Coding Democracy

by Maureen Webb

Code, more than law, will soon determine what kind of societies we live in and whether they end up resembling democracies at all. Yet code is incomprehensible to most people. Computer users, for the most part, are at the mercy of the code makers

Hackers are savants in this world. But their identity is protean.

Code sets the terms on which life in cyberspace is experienced
- Lessig

Privacy of the Weak, Transparency for the Powerful

If data is going to be really valuable, then companies that are collecting it are engaging in cybercolonialism

Democracy is the opposite of libertarianism. It is certainly the opposite of authoritarianism. It shares some ideals with anarchism.

Technology usually follows the path of least resistance. It makes the powerful more powerful and the un powerful even less powerful, unless you pay attention.
- Harry Halpin

The authoritarian philosophy and methods of the Russian regime have migrated to the West and are being employed by Western politicians and their supporters
This is exactly what we see in Guatemalan "netcenters" which are run by the state.

We are all vulnerable to believing the things we hear or read when they are repeated over and over again. The problem is not the plurality of information sources or even the trustworthiness of some of them. It is that we rely too heavily on computers for information, discourse, and connection. Limit your exposure to the internet, read books and long articles.

In the digital era, if you expect to decide freely what you listen to and watch, receive, send, publish, create, and even think as a citizen, net neutrality is essential.

Corporations are relying on this rentier economy based on leasing software the way earlier ruling classes relied on leasing land. If you and your democratically elected government cannot own and control the software you use, you will be at the mercy of the corporations that do.

Platforms like TaskRabbit allow workers to make a pittance fetching and delivering things, not unlike lackeys in earlier periods of historic inequality.

Digital capitalism, as it is currently practiced, does not serve the commonwealth. It is likely not even sustainable. Left unchecked, it will continue to generate monopolies, gross inequality, and economies that do not work for the majority of people.

We need a far more sophisticated argument about ownership that does not just fall into the caricature of either pure privatisation, or pure state control.

It's important that we build the tools now so that the next generation will live with alternatives and start using them.

The distribution of work and wealth will be the defining challenge of the twenty-first century, and legislators will not be up to solving the problem. The owners of the robots will be like the slave owners of the cotton fields: all the wealth will go into their hands.

The hacker ethic is a question of politics, not programming

My personal view is that digital tech should not be used for everything. I think we should go back to simpler ways of running electrical grids and elections, for example. Systems are more resilient when they are not wholly digital and when they are smaller, more local, and modular. Consumers should have analogue options for things like fridges and cars, and design priorities for household goods should be durability and clean energy use, not interconnectedness.

Questioning authority and thinking for yourself is an essential component of science, of civil rights, of society.
- Joi Ito

What if digital systems enabled people to band together into quasi-autonomous governance units for mutual protection and provisioning without resorting to government while reaping superior forms of services and protection?
- Clippinger