Dr Heather Ashby

Recently, AI enthusiasts and professionals from Linköping and Östergötland convened for a meetup organized by AI East and AI Linköping. This event provided knowledge sharing among the participants, for example, questions on the best tools for customer service and the formulation of AI policies that encourage creativity without compromising data security. The session featured insightful contributions from speakers such as Elia Mörling, Jenny Sjölin, Martin Källström, and Kristina Swenningsson, making the initial knowledge exchange both enlightening and engaging. The meetup concluded with a thought-provoking lecture by Dr. Heather Ashby.

AI’s Role in the Super Election Year

Dr Heather Ashby, an expert on AI’s impact on elections and democracy, highlighted AI’s crucial role in the 2024 global elections. With elections taking place in the USA, EU, India, and many other countries, this year could be a pivotal test of democracy’s resilience. Dr. Ashby emphasized the dual nature of AI’s influence: while it poses risks through misinformation and deepfakes, it also offers opportunities for enhancing voter information and election integrity.

Dr. Ashby illustrated how AI-generated content, from deepfake videos in India to AI avatars in Mexico, is used to manipulate public perception and disrupt democratic processes. In India, AI-generated deepfakes and altered traditional songs have been used to misrepresent political candidates, spreading false narratives. AI-created campaign speeches for imprisoned candidates have changed the political landscape in Pakistan. These examples underscore the need for vigilant regulation and innovative solutions to counteract AI’s negative impacts on democracy.

The Ethical and Social Implications of AI

Drawing parallels to the iconic Jurassic Park quote, “Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should,” Dr. Ashby emphasized the ethical considerations in AI development. The rapid advancement of AI technology necessitates a balance between innovation and moral responsibility. She highlighted that many companies adopt a “jello on the wall” approach, experimenting with AI solutions without fully understanding their potential societal impacts.

Dr. Ashby provided a stark warning about the misuse of AI in politics, citing examples from around the world. In the United States, deepfakes have been used to create fake videos of President Biden discouraging voting, likely produced by sophisticated AI platforms. Similar tactics have been employed with deepfake images of former President Trump, aimed at manipulating public opinion. In Taiwan, Chinese influence operations have leveraged AI to create pro-China avatars, influencing political narratives. These instances highlight the pressing need for robust AI governance and ethical standards.

Positive AI Initiatives and Future Strategies

Despite these challenges, there are positive developments in the AI landscape. In South Africa, an NGO has developed an AI-driven chatbot that provides reliable election information, outperforming official state resources. This chatbot has proven to be a valuable tool in promoting electoral transparency and voter education. Major tech companies like TikTok, Meta, and OpenAI are also collaborating to mitigate the spread of deepfakes and label AI-generated content, demonstrating a collective effort to uphold the integrity of democratic processes.

Dr. Ashby concluded with strategies for safeguarding democracy in the AI era. She advocated investing in local media and supporting independent journalism, which is crucial for maintaining an informed electorate. Additionally, enhancing the capabilities of judicial systems to discern factual information is essential, as these institutions play a critical role in upholding the rule of law and democratic values.

Dr Ashby also highlighted the importance of a collective societal approach to address the vulnerabilities exposed by AI advancements. This includes supporting civic space, promoting crowdsourced fact-checking, and employing peacebuilding strategies learned from international conflict resolution efforts. By enhancing the capabilities of various societal institutions, communities can better navigate the complex information landscape shaped by AI.

This event exemplified the dynamic interplay between AI technology and societal impacts, offering valuable insights and fostering a community dedicated to ethical AI advancement. The discussions and lectures underscored the importance of thoughtful AI integration into society, highlighting both the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead. 

About the Organizers

AI ÖST is a network for AI enthusiasts in Östergötland, aiming to position the region and Sweden as global leaders in AI. The network promotes values such as knowledge sharing, collaboration, and innovation, offering free activities focused on collective problem-solving. Members of AI East are dedicated to discussing AI-related issues, sharing their expertise, and working together to spread AI competence.

For more information and to join the network, visit AI Öst.

AI Linköping is a meetup group under the AI East initiative. The group fosters a vibrant community of AI professionals and enthusiasts, providing a platform for networking, collaboration, and knowledge exchange. For more information and to join their events, visit AI Linköping on Meetup.