lead to the end of manual labor and an era of leisure and luxury, or to more surveillance and job insecurity? Is it the start of a revolution in innovation that will transform the economy for the better? Or does it represent a novel threat to human rights?

Irrespective of what turns out to be the truth, what our key policymakers believe about these questions matters. It will shape how they think about the underlying problems that AI policy is aiming to address, and which solutions are appropriate to do so. …In late 2021, we ran a study to better understand the impact of policy narratives on the behavior of policymakers. We focused on US state legislators,…

In our analysis, we found something surprising. We measured whether legislators were more likely to engage with a message featuring a narrative or featuring expert information, which we assessed by seeing if they clicked on a given fact sheet/story or clicked to register for or attended the webinar.

Despite the importance attached to technical expertise in AI circles, we found that narratives were at least as persuasive as expert information. Receiving a narrative emphasizing, say, growing competition between the US and China, or the faulty arrest of Robert Williams due to facial recognition, led to a 30 percent increase in legislator engagement compared to legislators who only received basic information about the civil society organization. These narratives were just as effective as more neutral, fact-based information about AI with accompanying fact sheets…(More)”

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