Data Dictatorships and the Fall of Liberal Democracy: A Global System Ruled by Whoever Controls Data
Today politics is about the struggle of controlling the flows of data, and that might give birth to Data Dictatorships.
Listen to PrivateID: A Podcast from Borja Moya on TuneIn
PrivateID comes from what I believe is going to be one of the biggest challenges of the 21st century: privacy. It's…
As Mussolini was consolidating his power, he said, “if you pluck a chicken one feather at a time, nobody notices.” If you think about it, there’s a lot feather-plucking going on in privacy and freedom of speech today. And of course you’ve been hearing about these two concepts for a while — and you’re gonna keep hearing about them — but the reason they matter so much is because they’re killing liberal democracy, without us even noticing it.
This is a serious conversation we need to have. Because as we’ll see in a minute, dictatorships had a hard time in the past in order to work (even though we saw how harmful they can be). Now, the current scenario is making them work better than ever before. Right now, in the 21st century, they’ve got the best opportunity, because there’s an event that’s making them more efficient: Centralization of data, and the merger of information technology and biotechnology.
This is exactly why liberal democracy is doomed. They’re playing smoking mirrors and redirecting our attention to the wrong debates and hacking our emotional selves, while we lose something that took us a long and hard slog to have: Democratic power.
There’s no way backwards in this society after data dictatorships get established. Once you board this train, you’re on it to the end.
In the following paragraphs I’m going to attempt to explain, thoroughly, the scenario in which we’re living, when and how data dictatorships might enter the scene, and why today politics is about the struggle of controlling the flows of data.
Nationalism Vs. Fascism.
It seems that today people confuse terms, but semantics are critical in order to understand a problem. Because if we’re going to use common terminology, we should agree on the basics so everybody’s on the same page.
The first mistake people usually make is to confuse the term of nationalism with fascism. So let’s get them out of the way.
Nationalism tells you that your nation is unique and people have special obligations towards it. Sometimes that creates conflicts between identities. Because people have several identities at the same time — so whenever there’s a conflict, people get to prioritize their beliefs and values.
On the other hand, fascism tells you that your nation is supreme, and you have exclusive obligations towards it. Your nation is at the top. Everything else (even your family) is secondary. You can’t have several identities at the same time, there’s only one real identity.
In the 20th century we saw the terrible consequences of this way of thinking. Now, in hindsight, this looks terrible and awful — but if you read a little bit about the Second World War, you’d discover that most Nazis saw their world as a beautiful place. When they looked themselves in the mirror, they couldn’t help but see something beautiful. And, of course, they thought they were right.
That’s the dangers of fascism or any kind of dictatorship: You become delusional with that identity and don’t see reality as it is.
Other people are weird, I’m not.
One of the things I noticed when I traveled through Asia is that, most people think their culture is the right one. Most people think that the way they see the world is the right way. Other’s worldviews, are just wrong.
The first time I went to China I thought, “man, these people are weird”. Until I discovered they thought the same about me.
Even though people know this, it takes a big effort to say: Hey, they might be right, my culture might be the wrong one. That’s so counterintuitive and difficult that I had to write an entire book to go to the root problem, so I could understand my own social belief system.
Now, I consider myself more open-minded than regular people (I might not be, though), and seeing that it took me a long time to become that way, it’s not surprising that people living in a fictional state would never be able to take the red pill. Not even consider it.
So what happens here is that, when we talk about fascism or any other type of dictatorship, we tend to describe them as terrible structure that dehumanizes people. But what’s interesting about it is that, people living inside those states don’t see themselves like the weird ones. They just see beauty.
If we analyze the current challenges we’re going through, we can’t help but notice that there’s a shift in society. Maybe this is going to be controversial, and it’s a hell of a statement, but…
Are nationalists turning into fascists? Are they turning into a new form? Because if we analyze the surface of most societies, we see a lot of resemblance with our definition of fascism. A lot of delusions going on.
The thing is, on the surface we believe we’re living in a democracy. But if you peel the layers and look what’s inside it, you’d see that we’re living on a new form of state that doesn’t give us the rights we think we have. But even worse, if you go deep enough, you’d see that the system is evolving into a new creature.
And right now that creature could turn into two different things:
It’s going to be either a modern type of dictatorship, or an evolved form of liberal democracy adapted to today’s standards. But at the pace we’re going, unless we take radical measures right now, we’re heading towards a modern dictatorship where privacy inequality will spread like cancer through society.
The 20th century was a crazy one. It showed us how far we’re capable of going when we confuse identities and become delusional. And it was the century that got us super close to wiping us out with nuclear weapons. Luckily, we were able to get out of it alive.
But the key of the 20th century, if we have to sum it up, is that we know how nasty everything can get when we believe there’s a supreme identity to rule them all.
People can easily start being dramatically delusional. And delusions come at a very high price.
Why did people shoot each other 100 years ago?
First of all, they shot each other because they wanted control and power. That’s a given. But also, they wanted to impose their view of the world. Because, of course, their worldview was the right and legitimate one, right?
