Agency in an AI Avalanche: Education for Citizen Empowerment
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Preview: In this essay, drawing on the case of Australia in particular, we develop the argument of “schools for democracy” as part of communities that prioritize developing people’s civic agency for human flourishing. We begin with the concept of social capital – norms, values, and practices of trust and reciprocity essential to vibrant civic life and healthy democratic society – and discuss social capital’s decline in recent years as well as its relationship to what we call public work. Declining social capital and growing demands for politicians and experts to “fix things” turn citizens into spectators, largely devoid of responsibility for addressing public challenges like AI and erode hope for the future. Here, we concentrate mainly on a specific danger related to this dynamic that threatens the cultural and social foundations of democracy and is directly connected to schools and their potential for addressing the danger: In the context of declining community life, social media and other digital platforms shaped by AI can spread an “us-versus-them” mindset that feeds polarization and inflamed divisions, far beyond the formal electoral system.
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