Program on Science, Technology and Society at Harvard

Harvard Kennedy School of Government | Harvard University

Conference on AI & Democracy

November 30 - December 2, 2023,
Tsai Auditorium, Loeb House & Harvard Kennedy School


Emergent AI technologies are raising ethical and political questions that cut to the heart of what it means to be a democratic citizen in the 21st century. However, the public conversation on AI has been dominated by tech industry leaders who insist that regulating AI is mostly a matter for technical experts. Furthermore, recurrent arguments for prioritizing technological innovation and pursuing global industry dominance have foreclosed wider debate and reinforced a laissez-faire approach to AI development in the U.S. Serious cross-sectoral dialogue and public mobilization are needed if we are to change course.

We aim to animate political consciousness about AI, generate concrete proposals for action both in the U.S. and across national borders, and compel government and industry leaders to move swiftly and decisively to bring greater political accountability to this sector. This event, co-hosted by the Program on Science, Technology, and Society and co-sponsored by the Institute of Politics and the Carr Center for Human Rights at Harvard Kennedy School, calls for a people’s movement to bring AI development under democratic control and steer it in the service of a progressive human future.

The three-day event will bring together leading voices on AI and related policy issues and feature prominent figures from government, civil society, academia, and the private sector. MIT Professor Sherry Turkle will deliver a keynote lecture titled "Artificial Intimacy: What are People For?" on the evening of November 30. Targeted workshops on December 1 will assess promising fields of action ranging from federal oversight to labor activism, with panels focusing on Labor and Workers, Competition and Security, Regulation and Government, Transparency and Democracy, and Social Movements and NGOs. On the final day, smaller committees will produce working reports that can be widely circulated to stimulate forward movement in the effort to control AI before it controls us.




Read more about our speakers and moderators here. 


Read our draft conference statement on AI and democracy here, and submit any comments here.





Thursday, November 30
Location: Tsai Auditorium, CGIS South, 1730 Cambridge St.

5:00PM                       Opening Keynote                                    

Sherry Turkle (MIT) — Artificial Intimacy: What are People For?
In conversation with:                                    
Sheila Jasanoff (Harvard Kennedy School) & David Kennedy (Harvard Law School)

7:00PM                       Adjourn


Friday, December 1
Location: Loeb House, 17 Quincy St.

8:30AM                      Coffee and Breakfast

9:00AM                      Welcome

9:15AM                      Labor and Workers

Moderator: Mathias Risse (Harvard Kennedy School)
Featured Speakers:
Liz Shuler (President, AFL-CIO)
Sean O’Brien (General President, Teamsters)
Louis Hyman (Cornell, School of Industrial and Labor Relations)
John Lopez (Writers Guild of America)

10:45AM                    Break

11:00AM                    Virtual Speaker: Jaron Lanier (“Godfather of Virtual Reality”)                                  

11:45AM                    Lunch

1:00PM                      Transparency and Democracy

Moderator: Nicole Bassoff (Harvard Kennedy School)
Bill de Blasio (Former Mayor of New York City)
Archon Fung (Harvard Kennedy School)
Santiago Garces (Chief Information Officer, City of Boston)
Zoë Hitzig (Harvard Society of Fellows)
Jason Jackson (MIT, Department of Urban Studies and Planning)

2:15PM                       Regulation and Government

Moderator: Elettra Bietti (Northeastern, School of Law)
Brando Benifei (Member of the European Parliament)
Rama Elluru (Senior Director, Special Competitive Studies Project)
Meg Leta Jones (Georgetown)
Marc Rotenberg (Executive Director, Center for AI and Digital Policy)

3:30PM                       Break

4:00PM                       Competition and Security

Moderator: Sheila Jasanoff (Harvard Kennedy School)
Christopher Kirchhoff (Founding Partner, Defense Innovation Unit)
Bruce Schneier (Harvard Kennedy School)
Allison Stanger (Middlebury College; Co-Director, GETTING-Plurality)

5:30PM                       Ted Lieu (Congressman for California’s 36th District)

6:15PM                       Adjourn


Saturday, December 2
Location: Malkin Penthouse, Harvard Kennedy School (Entrance: Wexner Building on Eliot St.)

9:45AM`                    Final Day Welcome

10:00AM                   Social Movements and NGOs

Moderator: Hilton Simmet (Harvard Kennedy School)
Lisbeth Gronlund (MIT; formerly, Union of Concerned Scientists)
David Hogg (President, Leaders We Deserve; March for Our Lives)
Max Tegmark (President, Future of Life Institute; MIT)
Jody Williams (Nobel Peace Prize for Banning Landmines)

11:15AM                   Conference Reflections and Discussion

11:45AM                   Closing Remarks

12:00PM                   Adjourn to Small Group Writing Sessions

Co-sponsored by Harvard University Weatherhead Center for International Affairs, Harvard University Center for the Environment (A Center of the Salata Institute), John and Elizabeth McQuillan, the Harvard Institute of Politics, and the Harvard Kennedy School Carr Center for Human Rights.