Future essential 10: Tech Disruption the end of Democracy?

How many of us have wondered about the trend reversals? Where we were basking in the glory of liberal democracies to suddenly encounter Brexit. And the election of Donald Trump as President. Were we surprised? “Whoa – did not see that one coming!” Analysts, pollsters, digital experts suddenly started looking like the lost useless.

Liberal was suddenly out. Welcome the conservative!

It surprisingly has a lot to do with technology. Also, the ability to make decisions. All of this, despite the failure of predictive technology or algorithms. They are still in its infancy in predicting poll results. The ‘haves’ in the last couple of decades have worked with quality data. Hence, better decisions were made. The ‘have nots’ don’t have the same access to data. Hence, are not able to decide better.

disruptions in the digital world

Digital trend reversal

The swing in trend had been looking in our face. And we were looking at our shoes. So hindsight being 20-20, what exactly was going on? What did technology have to do with it? The concepts of political power and economic power formed the Western democracies. Decentralisation of these powers at the citizen-level has been failing. Mostly in the distribution of wealth and opportunity. Therefore, it has created the middle class rut. A social structure where the bell curve ruled. The (fat) middle class was the dominant class that the politicians catered to.

The middle class always remained in the middle. Since there were always guard rails of  fear, insecurities, what-ifs that were fed to us. Stories, media and television told you to think before you step out. Since you are so comfortable now. You don’t become the top 1% earning a salary, period. So the trick was to stop believing in the drivel. It is fed to us to only keep us content.

What failed? What succeeded?

Liberal democracy failed to change when it needed to change. Being liberal also gave unequal opportunities to the ambitious, hardworking, wealthy and privileged. Only to expand their spheres of influence further. Socialism lost since the centralised model of digital information storage. The post world war II era was not the most efficient to make decisions. It couldn’t impact all people in a country.

Liberal democracy however is struggling. It has lost the edge as technology is better able to centralise and analyse. The advent of machine learning has replaced rote or manual tasks. Even some basic cognitive skills in the future, the transformation and the turmoil is set to get more acute. The struggles between government and organisations sitting on citizen’s digital data will continue. More controls will be placed on large corporates like Google, Facebook and others. How they comply vs how much regular citizens pressurise their governments is something to wonder. The strife shall decide the future. It will however be a ‘winner takes all’.

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