Elon University

Full Credited Responses: The Future of Democracy in the Digital Age

Credited responses:

This page holds full for-credit responses with no analysis to the following 2019-2020 research questions: Between now and 2030, how will use of technology by citizens, civil society groups and governments affect core aspects of democracy and democratic representation? Will they mostly weaken core aspects of democracy and democratic representation, mostly strengthen the core aspects or not much change the core aspects? Please explain your response. What do you expect democracy to look like in 2030 from the perspective of citizens? What aspects of essential democratic institutions will change? What role will technology play in whatever changes take place?

Results released Feb. 21, 2020 – What’s in store for democracy over the next decade? To illuminate current attitudes about the likely future evolution of humans plus internet-facilitated technologies in the next few decades, Pew Research and Elon University’s Imagining the Internet Center conducted a large-scale canvassing of technology experts, scholars, corporate and public practitioners and other leaders, asking them to respond to the following prompt:

There were 979 experts who responded to some aspect of our queries; some of them did not write an elaboration of their choice as to whether humans’ uses of technology in the next decade in regard to impact on democracy are likely to strengthen it or weaken it or to effect no change.

About 49% said uses of technology will mostly weaken core aspects of democracy and democratic representation.

About 33% said uses of technology will mostly strengthen core aspects of democracy and democratic representation.

About 18% selected to respond that there will not be much change.

To read the full report on the Future of Democracy in the Digital Age, click here:

To read the anonymous responses to the questions, click here:

Following, presented in random order, are the full responses by study participants who wrote an elaboration on their choice in answering the question above who also chose to take credit for their remarks. Some of these are the longer versions of expert responses that are contained in shorter form in the survey report. This page includes some responses that were not in the report.

“Uses of technology will mostly weaken democracy”

In this section of responses, when given three choices, respondents answered that in the decade between 2020 and 2030 people’s uses of technology will mostly weaken democracy.

Anita Salem, research associate, Graduate School of Business and Public Policy, Naval Postgraduate School, said, “People will no longer trust anything, and democracy will become an expressive tool for the uninformed and manipulated. We are leaving the information age and entering the disinformation age. Two interrelated factors will impact the growth of disinformation and undermine Western democracy – the growth of corporate power and the easy manipulation of data and video. As corporations gain more control and freedom, they are able to more effectively harness their resources to manipulate public perceptions. They have the resources to fully engage big data to leverage individual preferences and habits into structured sales and influence campaigns that can effectively manipulate opinions and behaviors of the common man. They will also use these resources to continue to purchase the votes of democratically elected officials. This will put corporations in control of the top decision makers and the majority of the voting public and result in a new-age oligarchy. The ease of creating deepfakes and other reality-distorting, synthetic media will undermine the ability of the public to intelligently assess what is true. When ‘truth’ is unknowable people rely on their gut instincts, which are often just a reflection of their unexamined biases. These biases will (are) being manipulated and amplified through social media, ‘bad actors’ and organizations that want power. Democracy will collapse and be replaced by the oligarchy that has been feeding the masses.”

Chrissy Zellman, a manager of digital and interactive strategy in the healthcare industry, commented, “First and foremost, the dynamics and makeup of Congress needs to change before 2030 in order to better protect, regulate and govern technologies. In the 116th Congress, only 10% had a degree in a STEM field. If you want to protect democracy you need to have Congress members and staff who are well-versed in technology. As part of the Trump era, I have watched many hearings, and when it comes to tech or social media, members of Congress need to drastically increase their basic understanding of these platforms. Cambridge Analytica knew precisely how to target voters via demographic/geographic, psychographic and personality criteria and then learned what messaging would work best for each of those criteria (e.g., play into emotions of fear). As a country, we need to do better at finding these trends in real-time rather than a year or so later. To protect our democracy, we also need to ensure that there is always transparency and access to information – which is why we must fight to protect net neutrality. Better safeguards are needed to protect against inaccurate information, as well as doctored videos and misinformation. There are systems now that should be improved by 2030, such as the voter registration process or voting. While I understand the need for a paper trail, convenience and access will improve voter turnout if this can be completed within the confines of our own homes. By 2030, I also think there will be much easier ways to interact with your Congress member – hopefully more sophisticated ‘Resistbots’ or more tools like Facebook Live that let you attend town halls, etc.”

Christopher Mondini, vice president of business engagement, ICANN, commented, “The decline of independent journalism and critical thinking and research skills resulting from easy reliance on the internet make citizens more susceptible to manipulation and demagoguery. A growing proportion of politically active citizens are digital natives with no recollection of life before social media became the primary medium for debate and influence. The pursuit of clicks, retweets and page views encourages extremist or provocative rhetoric. Viral memes and soundbites distract from thoughtful analysis, deliberation and debate. Of course, the vast majority of citizens are not politically active, but they increasingly consume news and adopt a worldview shaped by their online communities. Participation in political processes may rise because of newly inflamed passions brought about by online discourse, but they may crowd out more measured voices.”

Doc Searls, internet pioneer and editor-in-chief of Linux Journal, said, “In these early years of our new digital age, social media (a collection of new and likely epiphenomenal developments) in particular are amplifying homophily: the tendency of people to gather among those with whom they share characteristics, loyalties, affinities and other forces that attract people into tribal groupings. Blaming and demonizing other tribes comes naturally to humans, and we’re at a stage right now when doing that is just too damn easy. We’ll get past it, but in the meantime tribalism is making enemies of groups that used to merely disagree. This naturally affects governance in all forms, especially democratic ones. We are in the early stages of the Digital Transition: a time when everything that can be digitized is being digitized. This includes all forms of studying, communicating and remembering things. Plus everything that doesn’t need to be physical: a sum that is huge beyond reckoning. Recently I asked Joi Ito, at that time the head of MIT’s Media Lab, how big this is. ‘Is it bigger than electricity?’ I asked. ‘Movable type? Writing? Speech? Stone tools?’ ‘No,’ he said. ‘It’s the biggest thing since Oxygenation.’ That happened around 2.5 billion years ago. And I think he’s right: it’s that big.”

E. Melanie Dupuis, chair and professor of environmental studies and science, Pace University, said, “The internet is a tool of the society in which it is embedded. Like all tools, it can be used for good or ill. There is no essential goodness or badness about this technology itself, only about the health of the civil society in which it is embedded. The forces threatening democracy in the U.S. existed long before the internet. Nativism, lynching, Jim Crow all existed before the internet. It was just easier to ignore. In many ways, the internet has provided a mirror that enables Americans to see who they truly are.”

