The potential impact of Artificial Intelligence (AI) on our world–for good and for ill–continues to expand rapidly. On balance, the progress that science and industry have wrought over the centuries—think of the printing press, the steam engine, electricity, vaccines, penicillin, computers, and innumerable other advances–have made the world a better place. Some argue that the potential for good that AI carries makes its development a moral imperative.

However, the deleterious effects of social media (e.g., harms users’ mental health, creates a detachment from the real world, stimulates disinformation and hateful communications)  remind us that new technology is not always an unalloyed good. Even most of the engineers and investors behind AI’s rapid evolution are acutely aware of its potential to inflict harm. It is sobering that some very bright, very knowledgeable folks worry that AI could end life as we know it.

More immediate is the worry that AI may help end democracy as we know it. There are many important elections being contested around the world in 2024, including, of course, in the U.S. And, thanks in part to AI, democracy could suffer more hammer blows of the sort it has sustained in Hungary, Brazil, Turkey, and elsewhere.

Deepfake AI Image generators can produce realistic but fake images, perhaps of political candidates engaging in tawdry or illegal behavior. The Ron DeSantis campaign posted AI-generated fake images of Donald Trump with Anthony Fauci.

Deepfake AI Voice generators can produce realistic but fraudulent voices, as in robocall messages sent to New Hampshire residents just before that state’s primary that impersonated President Biden’s voice in messages urging citizens not to vote in the primary.

Significantly, AI also gives cover to dissemblers. Former President Trump has denounced videos showing him making various speaking gaffes as AI-generated fakes, even though the scenes the videos contained were widely reported when they happened and viewed in person by many independent observers.

Thus, AI makes it easier both to launch fake attacks and to dodge legitimate criticisms. It “supercharge[s] disinformation efforts and distort[s] perceptions of reality” (Hsu et al.). It “destabilizes the concept of truth itself” (Verma and De Vynck, quoting Libby Lange of Graphika). Autocrats like Vladimir Putin seem to be the most aggressive adopters of AI to advance disinformation campaigns, but they have lots of company. Now, this can be done by simply telling a Big Lie and repeating it endlessly despite a total lack of evidence, but such a lie is reinforced and made more plausible by videos and audio recordings that appear to support the lie. And AI-generated videos and audio are becoming more and more realistic by the day. This disinformation comes at a time when people seem increasingly willing and even eager to swallow the most outlandish conspiracy theories imaginable, when governments seem paralyzed while trying to develop a sensible form of AI regulation, and when social media companies seem to be giving up on even trying to prevent the worst actors from perpetrating the biggest electoral lies on their platforms.

If we cannot agree on reality…and, again, this is a problem in our polarized times regardless of the role of AI but AI seems to be seriously exacerbating the situation, then we truly may be lost.


Related videos






Reid Blackman, Ethical Machines: Your Concise Guide to Totally Unbiased, Transparent, and Respectful AI (2022).

David Brooks, “The Fight for the Soul of A.I.,” New York Times, Nov. 23, 2023.

Mark Coeckelbergh (ed.), AI Ethics (2020).

Editorial Board, “AI Could Threaten Creators—But Only if Humans Let It,” Washington Post, Dec. 17, 2023.

Luciano Floridi, The Ethics of Artificial Intelligence: Principles, Challenges, and Opportunities 2023).

Ellen Francis, “ChatGPT Maker OpenAI Calls for AI Regulation, Warning of ‘Existential Threat,’” Washington Post, May 24, 2023.

Tiffany Hsu et al., “Elections and Disinformation Are Colliding Like Never Before in 2024,” New York Times, Jan. 9, 2024.

Tiffany Hsu, “New Hampshire Officials to Investigate A.I. Robocalls Mimicking Biden,” New York Times, Jan. 22, 2024.

S. Matthew Liao (ed.), Ethics of Artificial Intelligence (2020).

Evgeny Morozov, “The True Threat of Artificial Intelligence,” New York Times, June 30, 2023.

Kevin Roose, “A.I. Poses ‘Risk of Extinction,” Industry Leaders Warn,” New York Times, May 30, 2023.

Pranshu Verma & Gerrit De Vynck, “AI Is Destabilizing ‘the Concept of Truth Itself’ in 2024 Election,” Washington Post, Jan. 22, 2024.

Vivek, “The Perils of Social Media: How It Hampers Our Rationality and Suppresses Our Thoughts,” June 3, 2021, at