’Parties are neglecting the social policy aspects of AI’

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The Bundestag could set an important course for the use of artificial intelligen

The Bundestag could set an important course for the use of artificial intelligence in the next four years. Image: Simone M. Neumann / Deutscher Bundestag

Prof. Stefan Wurster discusses the electoral platforms on artificial intelligence "Parties are neglecting the social policy aspects of AI" In the future AI will affect nearly every area of our lives. What policy developments can be expected in Germany over the next four years to lay the groundwork for these technologies? A team working with Prof. Stefan Wurster has investigated the electoral platforms of the parties represented in the Bundestag. In this interview the political scientist explains which parties emphasize the opportunities, which ones tend to see the risks, and also where the platforms have significant gaps.

Which issues do the parties highlight with regard to artificial intelligence? The electoral platforms mention AI mainly in connection with the economy, foreign policy and the area of education and research. The proposals are mostly framed in the context of the competitiveness of German and European companies. The need for better international cooperation on AI and the issue of whether the technology should be used in military intelligence are mentioned with similar frequency. Another important topic is research funding. In general, positive paradigms outweigh the statements with neutral or negative connotations. However, the proposed measures tend to be non-specific and do not go beyond conventional instruments such as public investments or state regulation, for example in connection with automatic face recognition to fight crime.

Where do the parties differ? FDP and the Greens place the strongest emphasis on the positive aspects of AI, while the policies of the SPD and especially the Linke focus on the potential challenges and risks. The CDU/CSU are more neutral, but lean towards a positive outlook. The program of the AfD make few mentions of AI, and is thus difficult to assess. State investments in AI-based technologies are advocated above all by the CDU/CSU, Free Democrats and the Green Party, whereas the Linke and the SPD prioritize state regulation - consistent with the latter parties’ emphasis on the social policy risks. In some areas there are also explicit differences. For example CDU/CSU strongly support autonomous, AI-based weapon systems for the German military, but also call for international condemnation of such systems. The SPD, the Linke and the Greens generally rule out the use of such weapons. Similar differences are evident in other areas, for example in the balance between the right to privacy vs. the use of AI-based surveillance.

How do you see the range of policies, given the importance of the issue? It is significant to note what the party programs do not address, both in terms of the topics covered and the proposed measures. With few exceptions, key issues such as the use of AI technologies in healthcare, the consequences for the working world, or the protection of individuals against discriminatory algorithms play a secondary role. More complex political instruments to manage the development of artificial intelligence such as the creation of platforms and institutions to bring together the various societal actors or with the goal of educating the public on AI are also lacking. It appears that the political debate is centered around the familiar fault lines, especially that of state regulation vs. market freedoms. But it was surprising to see such big gaps in one of the most important dimensions of AI: the need to shape the related social policies.


Markus B. Siewert, Benedikte Eiden, Stefan Wurster und Pascal D. König 2021: Wer hat den Schlüssel zur Schlüsseltechnologie? Ein Vergleich der Parteiprofile im Themenfeld Künstliche Intelligenz vor der Bundestagswahl 2021.

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