After Episcopal

Baobao Zhang '09

UPDATE: Dr. Zhang's essay, "It’s 2043. We Need a New American Dream for the A.I. Revolution" was recently featured in the New York Times. Fake intelligence is not artificial news.
Baobao Zhang ’09, who majored in political science at Yale University and will earn her Ph.D. next May, is working on a research project on public policy and artificial intelligence (AI) through the Governance of AI at the University of Oxford.

With articles published on topics such as “Quota Sampling Using Facebook Advertisements” and “When Will AI Exceed Human Performance? Evidence From AI Experts,” Baobao studies the public opinion of AI.

Will advances in AI lead to the rise of the machines? According to Baobao, economists often attribute drastic changes in the labor market to increased automation.

“We don’t talk about automation enough in our political discourse. I want that to change, but I want the conversation to be constructive,” she says. “We want to make sure that the conversations that people are having are well-informed and factually correct so that we can move towards good public policy solutions.”

While technology as a whole is important to global politics, Baobao believes that AI in particular will be a major focus of future American elections, and she is passionate about making AI part of the broader public discourse.

“I want to think about ways that people with technical expertise can talk to the public about AI and educate them in a way that’s scientifically truthful. I want to involve the American public in the discussion about how we should develop AI as a society, and how we should deploy it so that it benefits humans and doesn’t, you know…harm us.”

Baobao says that researchers in her field have observed an opti- mism bias: people believe that automation will take away American jobs but don’t think that they are in personal danger of being replaced by a machine.

“I think this optimism bias might prevent people from taking political action,” she says.

Baobao envisions AI being useful in a wide range of ways, from powering driverless cars to providing medical diagnoses. This fall, Baobao presented some initial findings during a talk at Yale.

“It’s still nascent, but when you break it down and talk to people about how AI can shape their daily lives,” Baobao says, “people start to understand that AI is not just a computer science issue, but something that can impact all of us.”