Democracy in the face of Technology

This video I believe speaks volumes about some of the fears we (younger people especially) feel about the future of democracy. 100 years ago and earlier, the people ultimately had the power. While a large military force could force them to an extent, the masses could not be COMPLETELY controlled by the government with out mass destruction to the entirety of society. Today, technological advances that are rapidly evolving can create an environment in the near future where COMPLETE control could be possible. From drones to biological abilities, scientific advances today are becoming frightening to those who fear the possible evil uses of such technology.

Throughout our readings we have encounter the notion that the people must be educated in a democracy a number of times. Rousseau explains that the populace must be properly formulated in order to realize their true general will. Schmitt reminded us that Dictatorship complies with democracy as a temporary means to accomplish that task. How can the people know what’s best for them or what they desire without understanding the stakes?

In that video, Sagan emphasizes that the need for the public to be informed is becoming increasingly important. However, I believe it is also becoming increasingly challenging. While inventions such as the Internet seem to bring knowledge right to us (this video for instance), knowing the difference between truth and fiction can be a challenge. We all hope that the large world powers worldwide stay primarily truthful, not too closed-doored, and that the media is fed honest information. However, today hiding information and covering up new technologies is surely possible for large world powers.

Sagan is not saying that we all need to become scientists in order to protect ourselves. Instead, he tells us that the general public needs to be skeptical and very aware of what is or may be occurring in laboratories or large technological corporations. We need to understand the deep implications certain recent liberties given to the NSA have on our freedoms. Honig’s belief that agnostic democracy (one where the people actively fear and fight the rulers) is the best democracy rings very true in the face of this issue. As they are gaining more powers than ever, large powers must be monitored to insure some level sanctity in nations around the globe.

I’d like not to sound negative, pessimistic, or a conspiracy theory advocate. Nonetheless, I’m a firm believer in the need for information ESPECIALLY about science and technology to be free and open to the public. It is all to easy today for information to be twisted and covered up. However, what are we to do?

A final side note, the theoretic invention of AI (Artificial Intelligence) could easy be (as we’ve seen in plenty of movies) detrimental to society. I suppose we could lie the term foreign founder on some super smart robot designed to restructure society in a way best for all people. The scary yet loved hero figure we encounter in foreign founder narratives might one day be a result of science and technology… now that’s a thought. Long Live Democracy, honest information, and Democracy Theory!

This entry was posted in Honig, Political theory and the news, Rousseau, Schmitt and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Democracy in the face of Technology

  1. njalensky says:

    I completely agree with you on this; the biggest counter argument that is always brought up is national security of this information. Most governments do not want this to fall into the wrong hands such as terrorist groups or enemies of the state. They feel that they could see what they are doing and be able to counter act the technologies or tactics the powers are using. That being said, the argument of the fear of the government misusing the information is just as dangerous. I guess you can debate both sides of this argument, but I cannot see which one is right or wrong. Honig’s view of having the government fear its citizens is really crucial in my view, but would giving to much information to citizens cause for them to misuse it or bring down their society by having it fall in the wrong hands? The question is how do we figure who can know and who cannot? I do not have an answer, and this brings us into another vicious circle which I just went through. I guess we just have to accept that these cycles will continue to happen throughout all of history and just continue to live our lives.

  2. scter117 says:

    I agree with your acknowledgement of the cycle. It is very true that knowing many things for certain is relatively impossible. I suppose what we are entering now is sociology. What concerns us is whether or not we can trust the government. We can simply that by asking do we trust people? I mean we can have a great faith in the righteousness of our nation and not worry. Or, we could be more skeptical or realistic and therefore worry. Either way, unless we can first hand enter the computer databases or files kept on whats really happening or becoming reality, we will never know for sure. Some information I wouldn’t mind myself I suppose being kept from me such as the end of the world. If the government knew that the world would end I surely would not want people to know to avoid massive rioting. On the other hand, if the government is planning to use technology to take over certain freedoms, I want to know. There is a sure certain awkwardness of trust in something you don’t know. Believing the government is perfectly benevolent can feel just the same as believing that aliens watch over us.