The way to gain control and power was through a strong belief system. A system manipulated by nations or states that got people delusional. But now, delusions are more and more difficult to spot, and WWII is proof that delusions come at a very high price. Today we’re living the same situation — in a different scenario though.
Maybe we’re not shooting each other, but we’re witnessing that controlling the flows of data is the way to gain control and power. And making people delusional and crafting a unique social belief system is the effective road map.
What they want is centralized power.
The 21st century is about being efficient and precise.
A few days ago I received an email from someone who had been reading my articles and understood the mission I’m fighting for. He told me that, if I’m trying to spread awareness, why I don’t do TV appearances and try to get to the masses. My answer was simple: The masses are very good at ignoring you.
Focusing on the masses is an incredibly ineffective way to make change happen. Change doesn’t happen that way. Instead, the strategy is to focus on a small group of people who won’t just show up, but they will bring their friends. People who take an active role and spread the word to the masses — that’s how you can make change happen.
That’s exactly how Obama got elected. Spending billions of dollars in advertising is a terrible way to win an election. That’s what consultants recommend politicians to do (because they get a big, fat commission). They follow an old and ineffective strategy: Make sure your opponent’s voters don’t show up.
But Obama didn’t do that. What he did was to focus on a small group of active and committed people who didn’t just show up, but they brought their friends. That, if done properly, is the key to get elected in the 21st century.
We’re seeing this shift from the 20th century: Mass strategies with relentless execution — to the 21st century: Precise, efficient and thoughtful strategies.
So, a hundred years ago, in order to gain power and control, countries went to war. They sent millions of people to kill each other, and the army with more resources would technically win.
Today you don’t have to shoot somebody in order to gain power. Wars in the 21st century take a different form.
It’s not a push strategy, it’s a pull strategy.
You just need to convince people that your ideology is the right one. People need to believe you’re right. Then, they’re the ones who spread the word to the masses. They’re the ones fighting for “what they believe in”. Or you can just get communities fight each other — that’s how propaganda works these days.
Now, if you think about this, it seems nonsense that these scenarios can even take place in today’s society. But the thing here is that, it’s not so easy to tell what’s real and what’s not.
The beauty of the Internet is that it allows everyone to have a voice. For example, I’m writing this article on a cafeteria, by myself, and I don’t need anyone’s permission to publish this. Back in the day, if you wanted to have a shot at having something published, you needed to have access to distribution (newspapers for example).
Well, this also has a downside. While some newspapers (unfortunately, just a handful of them) invest a lot of money on stories — journalist dive deep in topics and try to bring quality to the table (again, in today’s media landscape that’s not so common). Now what we’re seeing is that lots of articles which are biased, non-articulated and lacking in research, have the same weight as well researched and thoughtful articles from a well-known media.
There’s nothing wrong with those articles. But they are perceived with the same legitimacy as well researched articles. And that comes with a long tail of problems we don’t get to see easily.
The source of power and control of the 21st century.
Right off the bat, just saying that liberal democracy is doomed and, unless we do something, it’ll be substituted by some sort of data dictatorship… It just sounds crazy.
Today very few people understand what’s really going on. And for the majority of people, the terms fascism and dictatorship don’t get practical in most societies (of course, there are a few exceptions — more than a few, unfortunately). But if we follow down the rabbit hole, we find ourselves again with our most powerful enemy: Human stupidity. We may be able to have found, again, a way to come back to these nightmares.
If you connect the dots and understand where power lies, you’d easily know that whoever that controls artificial intelligence will rule the world in this century.
“Artificial intelligence is the future, not only for Russia, but for all humankind,” Vladimir Putin said. “It comes with colossal opportunities, but also threats that are difficult to predict. Whoever becomes the leader in this sphere will become the ruler of the world.”
In the 20th century, democracy and capitalism worked hand-by-hand, and defeated fascism. In the 20th century it was basically inefficient to concentrate too much data and power on just one place. So it was “easy” to defeat it, because decentralization was the way to go (due to technological limitations).
However, with the rise of artificial intelligence and the fact that data is the most precious asset of the 21st century, the landscape is shifting, dramatically. Today centralization is the key to power. Centralized data processing (everything in one place) is more efficient than distributed data processing.
And if you think about it, authoritarian regimes in the 20th century wanted to concentrate information in one place — that was their nature. But it was inefficient. Today? That’s their greatest advantage.
These problems are going to be heightened when information technology merges with biotechnology. That’ll be when the puppet show will enter the scene. Because that’s what you get when an algorithm is able to you know you better than you know yourself. An algorithm that can pull the right emotional chords and change your thoughts without you even be aware of it.
Fascism and dictatorships might come back, but not as we’ve known them — they’ll transform into a new form. A form that’s suitable for today’s technological scenario.
Whatever made our democracies work in the past, it seems that today it’s outdated. Deep down, that system is based on rules that are more than 100 years old (!), so it’s natural evolution. And this is simple: Either (1) It evolves into a new form suited for today’s requirements; or (2) It dies.
At the pace technology evolves — an exponential pace — we can’t not just rely on 100-year-old rules, nor allow this linear change that rules our regulations and systems.
