Analysis & Opinions - Brookings Institution

How Public AI Can Strengthen Democracy

| Mar. 04, 2024
  • Just three Big Tech firms control two-thirds of the global market for cloud computing resources used to develop AI models. This centralization results in AI systems designed to serve corporate interests.
  • Publicly developed and owned AI models and computing infrastructure could democratize the technology itself, creating an open platform for innovation and offering guarantees about the availability, equitability, and sustainability of AI technology.
  • The U.S. should establish a federal services agency dedicated to AI to democratize the field while prioritizing the impact of AI models on democracy.

With the world’s focus turning to misinformation,  manipulation, and outright propaganda ahead of the 2024 U.S. presidential election, we know that democracy has an AI problem. But we’re learning that AI has a democracy problem, too. Both challenges must be addressed for the sake of democratic governance and public protection.

Just three Big Tech firms (Microsoft, Google, and Amazon) control about two-thirds of the global market for the cloud computing resources used to train and deploy AI models. They have a lot of the AI talent, the capacity for large-scale innovation, and face few public regulations for their products and activities.

The increasingly centralized control of AI is an ominous sign for the co-evolution of democracy and technology. When tech billionaires and corporations steer AI, we get AI that tends to reflect the interests of tech billionaires and corporations, instead of the general public or ordinary consumers.

To benefit society as a whole we also need strong public AI as a counterbalance to corporate AI, as well as stronger democratic institutions to govern all of AI.

For more information on this publication: Belfer Communications Office
For Academic Citation: Sanders, Nathan, Bruce Schneier and Norman Eisen.“How Public AI Can Strengthen Democracy.” Brookings Institution, March 4, 2024.

The Authors

Nathan Sanders