James S. O’Rourke IV, a University of Notre Dame professor whose research specialty is reputation management, said, “As Neil Postman wrote in 1985, ‘We no longer engage in civil public discourse. We are simply amusing ourselves to death.’ Among the more insidious effects of digital life has been a reduction in tolerance for long-form text. People, particularly the young, will read, but not if it involves more than a few paragraphs. Few among them will buy and read a book. News sites have discovered that more people will click on the video than scroll through the text of a story. Given how easy it now is to manipulate digital video images, given how easy it is to play to people’s preconceptions and prejudice, and given how indolent most in our society have become in seeking out news, opinion and analysis, those who seek to deceive, distract or bully now have the upper hand. Jesuits have long cautioned that ‘No man can understand his own argument until he has visited the position of a man who disagrees.’ Such visits are increasingly rare. The long-predicted ‘filter bubble’ effect is increasingly visible. People will simply not seek out, read or take time to understand positions they do not understand or do not agree with. A sizeable majority now live with a thin collection of facts, distorted information and an insufficient cognitive base from which to make a thoughtful decision. Accurate information is no longer driving out false ideas, propaganda, innuendo or deceit.”

danah boyd, principal researcher, Microsoft Research, founder of Data & Society, wrote, “Democracy requires the public to come together and work through differences in order to self-govern. That is a hard task in the best of times, but when the public is anxious, fearful, confused or otherwise insecure, they are more likely to retreat from the collective and focus on self-interest. Technology is destabilizing. That can help trigger positive change, but it can also trigger tremendous anxiety. Technology also reconfigures power, at least temporarily. This can benefit social movements, but it can also benefit adversarial actors. All too often, technology is designed naively, imagining all of the good but not building safeguards to prevent the bad. The problem is that technology mirrors and magnifies the good, bad AND ugly in everyday life. And right now, we do not have the safeguards, security or policies in place to prevent manipulators from doing significant harm with the technologies designed to connect people and help spread information.”

Robert Epstein, senior research psychologist at the American Institute for Behavioral Research and Technology and a contributing editor for Scientific American Mind, said, “As of 2015, the outcomes of upwards of 25 of the national elections in the world were being determined by Google’s search engine. Democracy as originally conceived cannot survive Big Tech as currently empowered. If authorities do not act to curtail the power of Big Tech companies – Google, Facebook and similar companies that might emerge in coming years – in 2030, democracy might look very much as it does now to the average citizen, but citizens will no longer have much say in who wins elections and how democracies are run. My research – dozens of randomized, controlled experiments involving tens of thousands of participants and five national elections – shows that Google search results alone can easily shift more than 20% of undecided voters – up to 80% in some demographic groups – without people knowing and without leaving a paper trail (see my paper on the search engine manipulation effect at https://bit.ly/1REqzEY). I’ve also shown that search suggestions can turn a 50/50 split among undecided voters into a 90/10 split – again, without people knowing they have been influenced. The content of answer boxes can increase the impact of the search engine manipulation effect by an additional 10% to 30%. I’ve identified about a dozen largely subliminal effects like these and am currently studying and quantifying seven of them. I’ve also shown that the ‘Go Vote’ prompt that Google posted on its home page on Election Day in 2018 gave one political party at least 800,000 more votes than went to the opposing party – possibly far more if the prompt had been targeted to the favored party.”

Alan Honick, documentary filmmaker and project director for PROSOCIAL, said, “It’s a vitally important question but so dependent on unknown and unpredictable technical, regulatory, social, economic, political and ecological variables that I chose the negative answer by default. My work is focused on the need to make the internet and associated information technologies trustworthy and reliable – [this is necessary] if society is to have a viable and sustainable path forward. The most important variable for the question at hand is whether or not information technology can move in the direction of becoming a trusted and reliable source of information, and at present the trend seems to indicate not. That was why I answered in the negative. My aspirational answer to this question would have been the positive one. The neutral answer, that technology won’t affect the future of society and democracy, to me makes no sense.”

Alejandro Pisanty, professor, UNAM, the National University of Mexico, an activist in multistakeholder internet governance, wrote, “Besides the options of improvement and disrepair the question only leaves the choice ‘not much change.’ I believe there will be much change and both improvement and deterioration of democracy. The platforms and technology themselves are not alone to blame. Whatever happens on or through them is done by someone of agency, be it one individual, a number of individuals, a collective or an organization – these in turn being civil-society, technical, enterprises or governments. So the answer here has both things that may improve and things that may suffer due to BOTH technology, and who uses it and how. Hate, polarization, oversimplification and lack of well-considered thought are and will be on the increase. They are orders of magnitude easier to construct and propagate than the ways of countering them (the bullshit asymmetry principle, on steroids.) Manipulation of elections and other processes will continue to be rife as long as there exist those who want to do it and those susceptible to manipulation. Among the hardest hit will be the US,, with a gullible population unable to see the meta-layers of attack they are subjected to. There is hope for improvement in a smaller, smarter, more democratic sector of society fighting the acritical reactions of the naive and uneducated. Better information, resilient systems (by design) and deliberations nested at all levels from the ultra-local to the global, an architecture of multistakeholder deliberations and decisions, and a lot of luck, may lead to improvement. Otherwise splintering and other forms of dark days loom.”

Jonathan Grudin, principal researcher for Microsoft, wrote, “Digital media overwhelm people with a sense of the complexity of the world and undermine trust in institutions, governments and leaders. Many people seize simplistic unworkable solutions offered by actual and wannabe tyrants. Add to this the ease of spreading false information and the difficulty of formulating effective regulations for a global system and it is difficult even to envision a positive outcome, much less take steps to realize it.”

Angela Campbell, professor of law and co-director, Institute for Public Representation, Georgetown University, said, “We are just seeing the beginning of how technology is undercutting democracy and social relations necessary to a democratic society. We don’t have good ways of telling what is true and what is false, what is opinion and what is fact. Most people do not yet understand how power technologies (especially combined with a lack of privacy protections) allow them to be manipulated. In addition, as people spend more time using technology, they spend less time interacting with other people (in person) and learning important social skills like respect and empathy.”

Ann Adams, a retired technology worker, wrote, “Unless the general population of the world has more access to offline education, the manipulation of people’s fear of the other will continue to increase.”

Annemarie Bridy, professor of law specializing in the impact of new technologies on existing legal frameworks, said, “Social media platforms have a steep hill to climb over the coming years when it comes to dealing effectively with disinformation and coordinated inauthentic behavior aimed at manipulating voters and electoral outcomes. Viral disinformation online will continue to be a serious threat to democratic institutions and the integrity of elections.”

