Research Areas

This network will convene multi-disciplinary teams to tackle questions of how to govern emerging technologies and how to deploy emerging technologies for governance from a multiplicity of viewpoints and expertise. The research areas of this network will continue to evolve and expand over time. Some of the initial research areas of focus and open research questions are below.

  • The metaphorical polis. Historical and literary analysis of the depiction of AI in film, television, and science fiction, from Karel Capek to Large Language Models. The aim is to assess the precision and import of metaphor for human preferences and political institutions in each instantiation of technological development.
  • Digital phonemes, syntax, and semantics. New technologies produce not only metaphors but the proliferation of terminology and acronyms to convey novelty. A cross-referenced glossary of terms and the meanings they embody, accurate or misleading, will provide the requisite knowledge and language for public deliberation of technological innovation.
  • The right to work and the future of knowledge work. In a world of fully developed GFMs, this work stream will explore alternative futures based on consumer preferences that can either reinforce democratic values or undermine them.
  • Truth-seeking after the collapse of the Platonic binary. In the age of Deep Fakes, non-binary truths and micro-targeted persuasion, this project will explore the increased significance of provenance in a Web3 world and the technological possibilities of establishing such conclusively.
  • Epistemic Justice. Whose social consensus matters most in a given issue area under conditions of oligarchic financial power?
  • Mechanisms for collective intelligence. We seek to build the best tools for revitalization of both the digital commons and a virtual public square that has increasingly been privatized.
  • Transnational governance of GFMs through deliberative democracy. How we can use modern deliberative democratic processes to rapidly enable broadly legitimate governance of GFMs, using sortition and potentially augmented facilitation, at all scales. This builds on work toward ‘platform democracy’ where this has been applied to technology platform decision-making.

Despite our awareness of the critical issues stemming from the current approach of large technology platforms on personal data use, privacy, governance, and anti-competitive practices, we have yet to support realistic alternatives that mitigate the harms of these platforms. We’ll investigate how platform cooperatives, decentralized autonomous organizations (DAOs), and other open-source communities might play a role in building more equitable ownership and governance in the platforms and organizations in our everyday lives. In order to explore how more collective organizational structures could thrive, we will work closely with both practitioners and policymakers in the space. This project will also explore the regulatory questions emerging organizations such as DAOs raise and translate foundational research into primers for policymakers.

The pace of technological development has outstripped our governance capacities. Across policy domains, policymakers are struggling to see the near-term and long-term downstream effects of new advances and to understand how they will affect their work and policy goals. Policymakers and implementers in the U.S. also face many obstacles to introducing technological innovations that might help improve governance. Some countries, for instance, Taiwan, now have a cabinet level agency that focuses exclusively on impacts and uses of digital technologies. It’s time to ask whether the U.S. should pursue a similar model for the governance of emerging technologies and deployment of next-generation technologies for governance, or if alternative strategies exist for mastering this moment of significant change. Via a set of red-teaming exercises with stakeholders across policy domains, we aim to develop a roadmap to effective and democracy-supportive strategies for governing and innovating with tech across U.S. agencies.

Algorithms increasingly mediate how we allocate our attention, and for the most part those algorithms seek to optimize for engagement. This practice, though expedient, conflates what we do with what we want, and incentivizes the production of engagement-bait that often provokes outrage and conflict. One alternative is bridging-based ranking, in which attention is directed towards content that increases mutual understanding and trust across divides. There are many open questions about how best to achieve this qualitative goal. In this work, we aim to progress understanding of technical approaches to bridging, develop evaluation methods for these approaches, translate insights from peacebuilding communities, develop the normative foundations of bridging, and explore applications of bridging principles in other technological governance systems.

We plan to host workshops for global regulators on education about Web3 technologies, challenges, opportunities, risks, and mitigating measures. Technologies and solutions to be reviewed would include Decentralized Finance, smart contracts, privacy enhancing technologies, information-sharing mechanisms, compliance tools, and many more. The workshop will assist participants from the public sector by deepening their knowledge about the latest technologies that are being developed in the private sector and academia and improve their ability to shape global public policy and regulation.

Go to the POLICYMAKING FOR AI & WEB3 workhop series page.