Analysis & Opinions - MIT Technology Review

Let’s Not Make the Same Mistakes with AI That We Made with Social Media

| Mar. 13, 2024

Social media’s unregulated evolution over the past decade holds a lot of lessons that apply directly to AI companies and technologies.

Oh, how the mighty have fallen. A decade ago, social media was celebrated for sparking democratic uprisings in the Arab world and beyond. Now front pages are splashed with stories of social platforms’ role in misinformation, business conspiracy, malfeasance, and risks to mental health. In a 2022 survey, Americans blamed social media for the coarsening of our political discourse, the spread of misinformation, and the increase in partisan polarization.

Today, tech’s darling is artificial intelligence. Like social media, it has the potential to change the world in many ways, some favorable to democracy. But at the same time, it has the potential to do incredible damage to society.

There is a lot we can learn about social media’s unregulated evolution over the past decade that directly applies to AI companies and technologies. These lessons can help us avoid making the same mistakes with AI that we did with social media.

In particular, five fundamental attributes of social media have harmed society. AI also has those attributes. Note that they are not intrinsically evil. They are all double-edged swords, with the potential to do either good or ill. The danger comes from who wields the sword, and in what direction it is swung. This has been true for social media, and it will similarly hold true for AI. In both cases, the solution lies in limits on the technology’s use.

For more information on this publication: Belfer Communications Office
For Academic Citation: Sanders, Nathan and Bruce Schneier.“Let’s Not Make the Same Mistakes with AI That We Made with Social Media.” MIT Technology Review, March 13, 2024.

The Authors

Nathan Sanders