Art Brodsky, a self-employed consultant, said, “We should shut down social media for 90 days before an election. The forces of corrupting disruption overwhelm the ability of civil discourse to keep up. Some play by the rules, others don’t, and there’s no means of enforcement. Facebook, Twitter, etc., have grown far beyond their ability to detect, much less bar, bad actors.”

Arthur Asa Berger, professor emeritus of communications, San Francisco State University, author of 60 books, commented, “People who use Facebook are affected in negative ways by a ‘net effect,’ in which they exhibit impulsivity, grandiosity, etc., as explained in my book, ‘Media and Communication Research Methods’ (Sage). Some young people text 100 times a day and never talk on the phone with others, leading to a radical estrangement from others and themselves. The internet is used by hate groups, neo-fascists, right wing ideologues, terrorist organizations and so on.”

Ayden Férdeline, technology policy fellow, Mozilla Foundation, responded, “Over the coming decade, technology will continue to be exploited by those who seek to increase political apathy and undermine our trust in established institutions. This may happen more subtly than in the past, but the corrosive effect on democracy will be just the same.”

Bernie Hogan, senior research fellow, Oxford Internet Institute, said, “Technology without civics is capitalism with crystallised logic and unbounded scope. Democratic institutions and civic societies are premised on boundaries and intelligible scales, like the ‘local paper’ or the ‘provincial radio.’ Technology is allowing for the transcendence of scale, which we might think is great. Certainly, from a logistics and delivery side it is very impressive. But social cohesion requires levels of understanding, that there’s a coherent bounded population to care about and define one’s identity through and against. It requires people seeing and doing things as more than consumers and occasional partisan voters.”

Bill D. Herman, researcher working at the intersection of human rights and technology said, “The combination of news fragmentation, systematic disinformation and motivated reasoning will continue to spiral outward. We’re headed for a civil war, and the hydra-headed right-wing hate machine is the root of the problem.”

Brad Templeton, internet pioneer, futurist and activist, a former president of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, wrote, “The question is more subtle than the three choices offered. There are going to be many threats to the democratic process that come through our new media.  There are going to be countermeasures to those threats and there are going to be things that improve the process. It is very difficult for anybody to evaluate how the balance of these things will play out without knowing what the new threats and benefits will be, most of which are yet to be invented. It is certainly true that past analysis underestimated the threats. Hopefully this at least will not happen as much.”

Bruce Bimber, professor of political science at the University of California-Santa Barbara, said, “For better and for worse, news businesses of the mass media era served vital functions for citizens through their near-monopoly on the flow of political information. News businesses edited and filtered information about public affairs, and for all its flaws, that process accommodated some of the public’s cognitive limitations and biases in ways that made democratic public spheres generally tractable for citizens. It rarely worked really well, but it worked adequately. Digital media are breaking the filtering and editing processes, and this erodes the epistemic basis for democracy.”

Bulbul Gupta, founding adviser, Socos Labs, a think tank designing artificial intelligence to maximize human potential, responded, “Given the current state of tech and artificial intelligence ownership, I expect democracy to be even more unequal between the haves and have nots by 2030, and a major uprising happening from the masses who are being quickly left behind. Tech and AI are owned by their creators, the top 1%, with decisions made about the 100% in every sector of society that have little to no transparency, human judgment or much recourse, and that may not get made the same if they were being forced to happen face to face. People will need their own personal AIs in their corner to protect their basic civil and human rights.”

Carlos Afonso, an internet pioneer and digital rights leader based in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, wrote, “Thomas Piketty and others demonstrate, inequality is, if anything, rising everywhere. Democracy understood as pluralist participation in political processes involving the electoral (supposedly unbiased) choices of government representatives, and the decision-making processes in building policies, legislation and regulation, cannot survive in these conditions. Thinking here of a planet with 7 billion-plus persons, most of them (including many of the supposedly ‘connected’) are unable to discern the many aspects of disinformation that reaches them through traditional (entrepreneurial) media, social networking apps and local political influences. In parallel, one of the greatest achievements of the UN community was the consensus agreement on trying to reach the 17 sustainable development goals by 2030. However, conflicts of all kinds, internal and inter-countries, give us no hope that the essential components of those goals will be achieved worldwide. Also, there is (partly in consequence of the various manifestations of a growing economic crisis with the financial speculators at the head of these processes) little chance that resources will increase to cover the essential needs of the majority.”

Charis Thompson, professor of sociology, London School of Economics, and member of the World Economic Forum’s Global Technology Council on Technology, Values, and Policy, said, “See the introductory chapter of my forthcoming book ‘Getting Ahead: Living in a Time of AI, Selection, and Inequality’ for the argument that substantive democracy requires ethos, logos and pathos, but we are giving up on shared ethos (affective and climate and other polarization) and logos (post-truth, deepfakes) and ceding superb – much better than human – rationality to artificial intelligence and machine learning (for the good as well as the bad) and that is leaving us only with pathos for politics, whether of the bully populist kind or the neoliberal kind or the anti-nation-state kind. What alternatives do we have to liberal democracy that fit our emerging tech, and inclusion/inequality and climate crises better? Are there ways to save/ promote substantive democracy and if so, who do they benefit and who do they leave out?”

Charles Ess, professor of digital ethics, at the University of Oslo, said, “Democracy – its foundational norms and principles, including basic rights to privacy, freedom of expression and rights to contest and conscientiously disobey – may survive in some form and in some places by 2030; but there are many strong reasons, alas, to think that it will be pushed to the margins in even traditionally democratic countries by the forces of ‘surveillance capitalism,’ coupled with increasing citizen feelings of powerlessness against these forces, along with manipulation of information and elections, etc. Not to mention China’s increasingly extensive exports of the technologies of ‘digital authoritarianism’ modelled on their emerging Social Credit System. Some hope may lie in approaches such as ‘privacy by design’ or ‘ethically-aligned design’ (IEEE) and the EU initiatives to preserve democratic rights and our impulses toward good lives flourishing. These will require increased citizen awareness and engagement, which in turn requires strong support by educational and governmental institutions.”

Charlie Firestone, executive director, Communications and Society Program and vice president, Aspen Institute, wrote, “For the next four to five years there is likely to be more surveillance techniques, e.g., facial recognition; more deceptive activity over the internet, e.g., deepfakes; and more sophisticated means of manipulation of user data to gain advantages from those users. But I am hopeful that there will be a reaction to these abuses coming to fruition in the latter 2020s, resulting in new and better uses for democratic purposes.”

Gretchen Steenstra, a technology consultant for associations and nonprofit organizations, wrote, “I am concerned about higher velocity of information that does not include all critical and supporting information. Data is used to inform one view without context. Consumers do not fact-check (on many issues regardless of party). Americans are not focused on social responsibility or downstream impacts – they only want instant results. Continuous media weakens people’s ability to seek information and form their own opinion. Constant connectedness prevents reflection and allows your brain to relax. No one can argue with the desire for understanding.”

