What Comes After Democracy?
Dan Stern

A few points here: 1) Just because we do not scientifically understand consciousness does not mean that mind does not exist. 2) Even as the author urges a critical stance toward liberalism and democracy and argues that the ascendance of these ideas is not permanent, he should also take a more critical stance to the technological determinism that pervades his essay. We are living in an age when technological “progress” is considered inevitable and we must adapt to it (even by altering our own basic physiology). However, we need to approach technological developments with more skepticism and ask whether a technological development is really serving legitimate human or societal needs. This must be a collective discussion, unfolding in the wider culture and the media but also in the realm of public policy, perhaps leading in some cases to strictly regulating or banning certain technologies (for example state bans on reproductive human cloning and perhaps in the near future, bans on non-therapeutic human augmentation). In part, this means asking additional questions: 1) Who benefits and who loses from the introduction of new technologies? 2) Do such technologies exacerbate social and economic inequalities and other societal problems? 3) What valuable human or social goods are threatened by new technologies? 4) To what degree are particular technological developments largely driven by capitalist imperatives of profit-making rather than by people’s actual needs?

Democratic values, far from becoming obsolete, plays a key role here. Democratic self-government involves not just going to the ballot box but also exerting collective control over the forces that shape our lives, whether economic, technological, or environment. The next few generations will be faced with momentous decisions about whether most people will have meaningful jobs or be a ‘surplus’ population (hopefully) subsisting on government handouts, about whether tech companies or elected governments run our society, whether we will respect human dignity or consider people as nodes in a network of digital and genetic resources, and about whether we will remain fundamentally human. I can’t think of a more important time for a reinvigoration of democratic values.