ITeG-Lecture: "Digital revolution: danger and opportunities for democracy"

In the ITeG lecture series "Digital Society - a Design Challenge", Prof. Dr. Dirk Helbing will provide insights on “Digital revolution: danger and opportunities for democracy” on January 27, 2021. He is Professor of Computational Social Science at the Department of Humanities, Social and Political Sciences and affiliate of the Computer Science Department at ETH Zurich.

Summary of his presentation:
The digital revolution has come with many disruptive innovations, and it often seems that the ambition of many tech leaders has been nothing less than to reinvent the world from scratch. In this connection, “democracy” has often been framed as “outdated technology”, and IT companies have worked on new “operating systems” for society, and deployed them in “smart cities” and “smart nations”. The constitutional state and human rights were questioned as well, sometimes in attempts to optimize the world and make it more sustainable in a data-driven and AI-controlled way. However, people have become increasingly concerned of the emerging technological totalitarianism. They expect a participatory framework, which allows them to co-create their future and environment. Moreover, the centralized control paradigm has a number of flaws. First, it assumes that everything, which is important, can be measured, while consciousness, human dignity and love, which are so crucial for being human, cannot be captured well by data. Second, an optimization approach needs to choose a goal function, but submitting the entire world to a one-dimensional utilitarian approach will not serve it well, due to its multi-dimensionality and complexity, and it will lead to the neglection of other goals. Instead, a co-evolutionary approach to a more sustainable and more resilient society is needed. The capacity to innovate is crucial for this, and this requires diversity and creative freedoms. Those need to be protected by human rights, as democracies do it. However, democracy needs to be digitally upgraded, to be more adaptive and more effective. For example, it is crucial to support the formation of collective intelligence. This could be done by platforms for massive open online deliberation (MOODs), but also by new participatory formats such as City Olympics, which will unleash the ideas of many minds and mobilize the talent and engagement of the people.

The lectures take place online (via Zoom). To join the Zoom Meeting, please find the Zoom Link and Meeting ID on the following website:

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