    • dkeezing says:

      This is such a difficult issue, one that I find myself thinking about quite a bit. Honig’s idea that the public adopt an agonistic attitude toward the powers that be I believe is one of the better postulations we’ve discussed in class. However, the question of the extent to which we should be agonistic is incredibly difficult, and it really is contingent on many different factors. I think it was a great idea to post this Carl Sagan interview, because I believe the scientific way of thinking that Sagan describes is the only way our society can hope to make objective claims about what things we should be agonistic about, and how agonistic we should be. If there are people in a society who don’t respect and/or accept as legitimate scientific claims (which, unfortunately, there are), or who are simply ignorant, the rulers rule us. Every issue, from the NSA’s spying to egregious/unnecessary budget cuts and tax cuts for upper income Americans, can be manipulated to persuade a public that has not been adequately taught to think scientifically.
      Personally, I don’t “trust” the government, because I know that members of the government, even the most honorable ones, are prone to succumbing to the pressures of public office (pleasing constituents, soliciting money, weighing whether or not a vote will upset a donor, etc). So, in many ways, Carl Schmitt’s criticisms of our system of government are very true. And, of all the writers we’ve discussed, I believe Honig is the only one who has acknowledged these criticisms and come up with a model that doesn’t refute them, but makes it possible to work within them. This has been proven over and over again: the way progress happens in a “liberal democracy” is when citizens make it happen. The issue of racial segregation was never going to be resolved through parliamentary means. African-Americans had to sit in a whites-only restaurant and demonstrate that they had rights that they were thought not to have. But, this forced-progress that is at the heart of this country’s history will not continue to happen if we are scientifically ignorant or hostile. Or, it might happen, but not in favor of things that are in our interests. Our citizens are at a very vulnerable point; our only hope is a resurgence in scientific literacy.

  3. scter117 says:

    That URL takes you to a very interesting Debate. The mother of all debates about the NSA surveillance program, in which former CIA and NSA boss Michael Hayden and reporter Glenn Greenwald debate each other. Hayden had (in)famous law professor Alan Dershowitz on his side, and Greenwald had Reddit founder Alexis Ohanian on his side, and they both had their interesting moments, but this debate was all about Greenwald v. Hayden and they did not disappoint.
    Skip ahead 29 minutes in the video to get right to the actual debate.

    After watching this video, my fear of there being no way to know whats the truth about Governmental uses of technology is truly affirmed. Greenwald and Snowden (a video of his knowledge from practically hacking the NSA) give great insight on just how scary the NSA’s collected of all data is. However, Hayden seems to refute such allegations very strongly saying that this is not truly occurring and that a better (less freedom stealing and scary) system could be developed. I agree with Hayden on the point that some Surveillance is necessary but the degree Greenwald’s evidence shows the NSA has taken it is FAR TO FAR. However, again how can we know if Greenwald and Snowden are really the bad guys by providing faulty information. I personally doubt that however. Some of the quotes from Al-Qaeda experts saying that the NSA’s collection of all data is never going to stop another 9/11 makes the NSA seem very odd. What are their true motives and why haven’t more of us begun to notice the severity of loosing 4th Amendment freedoms.

  4. andymaskiell says:

    I’m not sure how prevalent this thinking is, but I think our further investigation of nature has led us to realize the imperfection of so much of our technology and is encouraging more caution with newer technologies. I can’t recall exactly who presented this example to me, but they more or less said, “Imagine the brain and everything it does, all of the processes it carries out (most of which you weren’t aware of until you were taught of its discovery within the past century), how each of these processes relate and communicate, and that despite all of our tools there are still things in the brain that we do not understand.” With this idea, it’s not hard to look at a dozen things sitting around you and realize that there are many more questions to be answered than we questions we have answered. If this thinking is not prevalent, I would hope that it becomes so soon, as it seems like one way of helpfully controlling this issue of technology. For me, I’ve found that it fostered a certain sense of curiosity (if for no other reason than that of understanding), as well as a sense of empathy towards other plants, animals, humans, and their creations. If other people were affected similarly by this awareness, especially people who currently have great power and influence, we may see less abuse of technology and and increase in the effort to understand it.

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