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.