Governing Society and Artificial Intelligence

Photo by Claudio Schwarz on Unsplash

Much of the hype and chatter around Artificial Intelligence today is how it will impact the workplace, the entertainment industry, human creativity and productivity. Increasingly, there are debates on ethics, human rights and human agency. These are important. But what about how we govern our societies with AI?

Social governance is an element of culture which also includes economic systems, family systems, politics, militaries, art, architecture and literature. Sometimes, such as in a democracy, we have a say in these systems. In dictatorships, we do not.

The mechanism by which we create and operate our social governance systems is bureaucracy. Which were well honed by corporations and go back many thousands of years. One might suggest that bureaucracy was humanity’s first multiplayer game.

Humans have been fiddling about with all kinds of different governance systems for thousands of years, including hunter-gatherer and foraging societies. When we collectively decide we’re no longer thrilled with whatever system, we either run away and create something else or we have revolutions and whoever wins creates something new. The one constant? Bureaucracies. Rinse, wash, repeat.

With the advent of Generative AI (GAI) through Large Language Models (LLMs) like ChatGPT, humanity finally had an opportunity to play with AI in a way it hadn’t before. Prior to GAI, our broader social understanding of AI was via Hollywood and Science-Fiction and it was very often rather dystopian.

News articles today tend to either declare the end of the world is nigh or utopia will be in the earnings reports of Q4 of 2024. As the news media has often said, “if it bleeds, it leads” (a.k.a. clickbait today.) Unfortunately, just as so much else today is reduced to this or that arguments, the same has happened to AI.

The reality is more likely to be somewhere in the middle when it comes to AI tools. Likely edging towards more benefits than harms.

So we’ve not really been set up to receive AI in a nice way. It should be of little surprise in the launch and hype of GAI that we collectively panicked and ran about the backyard flailing our arms and screaming that the sky is falling. The prophets of AI in Silicon Valley didn’t much…

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Giles Crouch | Digital Anthropologist

Digital Anthropologist | Chief Innovation Officer | I'm in WIRED, Forbes & National Geographic etc.