Can Democracy Survive Technological Progress?

Can Democracy Survive Technological Progress?

Democracy is facing existential peril. The threat isn’t voter intimidation, gerrymandering, voter suppression or other “classic” issues related to threats to democracy. New and emerging technologies are creating a world where the basic rules and conditions necessary for democracy in its current form to function will vanish. In this context I’m not talking about hacking, like the alleged Russian hacking of the 2016 US election cycle. As a concept it isn’t fundamentally different from physical break-ins of the past, like Watergate, or spreading false narratives. Spreading questionable narratives is par for the course for the mainstream media, it is in their blood and DNA. The true threat to democracy that can only be described in stark existentialist terms, are the opportunities for wide scale manipulation and outright thought control offered by social media and blockchain technology combined with artificial intelligence.

Tom Woods recently interviewed Robert Epstein on his podcast. In it, Epstein lays out his research into manipulation at the hands of search engine and social media companies, particularly Google and Facebook. The potential for misuse is massive, and the ramifications of directed, targeted and partisan driven actions can’t be overstated. As Project Veritas undercover operations have uncovered, algorithms used by these companies aren’t blind. Decisions related to what should be featured as trending, what content to feature and so on is highly controlled by employees with strong political leanings. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that companies based in “Commiefornia” tilt heavily towards the left.

Not only is content friendly to the left and their preferred narratives featured disproportionately. Left-wing content creators like The Young Turks have a buddy-buddy relationship with key people. All of this is problematic enough in and of itself. But the problem goes much farther. As we have seen increasingly in recent times and especially this week on Twitter, political censorship is increasing in scope. It is the easiest thing in the world to debunk claims that bans, suspensions, closings of accounts and the like are administered fairly and objectively. Every time a right-wing account gets targeted posts appear showcasing worse behavior at the hands of some left winger that escapes any sanction from the tech company.

I just finished Donna Brazile’s “Hacks” in which she writes: “The Russians may have not changed the totals in the voting machines, but they confused us, inflamed our doubts and out worst impulses, and destabilized the Democratic Party, maing it an unfair fight.” (p.235) The alleged actions by the Russian government is presented throughout the book as terrible, widespread and a threat to democracy. I ask, how is the actions of US based tech companies different? It is within their power to present a distorted reality to the average voter. They can skew the appearance of what is popular, trending, or supported by the wider public. They can push tilted, biased and skewed content about persons, topics and issues at will. All of this without the average voter being aware that they are subject to manipulation.

Sadly, it is not necessary to look outside the borders of the US in search of villainous entities hellbent on undermining democracy. The left decries Russia as a clever distraction and misdirection, while they perfect their own domestic behemoth. Their own technological complex of machines, techniques and systems undermining democracy defies even the most exaggerated notion of hypocrisy. Apart from having the vast majority of the mainstream media, academe and bureaucracies in their pockets, the left is also a long way down the path of rendering democracy inoperable or even obsolete through the obsolescence of free and fair elections. While expertly holding up mythical voter suppression and intimidation at the hands of Republicans, they are silently and in the shadows perfecting an ingenious apparatus for furthering their agenda and amassing political power.

Social media censorship is worrying, not just due to its blatant partisan nature. The perhaps most worrisome consequence is the escalation of political violence. What happens when political differences and dissent can’t be expressed with words? In the year of street battles between Antifa, Alt-Leftists and the Alt-Right and nationalists, is it really wise to give implicit support to those advocating for a line of physical confrontation rather than debate? Political differences don’t go away with the suspension of social media accounts. Rather they will find new outlets, just like squeezing an inflated balloon. Words will give way to violence. For all the talk of Trump being Hitler, the left sure wants to copy the Nazi’s playbook and create similar conditions today to those that gave rise to the street battles of Germany in the 1930’s.

Going further the explosive rise of cryptocurrencies in 2017 will only accelerate the prominence of blockchain technology. I’m not a technical expert, so I’ll refrain from trying to explain the intricacies. I’ve heard Mike Cernovich talk about the danger of blockchain technology being combined with artificial intelligence. If I understand it correctly, the AI will be able to tailor specific (fake/manipulated) news to each individual, thus exerting enormous persuasive control over the voting public. In essence this is a form of technological mind control that effectively could control political power in a democracy. This is a clear case of democracy being rendered obsolete by the emergence of new futuristic technology.

All of these factors combined paints a bleak picture of our future. Most of these technological changes that have become and will become part of our daily lives can’t be opposed. The inertia of progress will bring them into our societies whether we desire them or not. Isolating ourselves from the net North Korea style isn’t a viable option. Rather, we should focus on using these technologies for good, like circumventing governmental control of money with cryptocurrencies and on mitigating the dangers and misuse of technology. The technology in itself isn’t evil or tainted with negative moral content. It is the usage of it that makes it either a force for good or a weapon in service of darkness.

 

 

 

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