Can Generative AI Improve Social Science?

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Artificial intelligence that can produce realistic text, images, and other human-like outputs is currently transforming many different industries. Yet it is not yet known how such tools might transform social science research. In the first section of this article, I assess the potential of Generative AI to improve online experiments, agent-based models, and automated content analyses. I also discuss whether these tools may help social scientists perform literature reviews, identify novel research questions, and develop hypotheses to explain them. Next, I evaluate whether Generative AI can help social scientists with more mundane tasks such as acquiring advanced programming skills or writing more effective prose. In the second section of this article I discuss the limitations of Generative AI as well as how these tools might be employed by researchers in an ethical manner. I discuss how bias in the processes and data used to train these tools can negatively impact social science research as well as a range of other challenges related to accuracy, reproducibility, interpretability, and efficiency. I conclude by highlighting the need for increased collaboration between social scientists and artificial intelligence researchers— not only to ensure that such tools are used in a safe and ethical manner, but also because the progress of artificial intelligence may require deeper understanding of theories of human behavior.,,

Ryan Watkins