Benjamin Shestakofsky, a University of Pennsylvania professor and researcher focused on the impact of digital life on labor and employment wrote, “The future of democratic institutions will depend on the willingness and ability of legislators and regulators to protect them from the monopoly power of tech companies.”

J.M. Porup, a cybersecurity journalist, said, “Information technology disrupts democracy and redistributes power to the so-called ‘intelligence community’ (a euphemism for the secret police). Mass surveillance makes possible totalitarian dictatorship with a thin veneer of Kabuki theater to make people think they still live in a free country. The impossibility of building perfectly secure software, networks or devices means that gangsters and spies – but I repeat myself – will hack those devices and seize control of them to accrue yet even more power. Cybersecurity is the central political question of our times, and political organization on the fifth domain looks a lot like martial law. Low-tech journalists reporting on these issues to low-tech audiences often confuse the issue. Major networks employ former spies to lie to the American people in what can only be called de facto state TV. The outlook is grim, and without more tech-savvy journalists to raise the alarm, I am pessimistic about the future of our political liberty. For more of my thoughts on this, see my book-length work in progress, ‘95ThesesofCyber.com.’”

Richard Culatta, CEO of ISTE and a futurist and consultant, wrote, “If we continue down our current path, democracy will be eroded through digital misinformation campaigns and technology that reinforces our existing viewpoints by limiting exposure to ideas that are different from our own. However, I’m optimistic that we can still change this outcome by starting a national conversation to redefine digital citizenship and actively model the use of technology to rebuild democracy.”

Peter W. Singer, founding director of the Center for 21st Century Security and Intelligence at The Brookings Institution, wrote, “Information on the internet has increasingly been weaponized in ways that attack the fundamentals of the Enlightenment, most especially shared truth, which modern democracies are based upon.”

Christian Huitema, president, Private Octopus, longtime internet developer and administrator, said, “Large technology companies have adopted the ‘surveillance capitalism’ model. They collect large amounts of data about people, and then profit from the data in multiple ways. They also engage in ‘attention maximization’ techniques, using the body of data to cleverly incite more and more consumption of their services, and of course more and more surrendering of personal data. Most technology markets evolve into a winner-take-all-future.  Surveillance capitalism is not an exception. More data implies more power on the user, and accrued advantage for further data collection. In my nightmares, this leads to a concentration of power in the hands of a few companies, where the ‘data lords’ of surveillance capitalism have as much respect for democracy as yesterday’s feudal lords. I really hope that society will rebel against the data lords, and somehow invalidate the attractiveness of data collection. But there are only a few chances of that happening.”

Christian Schoon, external foresight consultant, Future Impacts, based in Germany, expressed hope that there will be change by the 2030s, writing, “Democratic systems will be weakened by technology developments in the next decade. Established democracies are very stolid. Political or systematical innovations in those bureaucracies need a lot of time to become mainstream. Furthermore, digital and technology innovations are too fast for those established systems. Those technology and digital innovations are driven by economic interests. The core logic is to maximize financial growth. Political and economic leaders generally think in short-term horizons when making decisions. If they would take a long-term perspective they might see challenges they could solve today. The next decade will be a time of learning for political systems. After 2030/2035, democratic systems will have a comeback with participative, inclusive and core democratic solutions based on an ethical application of technology and artificial intelligence. One driving factor will be the vast gap between the poor and the rich, between well- and less-educated societal groups or between migrants and original populations or established immigrants.”

Christopher Savage, a policy entrepreneur, said, “Eventually – on a scale of decades – technology will enhance and strengthen democratic institutions and civic engagement. But our cultural and psychological tools for obtaining, evaluating and understanding information are still far, far behind where they need to be to handle the polluted fire hose of crap thrown at us every day. And, worse, detecting and resisting the combined effects of detailed, intimate, pervasive-surveillance-based profiles of everyone – which reveal *how* to manipulate us – and ever-more-convincing fake news (deepfakes of video, audio and verbal authorship) – deployed precisely *to* manipulate us – will require a degree of sophistication in the consumption and processing of information that most of us just do not have and do not know how to get. Those seeking power (that is, politicians and those who enable them) cannot be expected to resist the temptation of using these tools to get it. So, the processes of democracy are going to get worse before they get better.”

Cliff Zukin, professor of public policy and political science, Rutgers University, responded, “In the U.S. anyway, increasing political apathy has accompanied increasing use of technology. It has on the one hand been diversional from attention to matters of governance and citizenship. On the other, the centrifugal forces of interests made more available by increasing technology has eroded the core knowledge base of citizens, as well as norms of citizenship. It does allow for mass movements to organize more quickly and put pressure on leaders, but the right-wing post-recession populism and withdrawal from globalism is not, in my judgment, a good thing.”

Clifford Lynch, director, Coalition for Networked Information, said, “Democracy in the U.S. is clearly in serious trouble, but I don’t think that technology is the direct driver. Technology has facilitated or exacerbated many of the problems by facilitating tribalism, extremism and extreme partisanship, the easy spread of misinformation and disinformation, commerce in personal data and social media in particular has had a corrosive effect on some parts of the social fabric (though strengthening other parts) – but these problems run deeper than technology. A few other observations: we need to deal with the death of ‘seeing is believing’ in the next few years; if technology can really radically improve K-12 education with little additional investment (I’m very skeptical) that will make a difference; we continue to underestimate the effects of various types of computer security vulnerabilities at all levels of society, and as this becomes clearer there will be a considerable backlash (not clear if it will translate to ‘techlash’ as much of it is failures by traditional businesses and governments, not really the tech industries).”

Craig Watkins, a professor at the University of Texas – Austin, wrote, “The spread of these technologies around the world is happening faster than the knowledge and efforts to apply them in ways that support rather than weaken democracy. The spread of disinformation, deepfake videos and conspiracy theories requires a level of digital and civic literacy that, unfortunately, is underdeveloped around the world. This is true in even the most ‘developed’ countries like the US and the UK. Democracy is under assault, and the deployment of technology is a key asset in the undermining of public discourse, civic engagement and voter participation. And while the pressure to assert greater regulatory authority over big tech is ramping up the pace of change – data rights, corporate responsibility and designing algorithms that address disparities and efforts to weaken democracy – it does not appear to be sufficient to contain the looming threats to a more democratic and inclusive civic sphere.”