You can rebel against data dictatorships in the future, but this time is going to be tricky. Because once they get to your emotional level, and are able to hack your emotions — not hack your email or social media accounts, but you — without you even notice it. Then there’s no chance the masses decide to go against the system.
Consider body language and how to spot a liar. You can get away lying for a little bit. But at some point you’re going to make a mistake. Because your body is going to tell something different than the stuff you say. You can fake it for a little bit, but once you have external pressure or just stop being conscious about it, then your body will unveil what’s really going on in your head. That’s because the expressions your body shows work at an emotional level — at a subconscious level.
Today tech companies just rely on predictability with our digital footprints. But, what if in the future they have 100% accuracy on our behavior? You can’t lie with your body. Whether you want it or not, at some point your body is going to say something you don’t want it to say. And, by the way, when I say body I mean the mind, too. You might say things you don’t believe, just because someone else put the thought there.
This is happening today. No new technology is needed. A few days ago OpenAI, the artificial intelligence research company founded by Elon Musk, published in their blog a post introducing one of their achievements:
“We’ve trained a large-scale unsupervised language model which generates coherent paragraphs of text, achieves state-of-the-art performance on many language modeling benchmarks, and performs rudimentary reading comprehension, machine translation, question answering, and summarization — all without task-specific training.”
OpenAI, a non-profit that makes AI technology accessible to the public, got so scared when they realized the scope of what they’ve found, that they don’t want to make it available to the public. Because a system like this in the wrong hands, would be the ultimate tool to spread really effective propaganda.
We’re talking about machine learning algorithms that can hack people’s minds. They release a message, see people’s reactions, improve the message and then, tweak it again until the algorithm is able to achieve whatever mission it has.
So, if OpenAI’s come up with this language model, who else has been able to develop something similar? Or the key question: Are governments and organizations using systems like this already?
And if there’s a system like this out there, operating under someone else’s agenda, what’s going to happen to liberal democracy?
That’s precisely the conversation we need to have right now.
Who controls data? Who governs us?
Right now, a lot of people might be thinking I’m being too dramatic or going too far with this, but we need to bring the conversation to the table and get serious.
When it comes to politics, the key question’s always been: Who has the power? But if we translate this question to today’s standard, the right question to ask is: Who controls data?
Today corporations have lots of data. So, are they the ones in control? Are they our governors?
Or are our governments controlling our data? Do they have the power we think they do?
It all depends on how we define a government’s role. But if we go to the core of what corporations and governments do, what they do is influence public interests, regardless whether by definition they’re in a private sector or it’s a public institution.
So if we get practical, and observe a government’s role, we may find that there isn’t such a big difference between governments and corporations. In the end, whoever that has control over data, and influence public policy, that’s the real government — even though we might not see them that way.
But today we’re seeing that governments are not that powerful. There’s a new form of government arising, incentivized by a malignant disease called advertising. Are these tech companies turning into a some sort of global government?
What’s funny about this is that, we do know that’s extremely difficult to take down a government if it doesn’t operate in our best interest — it’s even difficult to create a small change happen. But, we believe that, if a media company (one of the few companies in the tech oligopoly) doesn’t operate in our best interest, we can always “easily” apply pressure and change things.
Theoretically, yes. In practice, that doesn’t happen — and we have clear proof with every scandal that appears. Because if a corporation knows us better than we know ourselves, and it’s able to manipulate us at an emotional level, then that corporation (aka global government) will continue to operate the same way.
And the other thing to consider here is the consequences of having these global systems, operating in just one location in the world — like California or Beijing. That means that a few people from one part of the world are forcing the rest of it to adopt a unique identity. They’re imposing one vision of the world, so everybody adopts it, or they would be left behind.
They’re dictating, curating and banning identities and people based on their “guidelines”. They’re telling us what’s right and what’s wrong based on their beliefs. Beliefs that suit their own agenda.
Why do just a handful of biased tech companies should have the right to dictate what’s freedom of speech and what’s not?
We’re not noticing it, but social media platforms are the one system to rule them all.
Democracies are in danger.
They’re giving us the truth in a platter, yet, we can’t help ourselves but avoid having real conversations around this. It’s not our fault. We’re emotional machines. So when they manipulate us, they do it at a subconscious level — which means we can’t tell when that process takes places.
But we do need to wake up. Take the red pill. And acknowledge the power at stake here. And also how far these corporations —or governments, name them as you wish — are capable of going.
This is about power and control. The 21st century require governments to rule AI. It’s not imperative, but the greed and thirst of control and power of these players make them eager to seek to rule the world by ruling AI. The thing is, the picture of the world they’re painting is not in our best interest.
In the near future, there’s no place for liberal democracy — at least not as we know it today. So it will have to reinvent itself into a new form. History’s shown us that there are always constant transitions in governments, so it’s tempting to think that this is just another democratic transition we need to go through… It ain’t gonna happen.
Today there’s a big difference that makes that unlikely: Centralized flows of data. If you follow the breadcrumbs, you’d notice that we’ll have a new form of dictatorship put in place where privacy inequality thrives. And the only thing stopping it from happening is if we rise up and make change happen.
We need to wake up.