Generative AI for Pro-Democracy Platforms

Apr 1, 2024Global Alliance for Digital Governance

By Lily L. Tsai, Alex Pentland, Alia Braley, Nuole Chen, José Ramón Enríquez, and Anka Reuel

BGF are pleased to introduce new report of MIT professor Alex Pentland, a board member of the Boston Global Forum.

Online discourse faces challenges in facilitating substantive and productive political conversations. Recent technologies have explored the potential of generative AI to promote civil discourse, encourage the development of mutual understanding in a discussion, produce feedback that enables people to converge in their views, and provide usable citizen input on policy questions posed to the public by governments and civil society. In this paper, we present a framework to help policymakers, technologists, and the public assess potential opportunities and risks when incorporating generative AI into online platforms for discussion and deliberation in order to strengthen democratic practices and help democratic governments make more effective and responsive policy decisions.

Generative AI for Pro-Democracy Platforms

In an era where opinion is a mouse click away, online discourse has become the defining crucible of contemporary ideas and ideologies. While social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, and Reddit have shaped how we currently think of open discourse, these noisy, sprawling public squares are far from intentional, deliberative assemblies focused on solving problems. To paraphrase Taiwan’s Minister of Digital Affairs, Audrey Tang, trying to have a political conversation on Facebook is like trying to have a political conversation in a nightclub [undefined]. In parallel to the rise, critique, and study of social media platforms and their effects on society, there has been a push toward building, studying, and deploying intentional technologies, including generative artificial intelligence (AI), to assemble individuals to share opinions on policy questions online and converge on recommendations. These ‘deliberative platforms’ use tools and technologies that surpass standard survey platforms by explicitly soliciting diverse perspectives on a given question, surfacing key comments for further examination by the participants and in some cases leading to collective decision-making.

These endeavors also extend beyond conventional methods of public deliberation. Historically, governments and communities have relied on approaches such as in-person town halls and open comment periods for regulatory decisions to enable citizens to share opinions and deliberate about policy issues. Outreach to citizens has been associated with higher trust in government and more citizen cooperation and engagement [undefined][undefined][undefined]. New online deliberative platforms promote themselves as technologies that can achieve these goals faster and at a larger scale, with less human bias and lower costs.

Professor Alex Pentland speaks at the Shinzo Abe Initiative Conference, March 28, 2024