Technology experts discuss the role of artificial intelligence in democracy in a Harvard Kennedy School Talk | News

Former South Korean business minister Young-sun Park and social media CEO Will Hohyon Ryu discussed potential applications of artificial intelligence to democracy during a conversation at the Harvard Kennedy School on Tuesday.

The event, organized by the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation in collaboration with the Harvard Korea Institute, was moderated by Jeeyang Rhee Baum, HKS assistant professor. The discussion focused on the large language model ChatGPT, Ryu’s social media platform OXOPolitics, and AI in general.

More than 50 people attended the event, which was held in the Kennedy School auditorium.

Park, South Korea’s former minister of small and medium-sized enterprises and startups and a fellow at the Rajavali Institute for Asia, opened the event with a discussion of the concept of “liquid democracy,” a form of direct democracy where voters can directly weigh in on policy decisions. decisions or choose to delegate their vote to a representative.

“Liquid democracy enables direct participation,” Park said.

Many democracies are currently experiencing crises of polarization, according to Park. In nations like the US and South Korea, the sharp divide between the political left and right means that politics “does not represent the voice of the whole public”, she said, sparking discontent with politicians and systems of representation.

To address this, Park said, governments must turn to new advances in technology to make politics more representative. By facilitating “direct communication between people and the convergence of people’s opinions,” technology can “compensate for the shortcomings of representative democracy.”

Ryu, the founder of OXOPolitics, said a flaw in representative democracy is the “middlemen” who stand between voters and their representatives.

“It’s not always the case that my representatives’ words really represent me,” Ryu said.

Park said AI can complement representatives by synthesizing voters’ opinions in an accessible way.

“AI is the most effective way to make direct democracy possible,” Park said.

For example, Park discussed how a South Korean startup recently used ChatGPT to compile citizens’ views on South Korea’s relationship with Japan—filtering through hundreds of thousands of online posts to create a comprehensive summary of public opinion.

“This system opened up a new opportunity for broad policymaking by analyzing the opinion of conservatives and progressives in less [than] one minute, she said. “This is the first step towards digital democracy.”

Similarly, Ryu said he developed the social media platform OXOPolitics to connect voters directly with politicians. The platform gathers users’ opinions on political issues and visualizes the data for politicians to see.

Ryu said OXOPolitics is a form of liquid democracy because it allows each individual to make up their own mind about political matters.

“Imagine there’s an AI that understands me better than I understand myself,” he said. “We’re trying to make AI-assisted liquid democracy a reality.”

However, Ryu acknowledges the dangers of introducing artificial intelligence into political systems.

“We’re doing a really dangerous thing,” he said. “Bringing AI — not human intelligence, but artificial intelligence — into politics is potentially disruptive.”

Park argues that developers can avoid these dangers by upholding five ethical principles: transparency, safety, responsibility, fairness, and goodwill. Ryu agreed that it is important for artificial intelligence to be ethically responsible.

“We can follow AI recommendations, but ultimately people still have the responsibility as citizens to make the right decisions,” he said.

To ensure that the algorithms make decisions that are useful to the public, Ryu’s platform includes an explanation of where the algorithm’s recommendations come from.

“With transparency, you can trust AI,” he said.

Ultimately, Ryu said, AI is simply a tool whose users must decide how it contributes to democracy.

“AI can be a dictator telling us what to do,” Ryu said. “But at the same time, it can be representative.”

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