Dan Gillmor, co-founder of the News Co/Lab at Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication and professor of practice in digital media literacy, commented, “Technology is only one factor in determining whether we will maintain a republic and democratic rule. Current trends there are not promising. Governments (and their corporate partners) are broadly using technology to create a surveillance state, and what amounts to law by unaccountable black-box algorithm, far beyond anything Orwell imagined. But this can only happen in a society that can’t be bothered to protect liberty – or is easily led/stampeded into relinquishing it – and that is happening in more and more of the Western democracies. The re-emergence of public bigotry has nothing to do with technology, except to the extent that bigots use it to promote their malignant goals. Meanwhile, the institutions that are supposed to protect liberty – journalism among them – are mostly failing to do so. In a tiny number of jurisdictions, people have persuaded leaders to push back on the encroachments, such as a partial ban on government use of facial recognition in San Francisco. But the encroachments are overwhelming and accelerating.”

Daniel Berleant, author of “The Human Race to the Future,” wrote, “While the web has the demonstrated ability to ease and enhance information flow to citizens, the quality of that information was never anticipated to be as shockingly disruptive to democratic processes as it is turning out to be. Instead of more-informed citizens, often people are less informed: manipulated by partisan propaganda increasingly custom-targeted to its unwitting recipients; trolled by sophisticated organizations sometimes as arms of foreign governments (pioneered by Russia – its successes will surely spark other countries to spend greatly on copying and refining its techniques); sucked in by fringe movements that appear onscreen as equal to the well-developed mainstream institutions that provide long-term stability to societies; force-fed more information, consumed with less thought; and so on. We may hope societies can adapt and find ways, social and technological, to compensate, adapt and ultimately strengthen traditions of freedom. Achieving that is a challenge countered by those who, disrespecting society, seek for their own interests to destroy it.”

David Bernstein, a retired market-research and new-product-development professional, said, “I am optimistic about some ways that technology will affect democracy. I can see new and easier ways to register to vote and the actual voting process. However, I am more pessimistic about how social media platforms, the ability to self-publish political material widely and easy access to these platforms will make it easier for foreign and extremist influences to ‘game the system.’ It will make finding unbiased, accurate and reliable information much more difficult.”

David Bray, executive director for the People-Centered Internet Coalition, commented, “Stories can be told that change behaviors. A simple visceral story of ‘I did X once and it caused me to puke my guts out’ probably would serve to make several people who have never done whatever X was to avoid it (note: this is where we get into the serious challenges of misinformation online, namely that the best way for something to go viral is to make it hateful or fearful whereas positive narratives don’t go viral as well). If stories can be told that change behaviors, repeat behaviors over time can become ‘sticky’ habits. Habits inculcate norms. The power of narratives is exactly their ability to shape and institutionalize norms and power (again defined as the capability to compel or oblige someone to take a certain a certain course of action) distribution in our human communities. There’s also increasing evidence though that we humans developed communication and language to convince others that the scenario they were facing was similar to what we were facing too (i.e., ‘myside’), so much that some researchers now call confirmation bias ‘myside bias,’ which is adaptive insomuch that if the group of humans can collectively be on the same ‘myside’ that helps with coordinated responses to whatever threat or opportunity was presenting itself. Now, however, our world is much broader than our immediate environment that we see and experience nearby, this has dangerous side effects, such as challenges in reaching consensus or disputing the relevant facts for a situation. We are seeing increasing polarization in open societies, partly as a result of the questions of where we want to go not being considered in ways that can translate to action. An even larger question is where do different localities want to go in terms of progress in parallel to what values or norms it wants to hold dear to? This is a question that spans sectors. No one organization or influencer or group with power can either solely answer or execute actions toward that desired future state. In the absence of finding ways to build bridges that span sectors, power – through narratives, laws, or technologies – will be grabbed by whomever aspires to this. An important question for the future is can we build such bridges across sectors? Will our divisions be our undoing as open, pluralistic societies? Can we develop narratives of hope for open, pluralistic societies that bring people together?”

David Gans, musician, songwriter and journalist, said, “I fear that deliberate falsehoods will continue to crowd objective reality out of the discourse. The social networks seem neither able nor particularly willing to intervene on behalf of the truth, and there are powerful and well-funded entities with a strong interest in misinforming the public.  The continued existence of Fox News is one of the greatest threats our society has ever known. We’ve tolerated this fountain of lies for way too long.”

David Golumbia, an associate professor of digital studies at Virginia Commonwealth University, wrote, “Unless there is a massive change to democratic control over digital technology, that technology will continue to erode democracy, as it was designed to do and as its most ardent advocates openly say they want, despite sometimes using the language of democracy and allied values like free expression to justify their antidemocratic actions. I am cautiously hopeful that governments and citizens are waking up to the powerful antidemocratic forces that are coded into our technology and the culture that informs and empowers it. The Christchurch Call, for example, was a good first step. Yet the technology industry and its many ‘grassroots’ activists attacked that Call in every way, using the most dishonest and disingenuous language imaginable, while several companies claimed to be going along with it. At bottom, the response to the Christchurch Call was a bald statement that democracies do not have the right to regulate technology. If that is true, democracy does not mean anything. So while I hope that things will improve, the tremendous amounts of money and power dedicated to making sure they don’t improve frighten me, as do the uses of this technology in states that do not even try to appear to be democracies.”

David J. Wierz, senior principal, The OCI Group, commented, “Concerns for me are twofold. One is the nature of facilitated communication given the apparent consolidation of technology platforms. An issue seen today that I anticipate expanding is questioning the validity – the actual presence – of another individual in communications offered through technology. The question is whether the other party is a person. The second consideration is observation and surveillance. Technology provides a platform to see, know and record in a manner that stands as a counterpoint to privacy inherent in acts of voting or dissent.”

David P. Reed, pioneering architect of the internet, an expert in networking, spectrum and internet policy, wrote, “‘Democracy’ in 2030 will be democracy in name only. The mechanisms of widespread corporate surveillance of user behavior and modification of user behavior are becoming so sophisticated that the citizen interests of democratic structured countries will no longer be represented in any meaningful way. That is, by collecting vast amounts of information about user preferences and responses, and the use of highly targeted behavior modification techniques, citizens’ choices will be manipulated more and more in the interests of those who can pay to drive that system. The current forms of democracy limit citizen participation to election events every few years, where issues and candidates are structured by political parties into highly targeted single-vote events that do not represent individuals’ interests. Instead, a small set of provocative ‘wedge’ issues are made the entire focus of the citizen’s choice. This is not representation of interests. It is a managed poll that can easily be manipulated by behavior modification of the sort that technology is moving toward.”

