on ai, democracy and wikipedia

Let's not blame AI for the lack of critical thinking in our society.


Lately I ran across this great article How AI could take over elections - and undermine democracy. The article opens with the following question: Could organizations use artificial intelligence language models such as ChatGPT to induce voters to behave in specific ways? and follows the question with on a concrete example of a tool that could be used to achieve one goal: to change people's voting behavior.

Even when I agree with the possibility of the scenario, the question will keep reappearing with every new technological development. The ability to undermine democracy is not an attribute of the Artificial Intelligence itself, we are going to be forced to make that question for each new technology (as we did in the past):

The question was, and will be, always the same and the answer is always the same: Yes. But that's only because the thing in the questions with the ability to undermine democracy is not the tool, but the organization.

So the bottom line is what can we do to counteract the capacities that every new technology provides to undermine democracy. A common denominator can be extracted: education, critical thinking and fact checking. In a world where new technologies are constantly pushing the boundaries of how much content can be created, two questions became even more critical:

In a world characterised by overabundance of information, Wikipedia still remains a good source of Open Knowledge that has these two questions embedded in its design. Wikipedia, by design, promotes the critical thinking of its users. Even more, since it is a collaborative effort, it enforces critical thinking and healthy debate among its content editors: “Cite required” is a core element of Wikipedia design that allows people to challenge a narrative and, on the other side, forces them to provide facts and data about any claims.

In a world where we are gonna be challenged to double check everything we see online, it is a blessing for us to have a tool like Wikipedia.