Six ways that AI could change politics

ChatGPT was released just nine months ago, and we are still learning how it will affect our daily lives, our careers, and even our systems of self-governance.  But when it comes to how AI may threaten our democracy, much of the public conversation lacks imagination. People talk about the danger of campaigns that attack opponents…
Six ways that AI could change politics

Arguably, we’ve already seen legislation drafted by AI, albeit under the direction of human users and introduced by human legislators. After some early examples of bills written by AIs were introduced in Massachusetts and the US House of Representatives, many major legislative bodies have had their “first bill written by AI,” “used ChatGPT to generate committee remarks,” or “first floor speech written by AI” events.

Many of these bills and speeches are more stunt than serious, and they have received more criticism than consideration. They are short, have trivial levels of policy substance, or were heavily edited or guided by human legislators (through highly specific prompts to large language model–based AI tools like ChatGPT).

The interesting milestone along these lines will be the acceptance of testimony on legislation, or a comment submitted to an agency, drafted entirely by AI. To be sure, a large fraction of all writing going forward will be assisted by—and will truly benefit from—AI assistive technologies. So to avoid making this milestone trivial, we have to add the second clause: “submitted under the name of the AI.”

What would make this benchmark significant is the submission under the AI’s own name; that is, the acceptance by a governing body of the AI as proffering a legitimate perspective in public debate. Regardless of the public fervor over AI, this one won’t take long. The New York Times has published a letter under the name of ChatGPT (responding to an opinion piece we wrote), and legislators are already turning to AI to write high-profile opening remarks at committee hearings.

Milestone #2: The adoption of the first novel legislative amendment to a bill written by AI.

Moving beyond testimony, there is an immediate pathway for AI-generated policies to become law: microlegislation. This involves making tweaks to existing laws or bills that are tuned to serve some particular interest. It is a natural starting point for AI because it’s tightly scoped, involving small changes guided by a clear directive associated with a well-defined purpose.

By design, microlegislation is often implemented surreptitiously. It may even be filed anonymously within a deluge of other amendments to obscure its intended beneficiary. For that reason, microlegislation can often be bad for society, and it is ripe for exploitation by generative AI that would otherwise be subject to heavy scrutiny from a polity on guard for risks posed by AI.

Milestone #3: AI-generated political messaging outscores campaign consultant recommendations in poll testing.