Could Technology Remove the Politicians From Politics?


The Terminator films envisage a future in which robots have become sentient and are at war with humankind. Ray Kurzweil thinks that machines could become ‘conscious’ by 2029 but is optimistic about the implications for humans. Photograph: Solent News/Rex
The Terminator films envisage a future in which robots have become sentient and are at war with humankind. Ray Kurzweil thinks that machines could become ‘conscious’ by 2029 but is optimistic about the implications for humans. Photograph: Solent News/Rex
The tech industry has talked long and hard about democratizing industries. Democratizing content, democratizing taxi-cabs, and democratizing bed and breakfasts. But what about democratizing democracy?

By Sue Brideshead | MOTHERBOARD

Disruption is the word of the moment in Washington, thanks to an incoming president who counts his inexperience in government as an asset. It remains to be seen what kind of disruption Trump will bestow upon the White House, but efforts at disruption from the technology world have refined and chipped at only the topmost layer of inefficiencies. Mark Zuckerberg has poured cash into a broken school district; programmers have toyed with ways to secure digital ballots; and analysts have sought (and failed) to hone the political poll. The team of engineers Barack Obama lured to Washington has been tasked with fixing podunk websites and backend systems. But what they have failed to identify as a problem is the very system that elected their boss. Because beyond the topmost layer of government gunk lies a broad and broken structure: the idea of representation itself. In the era of the internet, the very premise of sending a man to Washington or a woman to city council is badly in need of an upgrade.

The idea of a political representative evolved out of necessity. Townspeople couldn’t afford to take a day off and ride a horse to the capital. They needed to agree upon one guy who would more or less say what they were thinking, and they voted to pick the right guy for the job.

Horses became model T’s became jets flying politicians from their constituencies to the District of Columbia, ostensibly to have an ear to the ground in their home state and a hand to the buzzers on the Senate floor. But travel—and voter awareness—requires cash that drives up the price of running for office.

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