Mar 31, 2023

How "scary tech" will change politics

How "scary tech" will change politics
Photo by Andy Kelly / Unsplash

A wave of new tech is raising alarm. But what will change in politics and government?

I’m Isaac Saul, and this is Tangle: an independent, nonpartisan, subscriber-supported politics newsletter that summarizes the best arguments from across the political spectrum on the news of the day — then “my take.” Today is a special Friday edition for subscribers only.

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I saw a video a few weeks ago that looked shockingly realistic but was obviously fake.

The video was lighthearted — NBA star Steph Curry hitting a series of impossibly difficult shots. It was posted by ESPN's SportsCenter Twitter account, and that post alone got over 30 million views. In the first few hours after the video was released, the comments expressed a mix of shock and amusement, along with debate about whether the video was real.

Similar buzz and confusion was generated recently when AI-generated photos of Pope Francis, showing him in a white puffer jacket, went viral online. Those photos, too, were fake.

The stakes in these instances were low, obviously, but they made me think about all the ways rapid advancements in technology could impact the future of politics.

They also come in the context of recent advancements in artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics that have dominated the headlines. ChatGPT, the AI platform that is so sophisticated it can pass bar exams, write code and produce college essays in a matter of seconds has been the subject of endless news coverage.

Earlier this month, another iteration of ChatGPT was released that was more intelligent and advanced than the one that had dominated headlines for weeks prior. This chat tool is owned by Microsoft, and now tech giants like Google are scrambling to release their own versions of advanced AI. This rapidly accelerating race to shape the future of tech has not just captured our imaginations, but generated some fear.

This week, Elon Musk (who once worked for OpenAI, the company behind ChatGPT) joined Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak and a group of other A-list tech leaders, AI experts and entrepreneurs who called for a pause in the development of powerful new AI systems. Their reason? They believe the risks to society are that great.

"Powerful AI systems should be developed only once we are confident that their effects will be positive and their risks will be manageable," the letter said.

Given the signatories on the letter, it made headlines and gave a lot of people pause about the unfolding technological advancements.

My inbox is full of questions about how artificial intelligence and emergent technologies might impact politics and government. So, today, I thought it’d be a good exercise to take a look at AI, and assess its potential impacts. For simplicity’s sake, I’ll bucket my thoughts into three categories: probably not a big deal, might be a big deal, and worth worrying about.

I know we have a lot of readers who are experts in these or related spaces, so I’d love to hear from you about ways emerging technologies are already impacting your life. Feel free to reply to this email to drop me a line.

Probably not a big deal.