Never heard of Datacracy?
In short, it’s the constant monitoring of the online population through our mobile phones and various social media sites, where stats are gathered on our activity. This creates big data and a myriad of algorithms creating comprehensive databases.
What does this have to do with Democracy?
Experts are predicting that whoever leads the world in AI will likely dominate the world, and effectively threaten democratic principles globally. Basically we need to ask, who is compiling all this info and what are they doing with it?
The democratic system is a distributed system — it distributes information and the power to make decisions between several individuals and groups within that system, supposedly based on the data. Communism and other dictatorial systems, on the other hand, is centralize and concentrate all power and information in one place. As an example, the former Soviet Union’s authoritarian power was centralized in Moscow, where the seat of government was.
With the rise of AI and machine learning, it would become feasible to process a large amount of data and info in one place, therefore making centralized data processing more efficient than distributed data processing that would require more systems in multiple places. The danger to democracy is that the revolution in information technology will make dictatorships more efficient than democracies.
Empower the People?
The threat to liberal democracy increases as the ability of machines to process more data increases. Empowering people, once desirable both ethically and economically, isn’t necessarily important anymore.
Ethically, governments know that protecting the rights and privacy of individuals is the right thing to do. However, it’s not efficient to safeguard and defend individual rights and privacies. Building large centralized databases and predictive algorithms that make decisions on our behalf, and which completely ignore privacy concerns, now seem to be the most efficient way of governing. Algorithms now handle college admission processes, applicants’ selection processes for jobs, where to go to college, what to study in that college, which city is best for you to start your career and raise a family, what part of that city you should live in, and even who you should marry.
So, a dictator may not be able to provide basic amenities for his people, nor want to, but he will be able to manipulate them into loving him and hating the opposition.
All Data Politics is Global
Data crosses borders faster than planes or intercontinental missiles. The enemies of democracy have already proven they can effectively hack people’s social feeds and use their fear, hate, animosity, narcissism, chauvinism, terror and vanity to polarize and destroy democracy from within. During elections and referendums, the main questions being asked on the ballot are not about what we think about candidates and policies, but how we feel. If our emotions can be effectively manipulated, then democracy becomes an emotional puppet show.
If algorithms and big data are the things that will make governments more efficient in the 21st century, then the question arises: what becomes of the concepts of freedom, self-determination, autonomy, human rights and basic civil liberties?
Predictive Algorithms and Big Data are Credible Threats to Democracy by Bidemi Ologunde
Derrick de Kerckhove discusses the Age of Datacracy
Facebook’s Data Sharing and Privacy Rules: 5 Takeaways From Our Investigation by Nicholas Confessore, Michael LaForgia and Gabriel J.X. Dance
The Big Question For 2019: Can Democracy Be Saved From Datacracy? by Bhaskar Chakravorti