donald trump supporters
Supporters of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump at a campaign rally, in Charlotte, North Carolina, October 14, 2016.

The outcome of the 2020 presidential election remains in doubt, but is clear is that if Joe Biden wins he will inherit a country wracked by a pandemic and riven by political polarization.
In his three-month lame duck period, President Donald Trump seems likely to do little to alleviate Americans’ economic pain while sabotaging the incoming administration as much as he can, writes Rajan Menon, the Anne and Bernard Spitzer Professor of International Relations at the City College of New York.
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Donald Trump isn’t just inside the heads of his Trumpster base; he’s long been a consuming obsession among those yearning for his defeat in November.

With barely more than a week to go before the election of our lifetime, those given to nail biting as a response to anxiety have by now gnawed ourselves down to the quick. And many have found other ways to manage (or mismanage) their apprehensions through compulsive rituals, which only ratchet up the angst of the moment, among them nonstop poll tracking, endless “what if” doomsday-scenario conversations with friends, and repeated refrigerator raids.

As one of those doomsday types, let me briefly suggest a few of the commonplace dystopian possibilities for November.

Pennsylvania election
Election workers, left, check in voters during the Pennsylvania primary, in Philadelphia, June 2, 2020.

Trump gets the majority of the votes cast in person on November 3. A Pew Research Center survey found that 60% of those supporting the president intend to vote that way on Election Day compared to 23% of Biden supporters; and a Washington Post-University of Maryland poll likewise revealed a sizable difference between Republicans and Democrats, though not as large. He does, however, lose handily after all mail-in and absentee ballots are counted. Once every ballot is finally tabulated, Biden prevails in the popular vote and ekes out a win in the Electoral College.

The president, however, having convinced his faithful that voting by mail will result in industrial-scale fraud (unless he wins, of course), proclaims that he — and “the American people” — have been robbed by the establishment. On cue, outraged Trumpsters, some of them armed, take to the streets. Chaos, even violence, ensues. The president’s army of lawyers frenetically file court briefs contesting the election results and feverishly await a future Supreme Court decision, Mitch McConnell having helpfully rammed through Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination to produce a 6-3 conservative majority (including three Trump-appointed Supremes) that will likely favor him in any disputed election case.

Or the vote tally shows that Trump didn’t prevail in pivotal states, but in state legislatures with Republican majorities, local GOP leaders appoint electors from their party anyway, defying the popular will without violating Article II, Section I, of the Constitution, which doesn’t flat-out prohibit such a stratagem. That was one possibility Barton Gellman explored in his bombshell Atlantic piece on the gambits Trump could use to snatch victory (of a sort) from the jaws of a Biden victory. Then there are the sundry wag-the-dog plots, including a desperate Trump trying to generate a pre-election rally-around-the-flag effect by starting a war with Iran — precisely what, in 2011, he predicted Barack Obama would do to boost his chances for reelection.

And that, of course, is just part of a long list of nightmarish possibilities. Whatever your most dreaded outcome, dwelling on it doesn’t make for happiness or even ephemeral relief. Ultimately, it’s not under your control. Besides, no one knows what will happen, and some prominent pundits have dismissed such apocalyptic soothsaying with assurances that the system will work the way it’s supposed to and foil Trumpian malfeasance. Here’s hoping.

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Former Vice President Joe Biden at a campaign stop in Yeadon, Pennsylvania, June 17, 2020.

In the meantime, let’s summon what passes for optimism these days. Imagine that none of the alarmist denouements materializes. Biden wins the popular vote tally and the Electoral College. The GOP’s leaders discover that they do, in fact, have backbones (or at least the instinct for political survival), refusing to echo Trump’s rants about rigging. The president rages but then does go, unquietly, into the night.

Most of my friends on the left assume that a new dawn would then emerge. In some respects, it indeed will. Biden won’t be a serial liar. That’s no small matter. By the middle of this year, Trump had made false or misleading pronouncements of one sort or another more than 20,000 times since becoming president. Nor will we have a president who winks and nods at far-right groups or racist “militias,” nor one who blasts a governor — instead of expressing shock and solidarity — soon after the FBI foils a plot by right-wing extremists to kidnap her for taking steps to suppress the coronavirus.