David Noelle, professor and researcher into computational cognitive neuroscience, University of California-Merced, wrote, “This response is, of course, pure speculation. In the US, policy and public opinion have been increasingly shaped so as to support powered interests rather than the interests of the people. Regulation is dismissed as a threat to our troubled economy, encouraging corporate powers to pursue dangerous short-sighted strategies for producing return for investors. The unrepresented have been all but muted by electoral processes designed to sustain those in power. The most influential technologies of our times have been designed to depend on large centralized infrastructure. Data drives many new innovations, and few are in a position to collect and aggregate extensive data on the people. The focus on technologies that depend on controllable infrastructure, whether privately held or manipulated by political powers, will strengthen the positions of those currently in power, increasingly limiting the ability of the people to demand democratic representation. Note that this opinion is not intended as a call to limit technology but as a cry to radically alter political and economic institutions so as to provide representation to all of the people. A more democratic system will produce more democratic technologies.”

Deirdre Williams, an independent internet activist based in the Caribbean, commented, “We are being taught that convenience is the most important priority. ‘Innovation’ is killing ingenuity. I would expect that over the next 10 years the pendulum will swing in the opposite direction, but it will take a while to repair the divide that has been (deliberately?) introduced between citizen and government, and to remind governments of their duty of care to all of the citizens.”

Dick Hardt, entrepreneur and well-known speaker on digital life and politics, said, “People vote by how they feel. Technology is used to affect how people feel, and technology will continue to improve in its effectiveness.”

Donald Codling, a consultant in international cybersecurity and internet policy who previously worked for the FBI for 23 years, wrote, “Open, free and untainted primaries and elections will become more difficult due to the skills and tools now widely available to those who wish to cause harm, advance their own agenda, sow doubt into the process and just generally cause disruption. Given centuries of contentious human nature with the ‘modern’ version of tribalism embedding itself among many communities worldwide and the unsurprising conflicts that will inevitably arise from these tensions, plans must be made by society to deploy trained observers and vetted/trusted monitoring technologies to notice and respond to attempts to alter the collective will of the people. Assuming, of course, that humans will be able to ‘trust’ what they see, hear and read 10 years from now – the Technology Disinformation/Deepfake ‘Catch 22’ is here!”

Eduardo Villaneuva-Mansilla, associate professor of communications, Pontificia Universidad Catolica, Peru, and editor, Journal of Community Informatics, said, “In the next decade the complete control by a few multinational firms will be completely outside of regulatory and policy reach of developing countries’ governments. This will increase the instability that has been normalized as a feature of governance in these countries. The lack of agreement about how to deal with these issues among governments is a serious threat to democracy, as much as the potential for misuse of technological innovations.”

Eileen Ruddin, co-founder and board chair, LearnLaunch Inc., said, “Human beings are not governed by rationality, they are governed by their innate human animal tendencies. Technology is unleashing human tendencies that are not new; in the past they have been shaped and molded and constrained by community norms. Those norms have been ‘enforced’ by church, by community, by family. Many of the constraints on human behavior – shared community, religion, family – have been loosened over the past 50 years. Technology is enabling more people to express the bad human traits as well as the good. But the bad traits have no modifiers or constraints. What social norms are constraining ‘bad behavior’ on the internet? While we have invented new technologies, we have not yet invented systems of social norms that work online. The issue is not the platforms….it is the people. But the platforms have unleashed the people into a culture without restraint. How will we build new norms and cultures for this era? I don’t think regulating Facebook is the answer to this question.”

Emilio Velis, executive director, Appropedia Foundation, said, “The way user participation has been shaped by technological platforms for the past 10 years turned the power of decentralized information back to the big corporations, platforms and stakeholders. Or, even worse, it has weakened the capacity of individuals of action while maintaining a false perception that they have control. This perception will lead to having people act toward democracy while that value will not enforce real social change.”

Emmanuel Edet, legal adviser, National Information Technology Development Agency, Nigeria, said, “The core concepts of democracy, representation, elections and tenure of government will be greatly undermined by artificial intelligence. The use of social media coupled with faceless artificial intelligence-driven opinions can manipulate popular opinion that will deny people the right to express their choice for fear of going against the crowd.”

Eric Goldman, professor and director, High-Tech Law Institute, Santa Clara University School of Law, commented, “Our politicians have embraced internet communications as a direct channel to lie to their constituents without the fact-checking of traditional media gatekeepers. So long as technology helps politicians lie without accountability, we have little hope of good governance.”

Eric Keller, lecturer in international relations and U.S. foreign policy, University of Tennessee-Knoxville, wrote, “Social media will heighten the current strong polarization that we already have. This is mainly from ‘information stovepipes’ and mutually reinforcing narratives that demonize the opposition. This creates the danger of democratic institutions being degraded in the name of ‘saving’ them from the opposing political party.”

Eric Royer, assistant professor of political science, Saint Louis University, said, “The steady, yet somewhat invisible, erosion of democratic institutions and processes worldwide truly represents an existential crisis for practitioners and scholars alike. The decline of democratic indicators over the past decade and the use and abuse of existing democratic institutions has ushered in a new era of global democratic pessimism, even in established democracies. Technology, without a doubt, has contributed to this process by fomenting misinformation and further eroding essential norms that are crucial for maintaining the legitimacy of democratic institutions. The breakdown of norms creates an environment of false truths that is directly tied to political polarization, especially among the fringes, and citizen mistrust and apathy with anything ‘government.’ Technology, especially in social media platforms, holds unlimited potential to make the world less of an unfamiliar place, however, its manipulation and influence in our daily lives is truly misunderstood at the current expense of democratic processes and institutions globally and domestically.”

Estee Beck, author of “A Theory of Persuasive Computer Algorithms for Rhetorical Code Studies,” commented, “Unless Congress takes action and passes protective consumer legislation to limit private industry powers with technological growth, i.e., surveillance and privacy erosion, democratic institutions will face greater dangers from domestic and foreign threats, loss of trust among the American public and devaluation of private technological companies among the marketplace. The infrastructure of technology, with faulty programming that allows for penetration and deep hacks, the decisions made now with select leaders in technology companies driving pro-China surveillance growth, anti-U.S. and Mexico relations via border surveillance, marketing of biosecurity technologies and the eventual promotion of artificial intelligence consumer goods and services will divide the faith of the nation and leave the American public ill-trusting of Congress to take action for the public good.”

Filippo Menczer, grantee in the Knight Foundation’s Democracy Project and professor of informatics and computer science, Indiana University, said, “Technology will inevitably play a growing role in the relationship between citizens and democratic institutions, as it mediates our access to information and opinions. This will in part strengthen democracy, for example making it easier to check facts. It will also weaken democracy, as vulnerabilities due to the interplay of cognitive, social and algorithmic biases continue to be exploited and new ones are discovered. On balance, my prediction is that things will get worse before they get better. We are only just beginning discussions about the legal implications of countermeasures, for example the issues related to social bots, disinformation campaigns, suppression of speech and the First Amendment in the U.S.”

