Get Smart with AI

In a recent Wired video, ChatGPT answered the web’s most searched questions:

“Can ChatGPT write jokes?”

“Yes, ChatGPT can write jokes. Why did the tomato turn red? Because it saw the salad dressing.”

“Can ChatGPT predict the stock market?”

“The stock market is influenced by a wide range of factors, such as economic indicators, geopolitical events, industry trends, and company performance. It’s important to remember that no one can accurately predict the market with 100% accuracy.”

“Can ChatGPT pass the bar exam?”

“I’m not capable of taking or passing exams. Passing the bar exam requires a deep understanding of legal concepts, laws, and regulations, as well as the ability to apply them in real-world situations.”

Asking AI-powered chatbots such as ChatGPT these kinds of yes/no questions reflects our win/lose cultural mindset. We want quick, easy, black-and-white answers to the complex problems of our gray world. If we don’t ask a chatbot, we often turn to the internet to find out. AI exists in almost all internet platforms, such as search engines and social media feeds. 

AI is only as good as the data it is trained on, and much of that data comes from the internet. A healthier digital space free of online hate creates less-biased AI, which, in turn, produces more trustworthy search engine results and impartial social media feeds. For our AI-embedded Google searches and Facebook feeds to enhance our lives, we need to get more thoughtful about what we feed AI. Then, everybody wins.

We Haven’t Forgotten How to Dream

What if the design of technology systems could be re-engineered to build trust and collaboration instead of stoking polarization and hate? What if the power of technology helped us be our best online selves? Search for Common Ground is pioneering a unique two-prong approach to help online spaces be more inclusive and positive. Healthier online communities translate to healthier real-world societies that are resilient in the face of conflict.

How Tech Platforms are Developed

Currently, technology is designed for the attention economy at the expense of our well-being and relationships. Algorithms promote content that increases polarization around identity because tech products are driven by business models built to make money. Algorithms are built to maximize investment dollars, not social cohesion, which promotes real-world social good. 

The solution is not to turn away from tech. After all, people derive a deep sense of belonging online, and online spaces give marginalized and diverse voices a platform to be heard. We need to incentivize tech companies to build social cohesion within their platforms so technology brings out the best of us. That’s why Search for Common Ground, working collaboratively with the Center for Humane Technology, Toda Peace Institute, Alliance for Peacebuilding, Braver Angels, and More in Common, launched the Council on Technology and Social Cohesion. The council provides thought leaders in tech and peacebuilding a forum to problem solve collaboratively instead of working in silos.

The council recognizes the challenge of convincing venture capitalists who invest in tech platforms to prioritize social cohesion over making quick returns on investment. However, smaller foundations pay attention because they want tech products to align with their values. Humanitarian aid and development organizations are increasingly using technology to address humanitarian challenges. Based on research results, we are hopeful that collaboration between technologists, policymakers, researchers, and peacebuilders around tech for social cohesion will cause business incentives to align with social good.

How Tech Platforms are Used

Locally rooted with a broad global reach, Search has designed, piloted, and implemented digital peacebuilding programs globally in Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso, Nigeria, Kenya, Tanzania, Sri Lanka, Kyrgyzstan, and Iraq. These programs promoting social cohesion and encouraging agency are easy to replicate and scale.

Search envisions a world where countering fake news is popular. To shift our current cultural norm of incentivizing hate speech and polarization for clicks, Search created its digital community stewards training program for online group administrators and moderators. Community stewards learn how to cultivate trust and connection between group members, handle group members who promote misinformation and disinformation, fact-check or verify content, and keep members safe from harm while respecting freedom of expression. Community stewards are trained by Search’s trainers, who review the community stewards curriculum to keep it up-to-date and context-specific. The curriculum is also available for free at the ConnexUs, a global learning, networking, and coordination platform (think Reddit meets LinkedIn) to further its reach. In an earlier iteration of the community stewards training program, Search trained influencers to manage conflict, detect fake news, and stop its spread, thereby reducing real-world violence in Sri Lanka. Search uses social media listening to understand a particular hate speech landscape in a local context and monitor its real-world repercussions. Search has also created BridgeBot, a chatbot to support social media users in developing their skills to positively manage online conflict and understand what drives it. 

A Legacy of Innovative Peacebuilding Initiatives

In 1988, Search for Common Ground’s founder, John D. Marks, hosted Common Ground America, an on-air live mediation between handgun control lobbyists and the head of the National Rifle Association (NRA). Although the program was less than riveting television, John had a core insight: peacebuilding initiatives could harness the power of media to build trust, empathy, and collaboration with an exponentially increased reach. Over the last 35 years, Search has turned radio and TV programming into spaces to forge connections and collaborations, leading to breakthroughs worldwide.. 


During the Rwandan genocide in 1994, Burundi suffered the same ethnic divide between Hutu and Tutsi ethnic groups as Rwanda did. Radio had been used to incite and mobilize the Rwandan genocide, and people in Burundi were worried about spillover violence. In 1994, Search set up a Burundi office to train joint reporting pairs of one Hutu and oneTutsi to report the news without bias. Based on that success, Search started Studio Ijambo, a radio station with a multi-ethnic staff who shared stories of Hutu and Tutsi helping one another during the conflict. Before Studio Ijambo’s inception, sharing stories of people helping one another across the ethnic Hutu Tutsi dividing line was a cultural taboo. Soon, stories came pouring into the radio station, making the Studio Ijambo program one of the most popular in Burundi. The radio ushered in a profound societal breakthrough. The program changed a cultural norm in that it was no longer taboo to show how people from different identities helped each other. 


In the aftermath of Liberia’s 1997 civil war, Search set up the radio production house Talking Drum Studio. Through radio dramas, talk shows, news programs, and soap operas, Talking Drum Studio has fostered peace, reconciliation, and unity in the aftermath of war by using vernacular language that was absent in mainstream media in its programming so everyone could understand dialogue around complex issues. Talking Drum Studio has become a Liberian household name, bridging the gap between critical information and everyday people.

Talking Drum Studio produced Liberia’s first soap opera, Today is not Tomorrow. The show explored topics reflecting the most urgent issues of the time, such as conflict resolution, disarmament, refugee resettlement, and the reintegration of former combatants into communities. Running for over nine years, it became the most popular radio drama of all time in Liberia.


In 2015, Search produced Nepal’s first political TV drama Singha Durbar, featuring a female head of state with local partners. Not only did the series challenge existing social norms around female leadership, but it also showed a culture of collaboration between a government and its constituents. Storylines reflected Nepal’s challenges of governing with transparency, accountability, and collaborative leadership.

Three elements are key to building social cohesion: a forged connection over a common interest or concern, collaboration to build trust, and breakthroughs in institutions, social norms, or markets. Search’s proven track record of initiating groundbreaking programs in support of peace has uniquely positioned it to meet the current challenges ever-evolving tech platforms present.