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Tuesday, May 21, 2024

COLUMN: AI on the Ballot: Shaping the Future of Democracy and Governance

We live in an age where artificial intelligence (AI) can drive cars, beat grandmasters at chess, and even write legal briefs. As a national security lawyer and global technology executive, I find it both intriguing and exciting, as it might finally give me the chance to argue a case against a robot in court. I can see the headlines: ‘Human Lawyer Triumphs Over Machine in Historic Legal Battle.’ Humor aside, these developments usher in a new era where the boundary between human intuition and machine intelligence becomes increasingly blurred, challenging our traditional notions of creativity and decision-making. This fusion of technology and human ingenuity is opening unprecedented game-changer possibilities for improving productivity dramatically while also enhancing citizen engagement and governance, marking the beginning of a pivotal chapter in our shared history. 

It’s perhaps no surprise that it’s now venturing into the realm of elections. Take, for instance, the recent parliamentary elections in Pakistan, where the imprisoned former Prime Minister Imran Khan’s party, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), utilized AI to generate a victory speech. This wasn’t just any speech; it was a call to action from behind bars, a digital ventriloquism act that brought Khan’s voice and more importantly, his message, to his supporters despite his physical absence. This groundbreaking maneuver saw PTI-aligned candidates securing the most seats, a triumph attributed in part to their use of AI and digital technologies in the election. 

However, this development isn’t just a testament to PTI’s ability to tap into new technology. It’s a precursor of the seismic shifts that AI and cognitive technologies are poised to bring to the global public sector. As we’ve already seen, AI’s role in disseminating information can significantly influence elections, challenging traditional engagement norms. This is particularly relevant for us here in the U.S., where the intersection of AI and electioneering is still nascent but holds potential for transformative change. 

Meanwhile, in another part of the world, Indonesia’s recent elections stand as another testament to AI’s growing influence. As the largest election since the AI boom, it represented a major test for generative AI technologies and experiences. This underscores a global trend: AI is rapidly becoming a staple in elections, offering tools for personalization, data analysis, and engagement at unprecedented levels. 

In this year alone, a historic milestone will be reached as more countries and individuals will participate in elections than at any other time in human history. This unparalleled engagement is occurring in an era where generative AI has become a pivotal force in driving not only technological innovation but also in shaping the dynamics of democracy and governance. 

The Munich Security Conference’s recent AI Elections Accord represents a leap forward in addressing the challenges and opportunities presented by AI in elections. This accord, emphasizing the need for public and private sector collaboration in ensuring the integrity of election processes, underscores the necessity of establishing robust frameworks to govern AI’s application in elections and advancing electoral integrity. As nations grapple with the implications of AI for democracy, the accord serves as one potential model for the governance of this technology. 

This brings us to the European Union’s AI Act, a pioneering piece of legislation that is poised to become the world’s first comprehensive legislation on AI. Called the AI Act, the new rules aim to set guardrails for the technology across industries, governing the use of AI and setting standards for transparency, accountability, and ethical usage. For U.S. government and private sector entities experimenting in or leveraging generative AI, the AI Act can serve as a potential model for responsible AI governance. It highlights the necessity of establishing frameworks that ensure AI’s benefits are harnessed while mitigating risks, especially in sensitive areas like elections. 

Considering these challenges and opportunities, the collaboration between government and industry emerges as a key pathway towards responsible AI. By drawing from best practices, and by fostering greater AI literacy and governance, nations can better navigate the complexities of this new frontier. This collaborative effort is not just about safeguarding our elections; it’s about setting a global standard for the integration of AI in our society, ensuring that the technology serves the public good and upholds our values. 

