⏳Hacking democracy: for worse, and for
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⏳Hacking democracy: for worse, and for better.

by AsadJune 5th, 2017
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“The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter,” said Winston Churchill.

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“The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter,” said Winston Churchill.

But whatever you think of it, democracy has served us well. An increase in democracy is almost always matched by an increase in GDP. According to MIT economist, Daron Acemoglu, a country that switches from autocracy to democracy achieves about 20% higher GDP per capita over a roughly 30-year period.

Yet, at the end of 2016 research suggested that in several advanced economies, including the US and the UK, those born since the late 1980s, value democracy less than their elders.

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We’ve witnessed something.

Driven by the underlying shifts — in media, in technology, in the expression of state power, in cultural values, in big money funding data. What we’ve experienced is a manifestation of new behaviours around the democracy process: the transition from broadcast media to niche media moderated by dominant social media platforms.

The use of microtargeting across social media to better address niche voters; the interference of foreign actors in more or less significant ways in the political processes, at least in the US election; the bypassing of electoral laws; the spread of fake news across social platforms; the maturing of our information systems have closed our ability for discussion.

How do we hack democracy for better?

Of course, hacking’s true meaning is not about nefarious ‘cybers’ with malignant intent. The true meaning of hacker is any skilled expert with the creative resource to solve a gnarly problem.

And so what of ‘hacking democracy’ in this second sense? How might we problem solve the issues of democracy? How might we tweak the broadly representative democracies we see around the world today?

I discuss these questions, and more with Carole Cadwalladr, Luciano Floridi, Hari Kunzru and Tom Loosemore.

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