Cyber Republic

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Cyber Republic: Reinventing Democracy in the age of Intelligent Machines.

By George Zarkadakis

Publisher: MIT Press (due for publication in September 2020).

Nearly thirty years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, we are witnessing the end of the post-Cold War liberal order. The clouds of resurgent nationalism, aggressive populism, mistrust in representative democracy, and anti-globalization coalesce into a perfect storm that is about to crash against the tsunami of the most disruptive technologies ever invented. The current Covid-19 pandemic is accelerating the disruption to our democratic politics by posing a daunting trilemma between saving lives, lifting lockdowns to save the economy, and respecting civil liberties. We are at a tipping point in human history and the collective decisions we take today will shape the politics of the 21st century.

As we reel out of the pandemic and try to rebuilt our economies there is a huge opportunity to reinvent liberal democracy by making it more fair and more inclusive. Key is to achieving this is, first, to understand the power and opportunities of the technologies that drive the Fourth Industrial Revolution – Artificial Intelligence, Big Data, Internet of Things, Robotics, Blockchain – and, second, to use these technologies in order to develop a new playbook for freedom, democracy and liberty in the post-pandemic world.

The Fourth Industrial Revolution is already reshaping the world’s economy, society, and politics. Just as in the First Industrial Revolution in the 18th century when machines automated manual work, the “second machine age”, where machines are capable of automating intellectual work, is forcing us to adopt new forms of social and economic organisation; while unleashing explosive new tensions between haves and have-nots.  Meanwhile, big data and intelligent algorithms are revitalising discredited notions of central economic planning, particularly in China where digital authoritarianism and citizen surveillance have been fully embraced. The stakes could not be higher. The new world order that is emerging out of the ruins and debates of the Covid-19 pandemic will be one where liberal democracies must show they can respect citizen rights and protect citizen lives and incomes – and do so in a better, more inclusive, and more economically efficient way than their authoritarian adversaries.

Cyber Republic will argue that there is a clear path for democracy to survive and thrive in an age of intelligent machines and the post-pandemic world. What we need is a new playbook that delivers greater, and more meaningful citizen participation in policy making at every level;  a total rethink of Artificial Intelligence in order to reconnect it with human goals; and, the reinvention of digital platforms and business governance through the use of web 3.0 technologies so we may share the very handsome spoils of the Fourth Industrial Revolution more fairly.

Cyber Republic’s main propositions for a reinventing liberal democracy in the age of intelligent machines are:

  • Work automation should be embraced, as long as we democratize wealth creation in the digital economy;
  • AI systems must return to their cybernetic roots and become less autonomous and more deeply coupled with human goals and human society;
  • Citizen assemblies should become a new liberal institution for citizens to participate more actively and meaningfully in political decision-making at local, national and international level;
  • The AI economy needs to be more inclusive by transforming the dominant business model of digital platforms using distributed ledger technologies and cryptoeconomics;
  • Data Property Rights are key to democratizing the AI economy;
  • Data Trusts should be adopted by democratic cities and countries in order to protect citizen Data Property Rights and govern citizen data in a way that protects civil liberties, returns direct monetary value to citizens, and enables innovation in AI systems;
  • Web 3.0 technologies can be used to implement Elinor Ostrom’s ideas on grassroots management of the commons. Cryptogovernance systems can be a more efficient and effective way to reverse environmental degradation and deal with the climate crisis – but can also be applied to managing the data and knowledge commons of the AI economy for the benefit of communities and citizens.