New article on the role of artificial intelligence for democracy

How does artificial intelligence (AI) affect democracy? A recent article by Pascal König and Georg Wenzelburger published in Government Information Quarterly tackles this question. The paper highlights how the adoption of AI, with its capability of solving specialized cognitive tasks, heavily intervenes into the informational foudations of societies. In doing so, it affects information requirements that are at the basis of the democratic political process and that condition the realization of responsiveness and accountability. Drawing on systems theory, the article shows that AI can reduce or increase information deficits of both citizens and decision-makers on the input, throughout, and output level of the political system. This is illustrated by means of two contrasting scenarios that describe how AI can change the workings of democratic government.

The paper also discusses that the challenges to liberal democracy that arise with the adoption of AI in politics, despite their novel technological dimension, show considerable continuity with long-standing transparency and accountability problems. Democracy is not made obsolete in face of new possibilities of steering through AI. To the contary, the political ideas that are embodied in liberal democracy and that safeguard responsiveness and accountability already offer important answers to how the adoption of AI can strengthen democratic politics.

Realizing this outcome and avoiding a negative, possibly disruptive, impact on democracy will require institutionalizing suitable governance mechanisms. This is a challenging task, especially on the input level of politics where applications of AI already markedly intervene into processes of public opinion formation, but where the governing of such applications can also easily have adverse effects.

Pascal König

New paper on digitization and democracy in Politische Vierteljahresschrift

How do digital technologies and particularly data-driven algorithmic decision-making and artificial intelligence affect democratic governance? In a recent German comment entitled “The Digital Temptation” and published in the journal Politische Vierteljahresschrift, I address this question. The article adopts a broad perspective and discusses how the emergence of an “algorithmic society” in which people increasingly delegate decisions to machines can undermine the bases of a free society. The main argument developed in the comment is that through relying more and more on such machines only because they deliver satisfactory performance prepares the ground for paternalistic forms of power and dependence in liberal democracies – an arrangement which is not markedly different from the Chinese Credit System, which uses a scoring of citizens to direct their lives toward predefined goals and values.

Pascal König