ND Expert Lisa Schirch: AI has ability to undermine or potential to unite

Author: Tracy DeStazio

ND Experts

Lisa Schirch

Lisa Schirch

Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies, Keough School of Global Affairs

Lisa Schirch 300x190

Lisa Schirch, the Richard G. Starmann Sr. Endowed Chair at the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies and professor of the practice in the Keough School of Global Affairs, focuses her research on the design of artificial intelligence technology and its impact on the democratic process and polarization within American society. Schirch says AI poses immense threats when used as a tool of propaganda undermining democratic institutions and, at the same time, opportunities to incentivize creative problem-solving in democratic and peace processes.     

“Recent advancements in AI make it more accessible than ever,” Schirch said, “putting the tools for advanced propaganda into the hands of cyber armies created by autocratic countries to undermine advocates for democracy and human rights. Autocratic countries are using tech-assisted propaganda to fuel polarization and to divide societies so people turn against each other. Americans already distrust each other and foreign governments are now using our own AI technology to further divide us.”

Schirch believes this same divisive propaganda can be used to undermine public trust in elections and make governance and any type of problem-solving almost impossible. 

On the other hand, Schirch sees an opportunity for AI to be used in beneficial ways such as providing fairness and clarification and for uniting feuding countries. “My students here at Notre Dame are developing AI tools to generate evidence-based responses to hate speech and disinformation,” Schirch said. “And my colleagues at the United Nations are using AI-assisted platforms that identify common ground in public conversations between Tunisia and Libya.”

Whether AI is used to help or harm will be revealed in the coming months and years. “AI has the potential to both help humans make better decisions together, or to undermine our ability to solve problems,” Schirch concluded.