AI Lab insights: Hands-on experiments unveiling AI’s Role in shaping the 2024 elections

On the evening of April 12, 2024, the “AI Lab: Addressing AI’s Impact on the Political Arena” event unfolded with an unexpected yet fittingly innovative welcome — an AI-generated avatar of Ursula von der Leyen. The virtual appearance of such a distinguished figure not only captivated the audience but also set a tone of intrigue and reflection on the pervasive role of AI in our daily lives.

Photo: Marina Bykova

The event transitioned seamlessly into an engaging and somewhat unsettling game designed to challenge our perceptions of reality. Participants were tasked with distinguishing deep fake images from authentic ones, a task that proved increasingly difficult across the four rounds. This exercise starkly highlighted the sophisticated capabilities of modern AI technologies, leading to a discussion about the ethical implications underscored by the Open Letter from the Future of Life Institute, which called for a temporary halt on training AI systems more powerful than GPT-4.

Role Play Game

The conversation then pivoted to the practical applications of AI in the political sphere, particularly its potential use in the upcoming EU Parliament elections. This segued into an immersive role-play game where participants were grouped into pairs and assumed the roles of various political entities and a civil society organization. These roles were designed to reflect the spectrum of political ideologies and the critical role of civil society in fostering responsible discourse. The groups utilized advanced AI tools provided by the organisers, including voice cloning and video enhancement technologies, to craft campaign strategies aimed either at securing electoral victory or educating the public about the risks of disinformation.

Photo: Marina Bykova

The culmination of this workshop was a gala where participants showcased their AI-generated campaign materials. The displays were not only a testament to the participants’ creativity but also a powerful demonstration of AI’s potential to shape political messaging. Many attendees expressed their newfound awareness and cautious approach towards online content, reflecting on their first-hand experience with the tools that can so easily manipulate reality.

During this event, we got to reflect on the growing role and impact of AI in the field of information and media. We had the opportunity to see and compare examples of manipulated content and discuss cases of disinformation we might come across in our daily lives and their impact on democracy. During a fun role-playing activity we got to use AI tools to create our own content, this activity made me realise how accessible and easy to use some of the tools used for disinformation are, and how challenging it can be to regulate it. It also made me want to experiment more with them in a creative way!

— Antonin, participant

The format of the game is not unique and was inspired by the workshop at the “Hi Ai! Congress for All” event in Berlin earlier in March, conducted by the Konrad Adenauer foundation.

The event concluded with a screening of segments from the documentary “Smart New World,” which further expanded on the theme of AI’s ubiquitous role in modern technology. This documentary provided a critical look at Europe’s position in the global AI race, highlighting key figures and start-ups driving the AI industry forward. It emphasized the dual nature of AI as both a tool for efficiency and a potential disruptor of ethical norms and values.

“AI Lab: Addressing AI’s Impact on the Political Arena in 2024” not only educated its participants about AI’s capabilities and risks but also provoked a deeper consideration of how these technologies influence our values and the integrity of our democratic processes. As Europe navigates its path in the AI landscape, events like these are crucial for preparing citizens to engage thoughtfully and vigilantly with the evolving digital world. The discussions and experiences from this evening will undoubtedly resonate as we approach the EU elections, reminding us of the need to approach AI with both optimism and scrutiny.

This event was hosted by EU4YOUTH2Act (P.Nr.: 2023-1-IT03-KA220-000154855) and Actively Critical – Critically Active (P. Nr.: 2022-3-DE04-KA154-YOU-000100686) projects, co-funded by the European Union through the Erasmus+ program.

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