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The idea of what I want to explore in this blog is perfectly captured by the introduction of a journal article from The New Atlantis written in 2003. Eric Cohen wrote;

"The problem of technology — how to spread its fruits, limit its excesses, and save ourselves from its destructive side — ranks high among the great challenges of our time. The problem is so vast, so complicated, so many-faced — from stem cells to fuel cells to weapons of mass destruction — that it is often difficult to keep a level head about it, and often hard for even the most judicious scientists, statesmen, and citizens to know how to think and what to do."

...continue reading "The unasked questions about technology"

Long have I toyed with the idea of trying to formulate what I see as the best approach to counter the populist movement spreading through Europe. What made me pull the trigger to finally put word to paper was a recent statement by Juncker that was highlighted in a Euractiv article. He calls for the EU supporter to stand up against the 'stupid populists'. While I agree that some form of cooperation is needed to tackle this problem, I am rather certain his method is not only counter-intuitive, but also his attitude is actually one of the roots of the problem.

...continue reading "The quest to find the sword and shield against populism"

An interesting article was recently posted by that "support for democracy is weak among Sweden's youngsters" which made me wondering if any other form of government would be an improvement. The main consensus seems to be that an aristocracy would be able to deal with this age's issues better than our current political oriented government. Politicians are too focused on their public image, remaining in position, and keeping their donators satisfied. The education of politicians is also something that in a democracy is never put into question. I mentioned in an earlier blog that we do not hold our state's rulers to the same standards as we do of our surgeons. A nice quote from Douglas Adams to summarise this states: "it is a well-known fact that those people who must want to rule people are, ipso facto, those least suited to do it. "

...continue reading "Alternative to democracy?"

With the implementation of the GDPR and the Facebook data leaks it shows the need to constantly revisit how we think about privacy. But how far can we go to ensure our privacy is safeguarded without decreasing our safety. Security is a value that is quite common in the classical political philosophy mostly tied to the social contract. It is humankind that gives up certain freedoms, including privacy, to the state so that their safety is ensured and they are able to live in peace. However, with the rise of technology we are often more aware of ways our privacy is violated, but if you have got nothing to hide, you have got nothing to fear?

One of the difficult aspects when talking about privacy is how one can define it. A common misconception is to relate privacy to secrecy, this is also the fallacy of the nothing to hide argument. Privacy is not merely to hide your secrets, it encompasses numerous amount of situations. A great example is the protection against stalkers, when someone is following you and monitoring your movement every day that is a clear violation of your privacy. A second example is when other parties can have free access to your past events it can cause you to miss out on opportunities or be treated unfavourably over peers. These two examples are exactly what is at stake in our current digital age. Companies sharing your information to a third party without your consent is a obvious cause that can have the above mentioned repercussions.

The advancement of the Internet of Things privacy becomes even more of a challenge to maintain. Coffee companies would without doubt pay a heavy fee for example to know how customers have synced their coffee machines to their alarm clock to make marketing even more effective. Habits and attitudes have always been key in marketing strategy, but information in the wrong hands can influence not only what advertisements you are shown, but also who to target in elections.

Privacy and Security shall always have to be perfectly balanced and based upon public opinion. While there does not seem to be a big problem with tech giants knowing your interests, you should always have a right to know what personal information companies have acquired from you and how it is being used. Transparency should be the key. Giving consent for uncertain data handling is a bad practice. However, these days it is so hard not to just select 'accept cookies' since else browsing some websites becomes much more of an issue.

Awareness should always be key in the privacy and security debate. People often do not realise or are bothered with what personal information is being passed around from them. But the dystopian scenarios with personal score/ratings seems to become much more likely.

“Is a strange woman lying in ponds distributing swords is a good basis for a system of government?”

A quote from the movie Monty Python; the search for the Holy Grail. Even though a joke of high comedy gold, I still found it a good topic to go back to. What constitutes a good basis for a system of Government? The counter argument in that particular sketch states it should be based on the mandate of the masses, or commonly known as democracy. But are all the other versions forms of repression as the land worker suggests?
Socrates, a philosopher in the first democratic polis, was surprisingly against democracy. He argues that if you want a prosperous state, wouldn’t you rather want rulers that have been educated in political affairs rather a demagogue who just promises better things than their rivals? I think this is a good argument, if I would need surgery I would prefer someone who has been through med school and years of residency rather than someone who will promise to fix me up but never held a scalpel. Why is it then that in this age we do not hold the same standards to our political representatives than we of any other service provider?
So, imagine then we are at a fork on the road, do we go on and just except anyone to be a political leader, or do we go down the path of qualified representation? the ancient Chinese dynasties, interestingly enough, already had a form of qualification tool to ensure that those in office were educated. This system originated during the Han dynasty 207 BC and is called the imperial examination. All prospective bureaucratic candidates took this exam up until its dissolvent in 1907.
Imagine if current demagogue or any leaders had taken the exam, would they have passed it? Would the preparation change their political leaning? Or would this examination be another barrier for the working class to gain access to government?
One of the major drawbacks during its usage was a lack of innovation. A test can hardly contain questions about future scenarios and policies, therefore it will automatically have a conservative leaning. Another issue is that a test like this without doubt will not do justice to some other important fields such as arts and science. Taking the test was also very expensive due to the education it required.
A qualified representative democracy. But qualified by who? Let’s say this test is indeed to be reintroduced, who will create this test? That alone will without doubt cause turmoil. If the current government is in charge, there will be undoubtedly will be nepotism. If the academics are in responsible a more social color the test will have. What if we create a ministry of examination? Now corruption is luckily not a really big issue in western Europe, but if a single group is responsible for creating the test, thus also influencing who passes, there will be disagreement in the best case.

Further reading:
Ko, K. (2017). A brief history of imperial examination and its influences. Society, 54(3), 272-278. doi:10.1007/s12115-017-0134-9