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December’s Reimagining Democracy Workshop – Schneier on Security

possible. That’s what our workshop aimed to do – to reimagine democracy without any constraints from the past.

One of the main discussions revolved around the outdated systems of representative democracy. These systems were created in a time when travel and communication were difficult. But in today’s technologically advanced world, is it still necessary to have representatives gathering in a distant room to create laws on our behalf? We can explore alternative methods of representation, such as organizing by age or random selection. With more options available, we can rethink the duration of terms and the balance between voting in our name and ballot measures.

Misinformation and propaganda were significant concerns raised during the workshop. It highlighted the challenge of rational policy discussions when people can’t agree on facts. Another theme was the harmful effects of a political system that prioritizes economic interests, benefiting a wealthy few or corporations at the expense of the people. Participants also examined the relationship between capitalism and democracy, questioning whether it is still suitable in the information age.

The impact of technology, particularly artificial intelligence, was another critical area of exploration. While some decisions, like optimizing traffic lights, can easily be left to AI, the question arises as to when we can trust AI with more crucial policy decisions. Would an AI device voting on our behalf, based on inferred preferences, be a viable option? Or should we vote directly for ideas and goals, leaving the details to computers? However, technological solutionism has its limitations.

The workshop also addressed the issue of scale in governance. The size of governments today is a reflection of the technology available during their formation. But do we still need political units the size of countries or states? Is a mixture of scales that effectively addresses local and global issues necessary?

The workshop delved into historical and technological alternatives to democracy. Sortition, where political officials are chosen randomly to deliberate on specific issues, and liquid democracy, which eliminates elections and allows individuals to assign their votes as proxies, were discussed. The question of who gets to participate and whose interests are considered was also debated. Should future generations, nonhumans, or ecosystems have a voice? Should certain groups be given more powerful votes?

The limits of democracy were another important aspect of the workshop. While democracies have boundaries to protect individual rights, questions arise about the rights of society that surpass individual rights. Resilience and alignment of interests were also crucial considerations, aiming to create a system that protects the interests of the many and prevents subversion for the benefit of a few.

Ultimately, the workshop did not aim to provide answers but to open up discussions and explore possibilities. The current discourse surrounding political system changes often focuses on incremental adjustments. However, in an era of significant challenges like climate change, biotechnology, and AI, it is crucial to think more radically and look beyond the horizon for innovative solutions. Reimagining democracy without any preconceived limitations is the first step towards building a system that aligns with the interests of the people in the face of these existential risks.

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