Could AI Drive Transformative Social Progress?

What Would This Require?

Published in: UCLA School of Law, Public Law Research Paper No. 19-49 (2019)

Posted on RAND.org on February 04, 2020

by Edward A. Parson, Robert J. Lempert, Ben Armstrong, Evan Crothers, Chad DeChant, Nicholas Novelli

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In contrast to popular dystopian speculation about the societal impacts of widespread AI deployment, we consider AI's potential to drive a social transformation toward greater human liberty, agency, and equality. The impact of AI, like all technology, will depend on both properties of the technology and the economic, social, and political conditions of its deployment and use. We identify conditions of each type—technical characteristics and socio-political context—likely to be conducive to such large-scale beneficial impacts. Promising technical characteristics include decision-making structures that are tentative and pluralistic, rather than optimizing a single-valued objective function under a single characterization of world conditions; and configuring the decision-making of AI-enabled products and services exclusively to advance the interests of their users, subject to relevant social values, not those of their developers or vendors. We explore various strategies and business models for developing and deploying AI-enabled products that incorporate these characteristics, including philanthropic seed capital, crowd-sourcing, open-source development, and sketch various possible ways to scale deployment thereafter.

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