AI is here to stay – here’s how it can complement the work we do

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is a hard topic to avoid at the moment. Warnings of deep fake videos of prominent politicians, talk of decimation of jobs and disagreement on how – and even if – regulation should be introduced.

Ahead of a crucial 12 months of elections in 2024 – during which more than two billion people will take to the polls across the world – it is essential that politicians, business leaders and the general public understand the impact AI will play in campaigns and voter choices. This extends to organisations trying to influence political thinking ahead of such an important year.

AI is playing a growing role in decision-making in many sectors. Focusing on the UK, to understand why AI will play an important role in political engagement we need to look at what is already happening. In the past months, ‘deep fake videos’ have been widely shared of Sadiq Khan and Keir Starmer, the latter timed to coincide with the first day of Labour Party Conference. Conservative MPs were forced to make social media statements to distance themselves from these videos and warn of the dangers of them.

This has provoked much discussion in the media around content bias, defined as how tech giants are deciding what users see or don’t see. AI platforms are trained on data that we, as humans, input into them. A classic example of this is Elon Musk’s new AI chatbot Grok, which is trained on the same model as X, and is expected to ‘rapidly improve as X’s users feed it with more information’. The public needs to be aware of how much of the content they are seeing is distributed by the same organisations.

At a recent PRCA Public Affairs conference, Tim Gordon of Best Practice AI and Full Fact stated that 95% of content generated during the election will have some sort of AI element, whether accurate or inaccurate. Sam Cunningham, CEO of PoliMonitor, supported this by sharing analysis that shows even Hansard, the official record of debates and transcripts in the British Parliament, deviates from the spoken word by 15%.

The impact of AI on elections cannot be understated. Layers of misinformation mean that even good actors and good motives may be polluted. To borrow a quote from Tim Gordon at the same conference: “FDR was the first radio president, Kennedy the first television president, Trump the first Twitter president, so who will be the first AI president?”

If AI is set to play a big part in influencing election results, how can organisations and individuals looking to influence these politicians use AI responsibly and to their advantage? AI can help build mass scale and improve the speed at which we work. It will add greatest value by being used for repetitive tasks such as chart and presentation creation, alongside media monitoring. This is not necessarily a bad thing – particularly for communications and public affairs agencies and professionals. AI can replace laborious tasks and free up time for higher value work that’s more interesting.

But human experience, understanding and political knowhow is irreplaceable. AI can play a big role in completing many of our everyday tasks more efficiently but is at its most effective when it’s working hand in hand with the human element. We should focus on providing insightful, political advice that builds on AI-generated results.

As was reflected during the PRCA Public Affairs conference, providing and maintaining transparency through use of AI is important for building political and public trust. Businesses should be open about how it is incorporated into their practices, and be responsible for using it ethically. As long as humans are responsible for the final output and provide explanation and insight, using AI can only increase the speed and efficiency of much of the research work we do.

Being able to create a human connection and advise clients or politicians to generate the best outcome comes from years of experience that AI can’t replicate (yet). The development of new tools may end up bringing us back to the old way of engaging the right people, building on long-term and creating new, exciting relationships.

Luther Pendragon is one of the UK’s most highly-regarded independent consultancies, with a 30 year track record of helping organisations understand and manage political risk and tell compelling stories to the people that matter. Contact us to find out how we can help your organisation make an impact.