We won’t have a president who repeatedly intimates that he will remain in office even if he loses the election. We won’t have a president who can’t bring himself to appeal to Americans to display their patriotism through the simple act of donning masks to protect others (and themselves) from Covid-19. And we won’t have a president who lacks the compassion to express sorrow over the 225,000 Americans (and rising) who have been killed by that disease, or enough respect for science and professional expertise, to say nothing of humility, to refrain from declaring, as his own experts squirm, that warm weather will cause the virus to vanish miraculously or that injections of disinfectant will destroy it.

And these, of course, won’t be minor victories. Still, Joe Biden’s arrival in the Oval Office won’t alter one mega-fact: Donald Trump will hand him a monstrous economic mess. Worse, in the almost three months between November 3 and January 20, rest assured that he will dedicate himself to making it even bigger.

The motivation? Sheer spite for having been put in the position — we know that he will never accept any responsibility for his defeat — of facing what, for him, may be more unbearable than death itself: losing.

The gargantuan challenge of putting the economy back on the rails while also battling the pandemic would be hard enough for any new president without the lame-duck commander-in-chief and Senate Republicans sabotaging his efforts before he even begins. The long stretch between Election Day and Inauguration Day will provide Donald Trump ample time to take his revenge on a people who will have forsaken, in his opinion, the best president ever.

More on Trump’s vengeance, but first, let’s take stock of what awaits Biden should he win in November.

Our Covid-ravaged economy
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Staffers at an unemployment event in Tulsa, Oklahoma, July 15, 2020.

To say that we are, in some respects, experiencing the biggest economic disaster since the Great Depression of the 1930s is anything but hyperbole. The statistics make that clear.

The economy had contracted at a staggering annual rate of 31.4% during the second quarter of this pandemic year. During the 2007-2009 Great Recession, unemployment, at its height, was 10%. This year’s high point, in April, was 14.7%. Over the spring, 40 million jobs disappeared, eviscerating all gains made during the two pre-pandemic years.

There were, however, some relatively recent signs of a rebound. The Philadelphia Federal Reserve Bank’s survey of economic forecasters, released in mid-August, yielded an estimate of a 19.1% expansion for the third quarter of 2020.

But that optimism came in the wake of Congress passing the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, on March 27th, which pumped about $2.2 trillion into the economy. The slowdown in job growth between July and September suggests that its salutary effects may be petering out. Even with that uptick, the economy remains in far worse shape than before the virus started romping through the landscape.

However, while useful, aggregate figures obscure stark variations in how the pain produced by a Covid-19 economy has been felt across different parts of American society. No, we aren’t all in this together, if by “together” you mean anything remotely resembling equalized distress. A Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) release, for instance, reveals that September’s 7.9% nationwide unemployment rate hit some groups far harder than others.

The jobless rate for whites dropped to 7%, but for Hispanics it was 10.3%, for African Americans 12.1%. Furthermore, high-skill, high-wage workers have gotten off far more lightly than those whose jobs can’t be done from home, including restaurant servers and cooks, construction workers, meatpackers, housecleaners, agricultural laborers, subway, bus, and taxi drivers, first responders, and retail and hotel staff, among others.

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A waiter delivers food to a table at Bottino Restaurant in New York City, October 1, 2020.

For workers like them, essential public health precautions, whether “social distancing” or stay-at-home decrees, haven’t just been an inconvenience. They have proven economically devastating. These are the Americans who are struggling hardest to buy food and pay the rent.

More than 25 million of them fall in the lowest 20% of the earnings scale and — no surprise here — have, at best, the most meager savings. According to the Fed’s calculations, of the bottom 25% of Americans, only 11% have what they require for at least six months of basic expenses and less than 17% for at least three.

Yes, unemployment insurance helps, but depending on the state, it covers just 30% to 50% of lost wages. Moreover, there’s no telling when, or whether, such workers will be rehired or find new jobs that pay at least as much. The data on long-term unemployment isn’t encouraging. The BLS reports that, in September, 2.4 million workers had been unemployed for 27 weeks or more, another 4.9 million for 15 to 27 weeks.

These disparities and the steps the Fed has taken, including keeping interest rates low and buying treasury bills, mortgage-backed securities, and corporate bonds, help explain why high stock prices and massive economic suffering have coexisted, however incongruously, during the pandemic. The problem with bull markets, however, is that they don’t bring direct gains to the chunk of American society that’s been hurt the most.

Nearly half of American households own no stock at all, according to the Federal Reserve Bank, even if you count pension and 401k plans or Individual Retirement Accounts — and for black and Hispanic families the numbers ;are 69% and 72%, respectively. Furthermore, the wealthiest 10% of households own 84% of all stock.

