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New Undergraduate Course Supplement 2022

GOVT 20.12 Politics and Artificial Intelligence

Algorithms and machine learning are changing political processes that are fundamental to democracy, free markets, interstate conflict, and justice. To name just a few examples, governments ranging from Russia to Iran have used AI to plant over 10 billion fake accounts on Facebook and Twitter to influence US civic discourse by pretending to be Americans voicing support for US presidential candidates; Authoritarian regimes now regularly use facial recognition technologies purchased from US-based companies in order to track and persecute minorities and advocates for democracy; Social media companies’ political ad targeting algorithms tend to target voters from certain demographics with specific political ads in biased ways that are often unanticipated by the political candidates themselves; American courts frequently consult commercial AI tools to predict (via confidential and/or biased algorithms) whether Americans would commit future crimes before deciding whether they will be paroled or permitted bail. This course will survey both the algorithms that are central to these changes and the new social science research that seeks to understand their impact on contemporary politics. Our main goals are to create opportunities for students—including those with no background in algorithms—to engage with ideas, research, and people who are at the forefront of these topics, and then to use what they learn to develop their own research ideas.

Distributive and/or World Culture


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