The Challenge of Containing AI in Open Societies: Balancing Empowerment and Control

Ulrich Fischer

Hatched by Ulrich Fischer

Apr 07, 2024

3 min read


The Challenge of Containing AI in Open Societies: Balancing Empowerment and Control


In today's open societies, the pursuit of containing artificial intelligence (AI) presents a daunting dilemma. The distributed nature of AI technologies erodes the authority of any entity, including the state, to control them. This creates a unique challenge as societies face common issues created by technologies that simultaneously undermine the capacity for a unified response. This article explores the concept of "uncontained asymmetry" and the need for checks and balances in the digital age.

Uncontained Asymmetry and the Disempowerment of the Public Sphere:

Suleyman, in his book "Containing AI In Open Societies," highlights the phenomenon of uncontained asymmetry. This term refers to the dual nature of distributed technologies that both centralize power in a few hubs and empower billions of individuals. While the internet has given everyone the opportunity to participate, it has also created behemoth companies and a fragmentation of society into numerous tribes. This tension between empowerment and control fuels the disruption caused by the internet.

Challenges of Media Consolidation and Narrative Control:

In the past, a handful of media properties translated institutional thinking for the masses. However, this consolidation of narrative control enabled deception and lies. The advent of the internet did not eliminate the human desire for authority figures or trusted interpretations of facts and narratives. Instead, it democratized the ability for individuals to position themselves as authorities. This has led to the proliferation of irreconcilable understandings of the world, hindering constructive conversation and deliberative discourse.

Bridging the Gap between Niche Realities:

As we witness the rise of medias-of-one, the battle for attention in the digital realm becomes paramount. Individuals within niche realities are less likely to engage in nuanced discussions, fearing the loss of attention. This further deepens the divide between different perspectives and hampers the possibility of bridging them. The manufacture of consent thrives within each niche, perpetuating echo chambers and reinforcing pre-existing beliefs.

Finding Balance: Empowerment and Control:

To address the challenges posed by AI in open societies, it is crucial to strike a balance between empowerment and control. While the democratization of participation and access to information is crucial, it is equally important to establish checks and balances to prevent the concentration of power in a few entities. Here are three actionable pieces of advice to navigate this delicate balance:

  • 1. Foster Digital Literacy: Promote education and critical thinking skills that enable individuals to navigate the digital landscape effectively. By empowering individuals with the ability to discern reliable sources and engage in constructive dialogue, the public sphere can regain its power.
  • 2. Encourage Ethical AI Development: Emphasize the importance of ethical considerations in AI development. This includes transparency, accountability, and fairness in the design and deployment of AI technologies. By ensuring that AI systems serve the common good, the risk of concentrated power can be mitigated.
  • 3. Strengthen Regulatory Frameworks: Develop robust regulatory frameworks that address the unique challenges posed by AI. These frameworks should strike a balance between allowing innovation and ensuring accountability. Collaboration between policymakers, technologists, and society as a whole is crucial in shaping responsible AI governance.


Containing AI in open societies is a complex task that requires navigating the tension between empowerment and control. The distributed nature of AI technologies challenges traditional forms of authority, making it essential to establish checks and balances in the digital age. By fostering digital literacy, encouraging ethical AI development, and strengthening regulatory frameworks, societies can harness the potential of AI while safeguarding against the concentration of power. Only through careful navigation of these challenges can we create a future where AI serves the common good in an open and democratic society.

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