Daniel Innerarity analyzed at ECLAC the dangers that New Digital Technologies and AI can pose to democracy

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From left to right, Daniel Innerarity, professor of political and social philosophy, and José Manuel Salazar-Xirinachs, ECLAC’s Executive Secretary (Photo: ECLAC).

“Will democracy end up being ruined by interference from a set of new technologies? I don’t think so … This is going to end well,” said Daniel Innerarity, a professor of political and social philosophy and researcher at the Basque Foundation for Science (Ikerbasque) at the University of the Basque Country, during a keynote lecture he gave today at the main headquarters of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) in Santiago, Chile.

“Machines and humans think in very different ways. We are overrating the intelligence of machines and underrating our intelligence. But above all, we are thinking that both move in the same direction and engage in the same things. The fact that robots are going to carry out certain tasks in the future does not mean that we are going to end up without work, or without anything to do,” affirmed Daniel Innerarity, who was received by ECLAC’s Executive Secretary, José Manuel Salazar-Xirinachs.

Innerarity, director of the Institute of Democratic Governance (Globernance) and Chair in Artificial Intelligence and Democracy at the European University Institute in Florence, participated in the Keynote Lecture Series organized to commemorate ECLAC’s 75th anniversary. His presentation entitled “The future of democracy in a digital society” was the eighth lecture in the series, which began in July 2023 and will run through March 2024.

“We have been thinking that the ecosystem of humans and machines are two, overly similar realities. Human intelligence and artificial intelligence are two intelligences of a different nature. It is not about making one compete with the other, but instead about generating an ecosystem in which we mutually benefit each other,” he emphasized.

In his presentation, Innerarity acknowledged that democracy is in crisis, because the “transmission belt” between citizens, public representation and institutions is not working well.

He noted that humanity is living through a time of profound consternation in the face of a set of technologies (Artificial Intelligence) that seems very promising from a democratic viewpoint, but also very threatening to the democratic system itself.

He warned that the big issue – from a political, technological and legal perspective – is how to protect future decisions.

“We live in open, dynamic societies that are open to change. But digital technologies are designed to feed off data from the past,” he indicated.

Furthermore, he underscored that political, ambiguous, debatable and controversial matters cannot be addressed by an algorithm.

“Machines make good decisions when dealing with problems for which there is a lot of data, the input and output are clear, the solutions are binary and there is a context of overall stability. If you have that, a machine can decide. If you don’t have that, if you have little data, the objective is not clearly known, there is uncertainty, the problems are ambiguous, we humans have to do it,” he sustained.

In his welcome remarks, ECLAC Executive Secretary José Manuel Salazar-Xirinachs stated that with today’s keynote lecture, the Commission is continuing the series that celebrates its history and achievements and, through it, is encouraging reflection in order to enhance its ability to contribute more and better to the efforts and aspirations of the region’s countries.

“What could be better than starting 2024 with Daniel Innerarity, a prolific author and thinker about the challenges of politics, democracy, the digital revolution and Artificial Intelligence, and the interaction of all this with our fundamental question at ECLAC about how to build a more productive, inclusive and sustainable future and, as today’s lecture emphasizes, a more democratic future and a greater capacity by political systems to generate prosperity,” he stressed.

“For ECLAC – an institution with the primary mission of developing assessments and recommendations for economic and social change, based on a combination of theory and solid and persuasive evidence – questions about the role of knowledge in transforming the economy and society are absolutely critical,” the senior United Nations official indicated.

Daniel Innerarity is the eighth lecturer to participate in the series organized to celebrate the seventy-fifth anniversary of ECLAC, which was founded in 1948 as one of the United Nations’ five regional commissions.

Through March 2024, other prominent thinkers will visit the Commission’s headquarters in Santiago to present their views and ideas about the challenges facing the world and the region. The full list of lecturers is available here.

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