Summary of Will Democracy Survive Big Data and Artificial Intelligence?

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Recent political developments in the United States and other advanced democracies have produced two disturbing trends: extreme political polarization and the use of online tools and propaganda to manipulate public opinion and potentially influence voting decisions. Writing in Scientific American, a diverse group of scientists warns that if governments don’t regulate the use of big data and artificial intelligence, current trends mark just the beginning of the gradual corrosion of pluralistic democratic systems. getAbstract recommends this intelligent and at times disturbing essay on the perks and perils of the digital age to policy makers and business professionals dealing with big data.


In this summary, you will learn

  • Why big data and artificial intelligence can pose a threat to pluralistic democratic systems,
  • Why personalized information systems undermine diversity and create polarization, and
  • How governments can use digital technologies to enhance citizen participation and create better policies.

About the Authors

Dirk HelbingBruno S. FreyGerd GigerenzerErnst HafenMichael HagnerYvonne HofstetterJeroen van den HovenRoberto V. Zicari and Andrej Zwitter are a group of social scientists and information systems specialists from universities in Switzerland, Germany and the Netherlands. 



Big data and artificial intelligence are radically transforming modern societies, creating new opportunities but also threatening democratic systems, individual liberties and pluralism. Private companies have developed “persuasive computing” technologies, enabling them to make personalized recommendations for products based on users’ online activities. Governments have started to use the same technologies to “nudge” citizens toward decisions the government favors. One problem with this “modern form of paternalism” is that nobody can predict the consequences ...

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