Garth Graham, a longtime leader of Telecommunities Canada, said, “The digital age and the internet, which is a symptom of it and not a cause, is characterised by a disintermediation of authority. Authority as a principle for structural organization is disappearing. Democracy is predicated by the agreement to accept authority to represent. Most people are no longer willing to accept that anyone else can represent them.”

Giacomo Mazzone, head of institutional relations, European Broadcasting Union and Eurovision, wrote, “I don’t believe that internet platforms will be able to self-reform, despite all announcements and efforts shown. And so only a break-up solution or ‘publicization’ of the internet giants could change the future. The amount of power that has been transferred by citizens and by states to these actors that are not accountable to anybody (even to the U.S. government) is too big to think that they could renounce voluntarily. Do you remember ‘Sliding Doors’ – the 1998 movie with Gwyneth Paltrow as leading actor? The future could (in a 50/50 chance) go totally wrong or fantastically well. A digital interconnected society based on trust and respect of individual and human rights could be the next arcadia. A digital interconnected and mass-surveillance oriented society based on exploitation of human weakness and on polarization of society could be the perfect implementation of the Orwell dystopia of ‘1984.’ The two futures are equally possible. It’s up to government and civil society to decide in which direction we shall go.”

Gina Neff, senior research fellow, Oxford Internet Institute, studying innovation and digital transformation, wrote, “There is simply no reason to believe that technology can strengthen democracy. Western democracies are grappling with the power from the increased concentration of financial capital and its response in the form of the rise of populism. Without attention to strengthening our core technology and communications infrastructure, those forces will continue to damage how people participate in – and indeed make – democracy.”

Glyn Moody, a prolific technology journalist, blogger and speaker based in Europe, said, “Lies propagate more easily than truth. It is proving far easier to use the latest technology to undermine the things we thought were safe and stable. It is proving very hard to counter that abuse of technology.”

Graham Norris, a business psychologist with expertise in the future of work, said, “There are some trends already underway suggesting technology is challenging democratic institutions and processes, and I would expect these trends to continue. In particular, I think technology will increase complexity and make it harder for citizens to understand the nature of the decisions that politicians will be making. However, I don’t see this as a long-term problem. Beyond 2030, it may well be that democracy evolves to accommodate technological advance and utilise it to improve democratic processes. Nevertheless, the transition will likely be difficult.”

Henning Schulzrinne, Internet Hall of Fame member and former chief technology officer for the Federal Communications Commission, wrote, “Unless changes are made, many citizens will increasingly see their role as diminished and inconsequential, as the tools of democracy will no longer work and will have obviously failed – voting, protest, contacts with representatives, the media. Technology’s effect will strongly depend on the participants in the political process. If political actors (parties, major civic organizations, individual leaders) want to make democracy work better, technology can help. If they want to mainly ensure that their party cannot lose elections, technology offers plenty of tools of disinformation, vote rigging and suppression, gerrymandering, untraceable donations and foreign influence. Unfortunately, right-wing parties seem to have taken a liking to the latter approach, particularly if they see their influence endangered by new majorities. Changes will depend on the country and the ability of its systems to adjust to two challenges: institutional and issues. The institutional challenge is how citizens can contribute meaningfully to political deliberations, without having the sense that their voices are ignored anyway or that electoral majorities are superseded by rule-based majorities, i.e., where gerrymandering, vote rigging and voter suppression determine the outcome. Secondly, a number of issues that have been largely procrastinated on require governmental action, primarily legislative, namely climate change, lack of social mobility, income stagnation and the impact of aging societies.”

Heywood Sloan, entrepreneur and banking and securities consultant, said, “The current U.S. administration is leading the way to misuse technology. It permeates the public air with disinformation and lies, while putting a heavy hand on the scale in the background. It welcomes trolls to conferences in the White House and encourages them. Even if the administration changes it will take time and work to undo the damage. Media technology corporations have lost control of their platforms and marketing staffs – witness Facebook and Cambridge Analytica.  Already we have rogue state sponsors altering our dialogues, yet we ignore them, and chortle away with their leaders.”

Hume Winzar, associate professor and director of the business analytics undergraduate program at Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia, said, “Corporations and government have the information and the technology to create highly-targeted messages designed to favour their own agendas. We, as citizens, have demonstrated that we rarely look beyond our regular news sources, and often use easily digested surrogates for news (comedy shows, social media). We also seem to have very short memories, so what was presented as a scandal only a year ago is usual, even laudable, now. Foreign interference will also continue. Russia’s sometimes embarrassingly simplistic social media posts actually gained more traction than they should have in the 2016 U.S. presidential elections, and they’re becoming more sophisticated. None of this is new. The British and the U.S. have been manipulating foreign news and propaganda for many decades with great success, and the church before them. But now the scale and the speed of that manipulation is perhaps too great to combat.”

Ian Fish, ICT professional and specialist in information security based in Europe, said, “I expect the imbalance of power between the major global corporations and democratic national governments will increase to the detriment of democracy. I also expect non-democratic governments’ disruption of democratic norms to increase faster than the democracies can react.”

Isaac Mao, director, Sharism Lab, said, “Information and its channels are everything. Moving toward 2030, the biggest challenge is that we don’t know who controls the information delivery. If we can’t understand and regulate it well, then disinformation could totally overwhelm people’s limited bandwidth for input. Professional journalism and democratic institutions are eclipsed in such an emergency. There will be no authority of information, which will definitely mean no democracy. Technology is neutral but will provide many wild ways to mislead people if big technology companies and totalitarian regimes control the information channels with lures and algorithms. Humans’ brains can be easily misled to chase fake news, distorted facts and/or censorship traps without realizing it. They can’t even find credible ways to verify the authenticity of information because every channel can be tainted. Even though individuals have gained the power of sharing, their voices are not easily heard. It’s the biggest threat to our future.”

Jamais Cascio, distinguished fellow, Institute for the Future, and selected by Foreign Policy magazine in its “Top 100 Global Thinkers,” wrote, “Although in the longer run we’re likely to develop effective counters to many of the politically pathological technologies, over the 2020s the explosion of information-manipulation tools will outpace our ability to adapt to and contain those technologies. By 2030, we’re likely to have long lost our willingness to believe most media outlets. Surrounded by falsehoods and fakes, we’re more likely to ignore scandals than be outraged by them. The ease with which convincing fake images, audio and video can be created renders nearly all sources suspect; it’s too easy to dismiss everything as false, and too often correct. However, when something does break through the barriers of skepticism, the reaction will often be disproportionately great. At the same time, we’ll be in the early days of tools and practices that will help filter through the falsehoods and return a measure of trust to the system. They won’t have broad use yet, but we’ll start to see benefits.”

