Jun 27, 2023 - Politics & Policy

The 2024 presidential race is the AI election

Toronto , Canada - 22 June 2022; Eric Schmidt, Founder, Schmidt Futures, on Centre Stage during day two of Collision 2022 at Enercare Centre in Toronto, Canada. (Photo By Lukas Schulze/Sportsfile for Collision via Getty Images)

Eric Schmidt, former Google CEO, speaks at an event June 22, 2023 in Toronto. Photo: Lukas Schulze/Sportsfile for Collision via Getty Images

Artificial intelligence and generative bots like ChatGPT are poised to upend modern American politics in the same way that social media reset the playbook in 2008, with mounting warnings for democracy.

Why it matters: Top technologists are portraying a dystopian landscape in 2024 in which misinformation and disinformation proliferate with a speed and ease that means "you can't trust anything that you see or hear," as former Google CEO Eric Schmidt puts it.

  • The campaign will be "full, full of false information that anyone can generate," Schmidt said Monday in a conversation at the Aspen Ideas Festival in Colorado.
  • "Every side, every grassroots group and every politician will use generative AI to do harm to their opponents," he added.

The intrigue: New open-source technology, such as one released by Meta and known as LLaMa, makes it possible for anyone in their basement to create a far-reaching and fake influence campaign.

  • "Most of us grew up in a world where the word print was something that was authoritative. And so we still view it that way," said Daniel Huttenlocher from MIT, who joined Schmidt on the panel. "AI is now this huge amplifier for how you should not trust anything in print."
  • "And by the way you shouldn't trust any images and you shouldn't trust any videos, and you shouldn't trust any audio either."

Between the lines: In a separate conversation in Aspen, Ron Klain, former chief of staff to President Biden, said campaigns will need to shift their approach to counter AI. He pointed to how Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and Republicans have used fake images to attack the president earlier this month.

  • "We know this is part of politics now, just like Facebook and social media platforms are a part of politics," he said.
  • Klain said it falls on Biden to connect directly with people on the campaign trail, and the campaign to recruit local trustworthy messengers, rather than "bringing in random people from other places."

What to watch: Big Tech is dialing back its misinformation policing ahead of 2024, but Schmidt said that's the wrong approach.

  • He called on social media companies, regulators and elected officials need to come together to address it immediately.

Go deeper: How AI is already changing the 2024 election

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