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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China to bar people with bad ‘social credit’ from planes, trains

This is a stark example of using informational tools and online data to control citizens’ access to rights and benefits- according to the principle “once untrustworthy, always restricted”.

Source: China to bar people with bad ‘social credit’ from planes, trains