[ 12/11/20 ]
As the complexity of the issues we face grows, and the gulf between levels of understanding present also grows, and the ability of AI systems to exploit levels of unconscious bias grows, democracy is in deep trouble.
The ability of people to make sense of anything in today’s world is compromised by multiple levels of exploiting strategies that in many cases are masquerading as “rights and freedoms” (or at minimum hiding behind such ideas).
Many people still use the simplest possible interpretive schema (the binary right/wrong, True/False, …) most of the time, and we all necessarily use it in contexts where time limits demand urgent response; and it is utterly inadequate to deal with the deeply uncertain and probabilistic reality that we do appear (beyond any shadow of reasonable doubt) to actually exist in.
Couple to that the ability of advanced AI systems to identify and exploit (at the individual level) the sets of subconscious biases that we all necessarily have in order to make any sense at all of the complexity within which we are embedded, and it seems that democracy is in very deep trouble.
Add to that the incentives of market systems that exponentially empower aggregation of capital, and all the access and incentive it has to be self serving within the system of market based valuation, and the illusion of democracy becomes rather evident. If a tiny minority have the tools to command the vast majority then democracy is indeed a dangerous illusion.
The only real counter to that is education. And that means genuinely teaching people to question everything, rather than obeying any set of rules (quite the inverse of existing pedagogy) – all levels. That requires questioning belief at all levels, and many institutions exist to strongly resist that.
And that needs to be balanced by also teaching that all levels of structure require boundaries for their existence, and thus all freedoms have limits and responsibilities; and all of those have fundamental sets of uncertainties as one closely approaches such boundaries.
Everyone needs to understand that there are at base very real ecological and social limits that demand that we all make our best efforts to be responsible in ecological and social contexts – and both of those are deeply complex and contain many levels of fundamental uncertainties and unknowables, so no simple set of rules can be applicable in all contexts.
There do not appear to be any limits to the levels possible. Awareness and understanding both seem to be potentially infinitely extensible, but in practice few go beyond three levels in most contexts, as communication becomes exponentially more difficult as the number of levels increases.
Right now we seem to be in a context where the tools exist to give autocrats complete dominion over the polis, without their general awareness. And, of course, many would argue that such has always been the case, but the levels seem to be increasing exponentially. One can make a possible case that Plato went to three levels, I have been to 12 in some contexts, I suspect some AIs have vastly exceeded my efforts.