Trump preens when the stock market soars, as he did on April 10th, when 16 million Americans had just filed for unemployment. Tweets trumpeting “the biggest Stock Market increase since 1974” were cold comfort for Americans who could no longer count on paychecks.

The signs of suffering
Philly Food Bank
Boxes of food are distributed by the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank at a drive-thru distribution center in downtown Pittsburgh, April 10, 2020.

Even such numbers don’t fully reveal the ways in which prolonged joblessness has upended lives. To get a glimpse of that, consider how low-income workers, contending with extended unemployment, have struggled to pay for two basic necessities: housing and food.

Reuters reported in late July that Americans already owed $21.5 billion in back rent. Worse yet, 17.3 million of the country’s 44 million renter households couldn’t afford to pay the landlord and faced possible eviction. A fifth of all renters had made only partial payments that month or hadn’t paid anything. Again, not surprisingly, some were in more trouble than others.

In September, 12% of whites owed back rent compared to 25% of African Americans, 24% of Asians, and 22% of Latinos. A May Census Bureau survey revealed that nearly 45% of African Americans and Hispanics but “only” 20% of whites had little or no confidence in their ability to make their June rent payments. (Households with kids were in an even bigger bind.)

The rent crunch also varied depending on a worker’s education, a reliable predictor of earnings. Workers with high school diplomas earned only 60% as much as workers who had graduated from college and only 50% of those with a master’s degree. And the more education workers had, the less likely they were to be laid off. Between February and August, 2.5% of employees with college degrees lost their jobs compared to nearly 11% of those who hadn’t attended college.

Those, then, are the Americans most likely to be at risk of eviction. Yes, the federal government, states, and cities have issued rent moratoriums, but the protections in them varied considerably and, by August, they had ended in 24 of the 43 states that enacted them; nor did they release renters from future obligations to pay what they owe, sometimes with penalties. In addition, eviction stays haven’t stopped landlords nationwide from taking thousands of delinquent renters to court and even, depending on state laws, seeking to evict them.

The courts are clogged with such cases. Eventually, millions of renters could face what a BBC report called a potential “avalanche” of evictions.

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Drivers with signs requesting a stop to evictions during a protesters in support of a rent freeze in Los Angeles, August 10, 2020.

Nor have homeowners been safe. The CARES Act did include provisions to protect some of them, offering those with federal-backed mortgages the possibility of six-month payment deferrals, potential six-month extensions of that, and the possibility of negotiating affordable payment plans thereafter.

In many cases, however, that “forbearance” initiative hasn’t worked as intended. Often, homeowners didn’t know about it or weren’t aware that they had to file a formal request with their lenders to qualify or got the run around when they tried to do so. Still, mortgage forbearance helped millions, but it expires in March 2021 when many homeowners could still be jobless or have new jobs that don’t pay as well. Just how desperate such people will be depends, of course, on how strongly Covid-19 resurges, what future shutdowns it produces, and when it will truly subside.

Meanwhile, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association, the residential mortgage delinquency rate hit 8.22% as the second quarter of 2020 ended, the highest since 2014. Meanwhile, between June and July, mortgage payments overdue 90 or more days increased by 20% to a total unseen since 2010. True, we’re not yet headed for defaults and foreclosures on the scale of the Great Recession of 2007-2008, but that’s a very high bar.

As for hunger, a September Census Bureau survey reports that 10.5% of adults, or 23 million people, stated that household members weren’t getting enough to eat. That’s a sharp increase from the 3.7% in a Department of Agriculture survey for 2019.

In July, the Wall Street Journal reported, 12% of adults said their families didn’t have enough food (compared to 10% in May). A fifth of them lacked the money to feed their kids adequately, a 3% increase from May. Recent food-insecurity estimates for households with children range from 27.5% to 29.5%.

Meanwhile, enrollments in the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (known until 2008 as the Food Stamp Program) grew by 17% between February and May, forcing the government to increase its funding. Food banks, overwhelmed by demand, are pleading for money and volunteers. In August, a mile-long line of cars formed outside a food bank in Dallas, one of many such poignant scenes in cities across the country since the pandemic struck.

