This is a site for George Zarkadakis‘ new book project on rethinking democracy in the age of cognitive automation.
The fourth industrial revolution – enabled by cognitive automation technologies such as Artificial Intelligence, Data, blockchains, and Robotics, will fundamentally reshape the world’s economy, society, and politics. Just as in the first industrial revolution in the 18th century when machines automated manual work, the “second machine age”, where machines are capable of automating intellectual work, will force us to adopt new forms of social and economic organisation; but could also unleash explosive tensions between haves and have-nots by increasing income inequality. This is the paradox of automation: companies become more efficient but consumers end up with less money to buy their goods and services; labour loses, capital wins.
Big data, machine learning, social robotics, and autonomous intelligent decision-making systems could provide the technological means to allow people more time for creativity and leisure, but also to revisit previously discredited notions of central economic planning; while a new arms race of Lethal Autonomous Weapon Systems (LAWS) may tilt the balance of geopolitical world order. It is up to us to decide what the future will look like.
The time to decide about the future is now. That is because the fourth industrial revolution is not happening in a vacuum. Nearly thirty years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, we are witnessing the end of the post-Cold War liberal order. The clouds of resurgent nationalism, aggressive populism, mistrust in representative democracy, and anti-globalization coalesce into a perfect storm that is about to crash against the tsunami of the most disruptive technologies ever invented. The results could be devastating. So it is no wonder that the prevailing view of the future is dystopian, and that the “best” solution suggested so far has been to extend the welfare system to every citizen under the guise of universal basic income, while keeping the essential elements of the capitalist economic system intact.
Cyber Republic will challenge this defeatist and unrealistic view. It will show how cognitive technologies can massively enhance the human potential for collaboration and collective decision-making; and thus offer a radical new framework to rethinking politics and business organization in a democratic way, enabled by machine learning, robotics, blockchains and the internet of things. This new way of collective decision-making – called “Cyber Republic” – is the antithesis of oligarchic decision-making systems such as representative democracies, as well as traditional, hierarchical corporations where directors, managers and capital are in control. In a Cyber Republic citizens and workers are in control, freely associating with each other in order to decide on common issues, as well as to produce and exchange economic value, new products and innovative services. The goal of a Cyber Republic is to use the creation and exchange of economic value in order to enhance the human condition and increase collective knowledge.
The model for such leaderless and distributed organization will also mean the reinvention of Athenian democracy in the 21st century, something that could be vital for the survival of humanity as we take an historic leap towards a highly-advanced, technological civilization capable of altering life, augmenting the intellect, colonizing space, and manipulating the fundamental fabric of reality.
 The first industrial revolution happened because of the steam engine; the second one because of the electric lamp; the third one because of computers; and the fourth one because of intelligent computers.