Speech - cyberscoop

Rethinking Democracy for the Age of AI

| May 10, 2023

We need to recreate our system of governance for an era in which transformative technologies pose catastrophic risks as well as great promise.

This text is the transcript from a keynote speech delivered during the RSA Conference in San Francisco on April 25, 2023. 

There is a lot written about technology’s threats to democracy. Polarization. Artificial intelligence. The concentration of wealth and power. I have a more general story: The political and economic systems of governance that were created in the mid-18th century are poorly suited for the 21st century. They don’t align incentives well. And they are being hacked too effectively.

At the same time, the cost of these hacked systems has never been greater, across all human history. We have become too powerful as a species. And our systems cannot keep up with fast-changing disruptive technologies.

We need to create new systems of governance that align incentives and are resilient against hacking … at every scale. From the individual all the way up to the whole of society.

For this, I need you to drop your 20th century either/or thinking. This is not about capitalism versus communism. It’s not about democracy versus autocracy. It’s not even about humans versus AI. It’s something new, something we don’t have a name for yet. And it’s “blue sky” thinking, not even remotely considering what’s feasible today.

Throughout this talk, I want you to think of both democracy and capitalism as information systems. Socio-technical information systems. Protocols for making group decisions. Ones where different players have different incentives. These systems are vulnerable to hacking and need to be secured against those hacks.

We security technologists have a lot of expertise in both secure system design and hacking. That’s why we have something to add to this discussion.

And finally, this is a work in progress. I’m trying to create a framework for viewing governance. So think of this more as a foundation for discussion, rather than a road map to a solution. And I think by writing, and what you’re going to hear is the current draft of my writing — and my thinking. So everything is subject to change without notice.

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