Can technology truly address serious social and political issues?


#1

I’m curious to hear anyone’s thoughts on what social and political issues they think can be solved with technology. A few follow-up questions:

  1. How do you realistically think they can be solved by technology? Not just theoretically but a true practical solution that enables all types of people to use it with ease.
  2. What do you think the probability is for institutions and governments becoming dominantly governed by tech/data as opposed to human organized. Will humans ever let that happen?

#2

Hey Charles, thanks for the really interesting question. “Solve” is a strong word, but I think technology can be used to improve a lot of our existing political systems, processes, and institutions, and can be used to address a lot of problems we’re facing. Here are a few examples that come to mind:

  1. Crumbling infrastructure and under-provision for the public good. Tech can help public goods become private goods–for instance, rather than paying for roads via taxes so that everyone pays the same, regardless of how near or far they live from a highway, how much they drive or travel, how many goods that were transported on that highway they buy, etc., we can instead institute congestion charges and demand-based pricing, which e.g. Singapore has done. This is enabled by tech and would’ve been unimaginable decades ago. (For the record, I am not advocating for privatization of all roads, but I do think this is an interesting example of tech impacting political economy.)
  2. Voting. It’s silly that our modern political constituencies are still tied 100%, purely to geography. Technology would allow us to make use of interesting digital constituencies – as one random example, citizens living abroad could be one constituency, or perhaps people working in a particular industry. It also allows us to go a step further and experiment with new forms of democracy such as liquid democracy and quadratic voting.
  3. The idea I am exploring here. I believe the right sort of technology can help us build a future where all people are fairly compensated for contributions to digital networks (Jaron Lanier and the Radical Markets crowd call this data is labor).

I’m not entirely sure how to interpret this question. It sounds eerily reminiscent of the on-chain/off-chain governance debate we’ve been having in blockchain. In short, I think humans should always be the ultimate arbiters in institutions and governments, but I think they should increasingly rely on tech and data to make decisions, and I think tech and data should increasingly be factored into the designs of future institutions. I’ll try to think up some concrete examples, but the ones I described above are a decent start.