Future of Democracy Lecture Series Launched at New York University

Andrew Young — September 21, 2018

Yesterday saw the launch of the “Future of Democracy” Lecture Series – co-organized by The GovLab and the Institute for Public Knowledge – with Network chair Beth Simone Noveck in conversation with Audrey Tang, Digital Minister, and leader of Social Innovation for Taiwan. The discussion – “Government by the People, with the People: How is Transforming, Four Years after the Sunflower Occupy Movement” – explored civic technology, and how new forms citizen participation, deliberation and collaboration between society and government can better inform public institutions about the needs of citizen-led communities around the world. Noveck – who is also Professor and Director of the The Governance Lab at New York University – spoke with Tang about law and policy in Taiwan, and her efforts to create a more transparent and participatory democracy. Tang closed out the discussion with a call to action and thoughtfulness in the form of a poem:

When we see “internet of things,” let’s make it an internet of beings. When we see “virtual reality,” let’s make it a shared reality. When we see “machine learning,” let’s make it collaborative learning. When we see “user experience,” let’s make it about human experience. When we hear “the singularity is near,” let us remember: the Plurality is here.

Watch the recorded livestream of the lecture here.

Next Lecture: Beth Simone Noveck and Geoff Mulgan on Collective Intelligence The next Future of Democracy lecture will take place on Wednesday, September 26th, from 12:00-2:00pm, at the Institute of Public Knowledge. The event will feature Beth Simone Noveck in conversation with Nesta Executive Director and Network member, Geoff Mulgan. The talk will be organized around the theme of “Collective Intelligence and Democracy,” and will touch on Mulgan’s new book Big Mind: How Collective Intelligence Can Change Our World, Nesta’s new Centre for Collective Intelligence Design, as well as previous work undertaken in the context of the Network.

About the Future of Democracy Lecture Series From the Future of Democracy website:

“Public trust in the government remains near historic lows. Only 18% of Americans say they trust the government in Washington to do what is right. The lack of trust extends to democracy as well as government: another study finds that one-quarter of millennials say that “choosing leaders through free elections is unimportant.” With the rise of authoritarian populist leaders around the world – including in the United States— and the weakening of democratic norms in a hyper-partisan political culture in which every day is Election Day, we must ask how vulnerable our democracy is to break down. Our Madisonian system of checks and balances has endured but are our institutions strong enough to resist the slide from demagoguery into dictatorship? And, perhaps more important, what can we do in the era of new technology to redesign what President Tyler in 1840 called “the complex, but at the same time beautiful, machinery of our system of government.” Sociologist Seymour Martin Lipset, in his canonical Political Man, defined democracy as “a system of elections.” But, it is clear that if we want democracy to thrive, we can do better – we must do better – and reimagine what active citizenship and stronger democracy could mean for the 21st century.

Through public lectures, research workshops, projects, and publications, the aim of this working group is to foster rigorous, interdisciplinary research on the study of Democracy and the impact of technology on its evolution.

The series will explore questions such as:

  • Is democracy in jeopardy? Is it dying or declining? Is populism a serious threat? And what is the role of global corporations in advancing or undermining democracy?
  • Is democracy still compatible with forging an equitable, sustainable and just society?
  • What could replace democracy as we know it? Is democracy at the national level still what matters or what are the prospects for global, transnational, and local democracy?
  • What are the hallmarks of a democracy in the age of the Internet, robots, and artificial intelligence? Is there more to democracy than voting? What will be the impact of the technologies of collective intelligence and artificial intelligence?
  • What are the prospects for greater participation and engagement in democratic life? What kind of skills do we need to become active citizens? And do we have to tackle inequality in order to repair our democracy?
  • How do we reinvent democratic theory for the digital age? And what kind of democratic culture is needed to foster adaptations?”

If you’re interested in learning more about the Working Group on the Future of Democracy, contact IPK’s Associate Director, Jessica Coffey, at [email protected].