Our mission is based on two assumptions and one observation. First assumption is that AI will affect society and our planet in deeper and broader ways than any technology before it, leading to potentially hellish or heavenly outcomes. Second assumption is that democratic institutions are better suited than autocratic ones to steer AI towards the good outcomes. The one observation is that current democracies are focused primarily on one direction, namely on regulating AI. This is necessary, but it is not sufficient. SD-AI is a non-profit organization working on initiatives that will focus on the other direction, namely on how to use AI to strengthen democratic institutions. In other words, our emphasis is on the technical, not on the legal.

A Democracy or a Republic?

When we use the term democracy we do not mean a pure direct democracy as the ancient Greeks understood it. We mean a form of government as found in what we popularly call today democratic countries: US, countries of western Europe, India, Japan, Australia, etc., technically a republic. When we need to be more formal or more specific, we will use the design of a republic found in the US Constitution.

The difference between pure democracy and the US constitutional version of a republic is described in the video below. While the statement in the video that "we should not go along with those demanding constitutional changes to institutions or procedures in order to make them more democratic" has majority support, one qualification is in order, in line with our mission. The Framers of the US Constitution did actually envisage that periodic changes will have to be made to the Constitution, to keep it aligned with the times. And indeed, the time for an AI Bill of Rights has come. It is also likely that AI will demand further constitutional amendments in the future, as it grows in importance.

We prefer to use the term democracy and not republic though, because democracy has more popular appeal and because it stands more clearly in opposition to autocracy, which is where our concerns about AI come in. But for us, democracy = constitutional representative federal republic. "We the People" in practical terms!


In the video below,
the words "democratic" and "republican" have little to do with the names of the two major US political parties.
This is important to understand because SD-AI aims to be a non-partisan organization,
welcoming people from all parties.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is SD-AI a US organization?

Yes. SD-AI is a nonprofit organization registered in the state of California. As such, we must comply with all the state and federal laws applicable to nonprofits and overseen by the California Attorney General. In particular, we must comply with contribution regulations. In California, we are classified as a generic non-profit 501(c)(3) organization; we are not a charitable or a religious organization. Although we are very much interested in the politics around AI , we are also not one of the political education organizations, which are classified as 501(c)(4). In particular, we do not engage in political lobbying or donate to political committees supporting ballot measures, bond issues, recalls, or referenda.

I am a citizen of another democratic country, not the US. Can I contribute?

Absolutely. Our mission hopefully will resonate with people in the many democracies of the world. We would all benefit from an exchange of ideas and a strengthening of democratic institutions across the globe and the ties between them.

I am a citizen of a non-democratic country, e.g. I may be a loyal citizen of Russia or China. Would my contribution to SD-AI be encouraged?

Yes, not just encouraged but very much appreciated. With the caveat that those contributions would have to be somewhat lined up with our mission statement. What does "somewhat" mean? Recall that the second assumption our mission is based on is that democratic institutions are better suited than autocratic ones to steer AI towards good outcomes. We could work together with people in those countries to explore the impact of AI on new (and perhaps more limited) forms of democratic institutions, specific to each particular country and on a peer basis, without trying to export the US versions. On the other hand, exceptionally well researched contributions arguing different relationships between AI and various governing institutions (even those not fully lined up with our mission statement) may be also considered.

Who runs SD-AI?

The Executive Team and the Board of Directors, whose composition you can see in the About page.

Will the politics around AI distract from the main focus of SD-AI?

Hopefully not, but it's hard to tell at this early moment, as we will only find our future direction together as a community. We do anticipate that the politics around AI will be intense and that the outcome will not be clear. We mentioned above our desire to support AI initiatives that will strengthen democratic institutions. This will be challenging, given the rise of populist leaders with autocratic leanings pretty much around the world. AI under the control of widespread autocratic institutions is a worrisome possibility. Even under these conditions, we are particularly interested in promoting centrist, moderate politics, that will encourage cooperation on practical AI matters rather than confrontation on ideology.

Will SD-AI support research in strictly technical areas of AI?

No, unless the AI application under consideration will have a direct and measurable impact in supporting our mission.

Is the emphasis in "SD-AI" on the "SD" or on the "AI"?

Very important question. We hope that throughout our work the emphasis will be on the "-", the dash. In other words, on the interaction between democracy and AI.

I am a poet (or writer, or philosopher, or artist) who worries about AI's impact on society or worries about democratic back-sliding, but in larger contexts. Would my thoughts be welcomed?

Very much so. One may even argue that such contributions are absolutely necessary if we are to reach a broader audience and entertain deeper ideas.

How can I contribute (articles or research or code or just my thoughts) to SD-AI?

The most straightforward way is to first join the community. Ideas are bounced around the community before they make it into the public view. The community is described briefly in the following section, named "Organization of the Site". Another way to propose a potential contribution is to contact the appropriate member of the Executive Team by email. Email addresses are visible as you hover the mouse over the photo of the appropriate member.

How is SD-AI financed? Can I donate?

We are seeking a variety of sources of funding, including foundation grants and governmental agencies. Most importantly and most in tune with our mission though will be the donations coming from individual citizens who believe that what we do has value. See the "Donate" link in the footer.


(On mobile devices, menus open when you click on togglers, like the one shown below. On bigger screens, the menus show in full, at the top of each page.)

A toggler

The very top menu, namely Home, Our Work, ..., is the Public face of our site. This is where our most important work is posted and for most of our readers this is all that is needed. If you choose to become a member of the SD-AI community and participate in our educational or research activities, you will have to register an account with us and then log in, through the second menu above (Login, Register). Since we deal with issues of national importance, we ask you to register with your true full name, true photo of yourself, and some other personal data. The registration process is described here. After logging in, the community Welcome page will open up. On a laptop/desktop you will see two additional menus (on mobile devices, these same two menus can be popped up with the second toggler of the Welcome page):

The menu on the left is the Community menu, the menu on the right is your Personal menu; it replaces the Login/Register menu you saw before logging in. The Personal menu is a dropdown menu, popping up when you click on your profile name/photo. Inside that Personal menu, one action stands out, the Publish action. Each community member has an assigned role. Assuming that your role has the proper publishing capabilities, when you click on Publish you will be taken to the publishing room, where a subset of our editing and publishing tools, which subset is determined by your role, is available to you:

It is very helpful to keep in mind at all times these four different areas of the site: Public, Community, Personal, and Publish. Everything else revolves around them. You will see more details, including the various kinds of roles (and their capabilities) that you can ask for, on the Welcome page, if you choose to join our community. And we hope that you do.

If you want to get a feel for what the community does, click on the picture below.
You'll see the community Welcome page, in read-only mode if you are not logged in.