As we stand at this historic juncture in time, the collective efforts of governments, civil society, and industry in developing and implementing robust AI frameworks will be essential. The goal of ensuring the integrity of our elections in an AI-driven world is not only achievable but essential for the future of governance. In this era of unprecedented electoral engagement and digital innovations, ensuring the integrity in our elections becomes a shared endeavor, uniting us in our common pursuit of liberty, justice, and informed choice. 

author avatar
Combiz Abdolrahimi
Combiz Abdolrahimi is a Global Emerging Technology & Innovation Executive, Former Senior Policy Advisor to the U.S. Treasury Secretary, U.S. National Security & Technology Attorney, and AI Advisor to the United Nations. He has spent over 15 years advising the public, governments, and commercial enterprises on key technology, policy, and legal questions across a wide range of issues. He has served in leadership positions across government in The White House, U.S. Department of State, U.S. Department of Treasury, U.S. Department of Commerce, and the U.S. Senate as a national security and technology lawyer, senior policy advisor, financial regulator, and chief innovation officer. He regularly advises Presidents and Heads of State, Ministers and Cabinet Officials, Legislators, Regulators, and Global CEOs on government affairs, technology, policy, & innovation. He sits on multiple boards and advisory committees including the Organization for Economic Cooperation & Development (OECD) Expert Policy Advisory Board; OECD AI Policy Observatory; Middle East Policy Council; Smart City Expo USA; Council on Foreign Relations; Meridian International Center; U.S. Secretary of Commerce’s Trade Finance Advisory Council; and Black Professionals in International Affairs. Mr. Abdolrahimi is a graduate of UCLA; American University of Beirut; and Georgetown Law. He is the recipient of multiple awards, including the Federal 100 Award, nominated by 5 Federal Agency CIOs, recognizing the top 100 senior executives who've made the greatest impact in government; World Economic Forum’s Agile 50 Award as one of the world’s 50 most influential people navigating disruption, driving agility, & championing innovation in government, regulation & policymaking globally; WashingtonExec’s Top 10 Climate Change Executives to Watch in 2023; FedTech’s 30 Federal IT Influencers Worth a Follow in 2023; and Middle East Policy Council 2024 cohort of 40 Under 40. Combiz speaks several languages including Turkish, Azerbaijani, Persian, Afghan-Dari, Arabic, and has a working proficiency in Spanish.
Combiz Abdolrahimi
Combiz Abdolrahimi
Combiz Abdolrahimi is a Global Emerging Technology & Innovation Executive, Former Senior Policy Advisor to the U.S. Treasury Secretary, U.S. National Security & Technology Attorney, and AI Advisor to the United Nations. He has spent over 15 years advising the public, governments, and commercial enterprises on key technology, policy, and legal questions across a wide range of issues. He has served in leadership positions across government in The White House, U.S. Department of State, U.S. Department of Treasury, U.S. Department of Commerce, and the U.S. Senate as a national security and technology lawyer, senior policy advisor, financial regulator, and chief innovation officer. He regularly advises Presidents and Heads of State, Ministers and Cabinet Officials, Legislators, Regulators, and Global CEOs on government affairs, technology, policy, & innovation. He sits on multiple boards and advisory committees including the Organization for Economic Cooperation & Development (OECD) Expert Policy Advisory Board; OECD AI Policy Observatory; Middle East Policy Council; Smart City Expo USA; Council on Foreign Relations; Meridian International Center; U.S. Secretary of Commerce’s Trade Finance Advisory Council; and Black Professionals in International Affairs. Mr. Abdolrahimi is a graduate of UCLA; American University of Beirut; and Georgetown Law. He is the recipient of multiple awards, including the Federal 100 Award, nominated by 5 Federal Agency CIOs, recognizing the top 100 senior executives who've made the greatest impact in government; World Economic Forum’s Agile 50 Award as one of the world’s 50 most influential people navigating disruption, driving agility, & championing innovation in government, regulation & policymaking globally; WashingtonExec’s Top 10 Climate Change Executives to Watch in 2023; FedTech’s 30 Federal IT Influencers Worth a Follow in 2023; and Middle East Policy Council 2024 cohort of 40 Under 40. Combiz speaks several languages including Turkish, Azerbaijani, Persian, Afghan-Dari, Arabic, and has a working proficiency in Spanish.

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