digital democracy

The onset of technological advances has meant a move towards more equality and public debate through the myriad of social media platforms.

Net neutrality has been a hot topic lately and a tension caused by Government pronouncements urging the Tech Titans to edit some of the less desirable content found on the internet..

We also have so have more innovation in technological delivery of services and initiatives like blockchains that in theory further democratise and open up financial transactions between parties and taking control over their identities and their destinies.

This new democracy would, in theory, liberate people from rule by state or bureaucracy because rules would be agreed via networking and social cohesion. These new digital communities encourage freedom of expression and a way of overcoming inequality and promoting a classless society.

With the advent of AI also taking over some specialist skills, technology has been harnessed and this may produce a situation where everyone can have access to robotic skills and may not necessarily be a specialist in a particular field. Education is now teaching people how to use technology to replace previously taught skills, so we are in danger of losing our abilities to cut wood or weld metal, thus the new world of work is all about applying technology , so the new elites are the ones with access to Robots and software programmes. However, society will only change when there is wholesale acceptance of technology in all walks of life and the individual is also not constrained by wealth or social background.

Provided we don’t let technology be controlled by a few ( and that is a big proviso ) each individual will be free to form more egalitarian networks and new and privileged groups in society should not be formed, so to some extent it is a ‘commons’ approach to ownership of technology .

Unfortunately we have arrived at a state where the Tech Titans appear to have already cleaned up.

There is a small army of people who run Tech companies, command programmers and decide what we should see and buy and these people have infinitely more power than governments.

In the digital society, perhaps the Tech Titans could organise themselves as some form of democratic party and be a force for good, extolling the virtues of sustainability and maybe setting out some goals for a ‘good citizen’ and a more egalitarian society .Also perhaps there will be data consumer groups with common interests that may address this power influence. The dangers of a digital dictatorship could be met by groupings of educational and cultural think tanks (possibly NGOs) which would transcend national boundaries.

A significant lack of understanding of Big Tech by Governments is leading to a lag in regulations (which maybe outdated by the time they get approved) ,inappropriate rules and lack of accountability of these Tech Titans which in turn has led to irresponsible behaviour and manipulation of content ( fake news) At the moment we are appealing to their better nature to regulate themselves, always a difficult position to be in when you are responsible for your own output.

What is required therefore is a rethink of some basic contracts between the Tech Titans and their consumers which would also include a move away from market pricing and authority ranking as a fundamental principle in contract formulation and more of an egalitarian approach to what is effectively a common good. ( see the work of Robert Fiske)

I suppose what I am asking for is a new set of digital engagement based on reasonableness and sensible values and we don’t get a distinction between cyber rulers and rules. If we talk about how digital commerce can personalise purchasing we should also talk about how it can personalise and customise democracy. One initiative which may gain traction is the use of digital technology to actually communicate with the masses and ask their opinions which, provided we tackle the issue of bots and security would be a positive way of embracing cyber representation.

If we could scale technologies like blockchains and get verifiable identities then this opens up a new landscape which could modify behaviour of big Tech leading to a much more collaborative democracy with the great unconsulted. Global solution networks may be the answer

However, infrastructure (inc energy), accessibility, speed of response, and behaviour are critical issues before we can celebrate this new democratization of technology

We should embrace this new digital landscape as an opportunity for more equality, not less and to achieve this it starts with how we communicate with each other in Social groups and how we relate ( and this doesn’t mean simply posting ‘Likes’). The fourth Industrial Revolution also needs to be accommodated by a social revolution that encourages each individual to develop qualities of intellect and polymathematics which AI will bring and apply their new found intellect to develop new ways of interacting with human beings. This will lead to better governance and, dare I say it, Trust.