The Citizen, the Tyrant, and the Tyranny of Patterns

Costica Dumbrava | A citizen with a view | Published on Verfassungsblog, Debate «China‘s Social Credit Sysrem» | June 2019


I agree with Wessel Reijers that social scoring systems limit political freedom and instrumentalise citizenship to impose social control. While technologies have always been used for political ends, the latest technologies relying on big data and complex algorithms offer uniquely powerful and highly effective tools to survey people, quash dissent, and reinforce an authoritarian rule. What is new is a wide appeal of technologies as ‘fixes’ for pressing social and political issues. Building on their ‘success’ in commercial sectors (banking and marketing), predictive algorithms and scoring systems are enthusiastically adopted by governmental agencies throughout the world to help making decisions in areas such as criminal justice, welfare, and border control. The Chinese Social Credit scheme is nevertheless unique because of its ambition to aggregate data from a wide variety of sources to provide a set of prescriptive algorithms for “good citizenship” that is backed by state coercion. 

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How algorithms undermine democracy

Costica Dumbrava | A citizen with a view | March 2019


In August 1955, Isaac Asimov published Franchise, a short story in which a computer decides the results of the US  elections after interviewing  one single citizen. It is the year 2008(!) and Multivac, the electing machine, has chosen Norman, a clerk in a small departement store from Bloomington, Indiana, to be the single, most representative, voter in the forthcoming US presidential elections. The idea of a single representative voter is somewhat seductive. It makes sense from an economic point of view as such arrangement would help saving all the millions spent (wasted) currently on electoral campaigns and elections. It might also make sense from a theoretical point of view if you think of the one voter as the embodyment of the popular will (a la Rousseau). However, Asimov’s tale is not one of perfect representation; it is one of algorithmic politics. 

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[Draft] AI Genesis

On the first day God created stuff

On the second day God created humans

On the third day humans invented the computer

On the fourth day humans discovered data

On the fifth day humans designed AI

On the sixth day AI re-designed humans

On the seventh day [insert your hopes, dreams, frustrations, fears, etc. here] happened.


C. Dumbrava |  A citizens with a view | 13 November 2018

Link: ICE just abandoned its dream of ‘extreme vetting’ software that could predict whether a foreign visitor would become a terrorist – The Washington Post

Immigration officials originally wanted artificial intelligence that could continuously track foreign visitors’ social media. They’re giving the job to humans instead.

Source: ICE just abandoned its dream of ‘extreme vetting’ software that could predict whether a foreign visitor would become a terrorist – The Washington Post

The Future of Artificial Intelligence and its Impact on Society | Council on Foreign Relations

THOMPSON: All right. Hello, everybody. Welcome to the closing session of the Council on Foreign Relations 22nd Annual Term Member Conference with Ray…

Source: The Future of Artificial Intelligence and its Impact on Society | Council on Foreign Relations