What happens after the election?
Unemployment benefits

For those who have lost their jobs, the CARES Act provided $600 a week to supplement unemployment benefits, as well as a one-time payment of $1,250 per adult and $2,400 for married couples. That stipend, though, ended on July 31st when the Republican Senate balked at renewing it.

In August, by executive order, the president directed the Federal Emergency Management Agency to step in with three weeks of $300 payments, which were extended for another three. That, however, was half what they would have received had the CARES supplement been extended and, by October, most states had used up the Trump allotments.

In the ongoing congressional negotiations over prolonging supplemental benefits and other assistance, President Trump engaged, only to disengage. With a September ABC News/IPSOS voter survey showing that just 35% of the public approved of his handling of the pandemic, and Joe Biden having opened a double-digit lead in many polls, the president suddenly offered a $1.8 trillion version of the CARES Act, only to encounter massive blowback from his own party.

And that’s where we are as the election looms. If Trump loses (and accepts the loss), he will hand Joe Biden an economic disaster of the first order that he’s made infinitely worse by belittling mask-wearing and social distancing, disregarding and undercutting his administration’s own medical experts, peddling absurd nostrums, and offering rosy but baseless prognostications.

And between November 3, Election Day, and January 20, Inauguration Day, expect — hard as it might be to imagine — an angrier, more vengeful Trump.

Donald Trump speaking

For now, as his prospects for victory seem to dim, he has good reason to push for, or at least be seen as favoring, additional aid, but here’s a guarantee: If he loses in November, he won’t just moan about election rigging, he’ll also lose all interest in providing more help to millions of Americans at the edge of penury and despair. Vindictiveness, not sympathy, will be his response, even to his base, for whom he clearly has a barely secret disdain.

So accept this guarantee, as well: Between those two dates, whatever he does will be meant to undermine the incoming Biden administration. That includes working to make the climb as steep as possible for the rival he’s depicted as a semi-senile incompetent. He will want only one thing: to see his successor fail.

Once Trump formally hands over the presidency — assuming his every maneuver to retain power flops — he’ll work to portray any measure the new administration adopts to corral the virus he helped let loose and to aid those in need as profligacy, and as “socialism” and governmental overreach imperiling freedom.

Last guarantee: He won’t waste a minute getting his wrecking operation underway, while “his” party will posture as the paragon of financial rectitude. It won’t matter that Republican administrations have racked up the biggest budget deficits in our history. They, too, will ferociously resist Biden’s efforts to help millions of struggling Americans.

And think of all of this, assuming Biden wins, as the “good news.”

Rajan Menon, a TomDispatch regular, is the Anne and Bernard Spitzer Professor of International Relations at the Powell School, City College of New York, senior research fellow at Columbia University’s Saltzman Institute of War and Peace Studies, and a non-resident fellow at the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft. His latest book is The Conceit of Humanitarian Intervention.

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FILE PHOTO: Hundreds of people line up outside a Kentucky Career Center hoping to find assistance with their unemployment claim in Frankfort, Kentucky, U.S. June 18, 2020. REUTERS/Bryan Woolston/File Photo
Hundreds of people line up for assistance with their unemployment claim. Because of the pandemic, millions of Americans are out of work and don't have health insurance.

Many Americans lost their jobs and/or their health insurance this year, leading to a surge in applications for medical coverage through Healthcare.gov and other government programs. 
People suffering from COVID-related medical issues during and after the pandemic will need the Affordable Care Act (ACA) more than ever. 
The Trump administration still hasn’t yet unveiled any alternative healthcare plan, meaning the abolishment of the ACA would leave millions of Americans with no recourse.
Bobbi Dempsey is a freelance writer and an economic justice fellow at Community Change. 
This is an opinion column. The thoughts expressed are those of the author.
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Sitting at my desk, I can clearly hear my son hacking and wheezing in his bedroom upstairs. He’s had a persistent cough for a while now, which is more than a little alarming, given the current landscape.

It isn’t just the possibility of my child being infected with COVID-19 — and the serious and terrifying health risks that go along with it — that frighten me. It’s also the realization that we cannot afford to pay for treatment he might need to save his life. Out of my three young adult children, only one currently has medical insurance. Unfortunately for the cough-plagued son in question, he is not so fortunate. 

Trump is trying to dismantle the Affordable Care Act while millions are sick, dying, and out of work. 

When faced with a deadly virus that’s killing in staggering numbers, people shouldn’t have to think about whether they can afford access to treatment that could possibly mean the difference between life and death. But that’s the reality in a country where private healthcare is typically tied to employment, and the most vulnerable and needy people must rely on a patchwork of programs that make up our shredded safety net. 

Right now, the combination of a pandemic and economic disaster means many Americans are experiencing parallel feelings of panic: struggling to survive financially, while also hoping they survive, period. 

Given that harsh reality, it is mind boggling to me that the Trump administration would choose this particular time — during a global pandemic when more than 220,000 Americans have died and many more are sick and struggling — to try and rip healthcare away from vulnerable Americans who desperately need it now more than ever.

The Trump administration is currently urging the Supreme Court to throw out the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Depending on how the Court decides on the specific questions involved, the decision could invalidate the entire law completely and deprive millions of Americans of their only access to health insurance. 

Ironically, the administration’s initial Supreme Court filing came at almost the same time as a news release from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) — a division of the Department of Health & Human Services — announcing that nearly 500,000 Americans had applied for new healthcare coverage through Healthcare.gov due in large part due to coronavirus-related job losses. That figure included people who applied through a special enrollment period for those who qualified based on loss of minimum essential coverage, and specifically focused on data for a period which ran from the end of the Open Enrollment Period last fall through May of this year. 

The more recent data about healthcare coverage (or lack thereof) paints an equally grim picture. A news update from the CMS on September 30 showed more than 4 million new Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) enrollments between February and June 2020. This represents an increase of nearly 5.7 percent since March. 

Highlighting the need for universal coverage 

The crisis that would result from the loss of the ACA underscores the problem with having no universal healthcare coverage that’s available to all citizens, and not tied to employment. 

The United States is the only industrialized country that lacks some form of universal healthcare. Some countries, like Australia, have a dual-track system with both public and private options. Other countries like Canada and the United Kingdom have what most people envision when they think of universal healthcare: a government-run system where all citizens have access to coverage. 

The public programs are typically funded through taxes, and insured citizens usually pay minimal premiums or none at all. Critics of universal healthcare programs point out some common complaints, such as long wait times and the challenge of getting pricey treatments approved without a fight. However, many Americans — especially those who have tried to get medical care while uninsured — also frequently encounter similar issues, without the benefits of universal coverage. 

Giving scared people reason to panic about whether they would be able to get medical treatment if they should get sick at a time when so many are dying or facing life-threatening illness seems intentionally cruel. 

This adds significant and unnecessary anxiety to what is already an emotionally stressful time, particularly for those worried about symptoms they or loved ones may be facing. 

I am extremely grateful that this is one of the rare times in my life when I have decent health insurance. Prior to the Affordable Care Act, my children and I were unable to get insurance due to pre-existing conditions. However, I am still trying to pay off the bills for my out-of-pocket costs from a major surgery I had last fall. And my children have all reached an age where they can no longer be covered under my policy. (Important to note, though, that they would have been dropped from this coverage years earlier were it not for the protections made possible by the ACA.)

This crisis should serve as a wake-up call — a clear illustration of the pitfalls of forcing people to rely on employers or ravaged safety net programs for healthcare coverage. It should be crystal clear that we can no longer wait to initiate a universal healthcare program. During a pandemic, the last thing a sick person should worry about is whether they can scrape together enough cash for cough medicine or if they can afford to pay an ER bill. 

And none of us should have to live in fear that the federal leaders who first failed to protect us from an impending pandemic will then further abandon us by ripping away our ability to get basic medical treatment that could mean the difference between life and death.Bobbi Dempsey is a freelance writer and an economic justice fellow at Community Change. 

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Artificial intelligence needs to be regulated to protect humans from manipulation.

AI could influence our decisions in a major way — and lead to dangerous outcomes, says technology researcher TaeWoo Kim.
According to his research with Adam Duhachek, AI messages were more persuasive when it showed people how to perform tasks.
People were also more likely to accept unfair offers from AI and disclose personal information, a sign that people are more vulnerable to manipulation than we think.
Kim believes governments need to take these behaviors into account and push for protective measures when regulating AI. 
Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Have you ever used Google Assistant, Apple’s Siri, or Amazon Alexa to make decisions for you? Perhaps you asked it what new movies have good reviews, or to recommend a cool restaurant in your neighbourhood.

Artificial intelligence and virtual assistants are constantly being refined, and may soon be making appointments for you, offering medical advice, or trying to sell you a bottle of wine.

Although AI technology has miles to go to develop social skills on par with ours, some AI has shown impressive language understanding and can complete relatively complex interactive tasks.

In several 2018 demonstrations, Google’s AI made haircut and restaurant reservations without receptionists realising they were talking with a non-human.

Would you let Google Duplex make phone bookings for you?

It’s likely the AI capabilities developed by tech giants such as Amazon and Google will only grow more capable of influencing us in the future.

But what do we actually find persuasive?

My colleague Adam Duhachek and I found AI messages are more persuasive when they highlight “how” an action should be performed, rather than “why”. For example, people were more willing to put on sunscreen when an AI explained how to apply sunscreen before going out, rather than why they should use sunscreen.

We found people generally don’t believe a machine can understand human goals and desires. Take Google’s AlphaGo, an algorithm designed to play the board game Go. Few people would say the algorithm can understand why playing Go is fun, or why it’s meaningful to become a Go champion. Rather, it just follows a pre-programmed algorithm telling it how to move on the game board.

Our research suggests people find AI’s recommendations more persuasive in situations where AI shows easy steps on how to build personalized health insurance, how to avoid a lemon car, or how to choose the right tennis racket for you, rather than why any of these are important to do in a human sense.

Does AI have free will?

Most of us believe humans have free will. We compliment someone who helps others because we think they do it freely, and we penalize those who harm others. What’s more, we are willing to lessen the criminal penalty if the person was deprived of free will, for instance if they were in the grip of a schizophrenic delusion.

But do people think AI has free will? We did an experiment to find out.

Someone is given $100 and offers to split it with you. They’ll get $80 and you’ll get $20. If you reject this offer, both you and the proposer end up with nothing. Gaining $20 is better than nothing, but previous research suggests the $20 offer is likely to be rejected because we perceive it as unfair. Surely we should get $50, right?

But what if the proposer is an AI? In a research project yet to be published, my colleagues and I found the rejection ratio drops significantly. In other words, people are much more likely to accept this “unfair” offer if proposed by an AI.

This is because we don’t think an AI developed to serve humans has a malicious intent to exploit us — it’s just an algorithm, it doesn’t have free will, so we might as well just accept the $20.

The fact people could accept unfair offers from AI concerns me, because it might mean this phenomenon could be used maliciously. For example, a mortgage loan company might try to charge unfairly high interest rates by framing the decision as being calculated by an algorithm. Or a manufacturing company might manipulate workers into accepting unfair wages by saying it was a decision made by a computer.

To protect consumers, we need to understand when people are vulnerable to manipulation by AI. Governments should take this into account when considering regulation of AI.

We’re surprisingly willing to divulge to AI

In other work yet to be published, my colleagues and I found people tend to disclose their personal information and embarrassing experiences more willingly to an AI than a human.

We told participants to imagine they’re at the doctor for a urinary tract infection. We split the participants, so half spoke to a human doctor, and half to an AI doctor. We told them the doctor is going to ask a few questions to find the best treatment and it’s up to you how much personal information you provide.

Participants disclosed more personal information to the AI doctor than the human one, regarding potentially embarrassing questions about use of sex toys, condoms, or other sexual activities. We found this was because people don’t think AI judges our behavior, whereas humans do. Indeed, we asked participants how concerned they were for being negatively judged, and found the concern of being judged was the underlying mechanism determining how much they divulged.

It seems we feel less embarrassed when talking to AI. This is interesting because many people have grave concerns about AI and privacy, and yet we may be more willing to share our personal details with AI.

But what if AI does have free will?

We also studied the flipside: What happens when people start to believe AI does have free will? We found giving AI human-like features or a human name could mean people are more likely to believe an AI has free will.

This has several implications:

AI can then better persuade people on questions of “why”, because people think the human-like AI may be able to understand human goals and motivationsAI’s unfair offer is less likely to be accepted because the human-looking AI may be seen as having its own intentions, which could be exploitativePeople start feeling judged by the human-like AI and feel embarrassed, and disclose less personal informationPeople start feeling guilty when harming a human-looking AI, and so act more benignly to the AI.

We are likely to see more and different types of AI and robots in future. They might cook, serve, sell us cars, tend to us at the hospital, and even sit on a dining table as a dating partner. It’s important to understand how AI influences our decisions, so we can regulate AI to protect ourselves from possible harms.

TaeWoo Kim, lecturer, UTS Business School, University of Technology Sydney

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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