James Sigaru Wahu, assistant professor, media, culture and communication, New York University and fellow at Harvard’s Berkman Klein Center, wrote, “As we have seen across the global north, tech has only worked to make worse offline tension. This has resulted in multiple challenges toward notions of democracy as shown by the Brexit debacle, 2016 presidential elections and violence against immigrant groups. We have also seen states get in the act through the use of technology to expand their surveillance powers as is the case in China and in the U.K. (with its large CCTV camera presence). States in the global south have also gotten into the surveillance game, which does not bode well for organizations and people advocating for human rights. What we have thus seen is countries like Russia and China growing in strength in tech surveillance and misinformation/disinformation while the United States and several police departments across the country rely on companies such as Palantir to expand their surveillance on citizens. Both of these have led to disastrous results.”

Janet Salmons, consultant with Vision2Lead, said, “The internet, with unregulated power in the hands of commercial entities that have little sense of social responsibility, will continue to unravel Western-style democracies and civic institutions. Companies profiting from sales of personal data or on risky practices have little self-interest in promoting the kinds of digital and advanced literacy people need to discern between fact and fiction. In the U.S., the free press and educational systems that can potentially illuminate this distinction are under siege. As a result, even when presented with the opportunity to vote or otherwise inveigh on decision-making, they do so from weak and uninformed positions. The lowest common denominator, the mass views based on big data, win. The institutions that are at greatest risk are those where scientific research is fundamental, whether they are working on health, climate or other public-safety issues. I’m shifting from being a digital enthusiast to being a techlasher. I sincerely hope I am wrong!”

Japheth Cleaver, a systems engineer, commented, “At the moment, the major social media networks function not by neutrally and dispassionately connecting disparate communicators (like the phone system), but are designed reinforce engagement to sell as many targeted ads as possible. This reinforcement creates resonant effects throughout a society’s culture, and in-person contextual interaction drops away in favor of the efficiencies that electronic communication offers, but without any of the risk of the ‘bubble’ of the like-minded being dropped, as that would hurt engagement. Internet as communications overlay is fine. Internet as a replacement for public space seems detrimental.”

Jason Hong, professor, Human-Computer Interaction Institute, Carnegie-Mellon University, said, “Basically, it’s 1) easier for small groups of people to cause lots of damage (e.g., disinformation, deepfakes), and 2) easier for those already in power to use these technologies than those who need to organize. In the early days of the internet, new technologies empowered new voices, which led to a lot of utopian views. However, we’ve seen in recent years that these same technologies are now being used to entrench those already in power. We see this in the form of targeted advertising (being used for highly targeted political campaigns), analytics (being used for gerrymandering), disinformation and fake news (being used both domestically and by foreign powers, both unintentionally and intentionally) and filter bubbles where people can seek out just the information that they want to hear. All of this was possible before the internet, but it was harder because of natural barriers. We also haven’t seen the political effects of deepfakes and are just starting to see the effects of widespread surveillance by police forces.”

Jeff Johnson, professor of computer science, University of San Francisco, who previously worked at Xerox, HP Labs and Sun Microsystems, said, “Today’s social media encourages the spread of unverified information, which can skew policymaking and elections. People tend to be lazy and do not even read most of the articles they comment on, much less check the truth of the articles. In the TV era, before social media, putting out false information about a political opponent or ballot measure was expensive and subject to laws against ‘false advertising.’ Political hit pieces had to be well-funded, vaguely worded and carefully timed (to just before the election) in order to sway elections. That is no longer true. Strong regulation of social media could perhaps mitigate this, but such regulation seems unlikely in the foreseeable future.”

Jennifer Jarratt, co-principal of Leading Futurists LLC, wrote, “Digitization is working its way through all pre-internet institutions, creating change as it goes, most of which we haven’t seen yet. It’s not so much a question of strength or weakness, more one of ability to adapt to change. Almost all of our democratic and political systems are obsolete, based on old assumptions that mostly are not now valid. We need a new Constitution, for example. Digitization brings us wonderful tools, the potential of much data and new freedoms – we just don’t know how to use or work them yet. The years between now and 2030 will be our time to learn and adapt.”

Jeremy Malcolm, director, Prostasia Foundation, wrote, “By 2030, most of those in government will have grown up with the internet as an integrated part of their daily lives. There will be less of a perception from these people that the internet is something new and fearsome that has disrupted the way that life was before. They will be well aware of the strengths and weaknesses of the internet in relation to political organizing, and will have adjusted their expectations of what government can (and cannot) do to control these effects. This will result in a realignment of power between governments and whichever actors then have more control over online narratives – which might not be the same actors as today.”

Jerry Michalski, founder of REX, the Relationship Economy eXpedition, wrote, “‘Capital-G’ Government has devolved into a phony consumer mass-marketing exercise. ‘Small-g’ governance could involve active, ongoing collaboration among citizens, but it won’t as long as the major platforms they use have as their business models to addict them to Tik Tok videos, and to sell off their private data to companies that want to stalk them.”

John Harlow, smart city research specialist, Engagement Lab, Emerson College, said, “Although there is rising anti-monopoly sentiment, 2030 is soon, and the dominant digital commons for speech (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube) are likely to draw out (in the courts) any regulatory action to change their business models and/or practices. Currently, they are governed by algorithms designed to maximize ‘engagement’ time and thereby advertising revenue, and those algorithms have prioritized extreme content over accurate content (among other problems). This has enabled and supported the rise of the authoritarian far right the world over, and destabilized faith and participation in democratic institutions and processes.”

John Sniadowski, a systems architect based in the United Kingdom, wrote, “It is proving very difficult to regulate multinational corporations because of the variety of different national government agendas. A globally enacted set of rules to control multinationals is unlikely to happen because some sovereign states have very illiberal and hierarchical control over agendas and see technology as a way to dominate their citizens with their agendas as well as influence the democratic viewpoints of what they consider to be hostile states. Democracy in technological terms can be weaponized.”

Jonathan Kolber, author, “A Celebration Society: Solving the Coming Automation Crisis,” said, “Deepfakes will completely muddy the difference between facts and falsehood, a distinction that few citizens are equipped to make even now. This will have devastating effects upon democratic institutions and processes. If, in future, a way to ‘watermark’ recordings is discovered that cannot be spoofed, that would correct the effects of deepfakes. I expect there to be rapidly rising unemployment – not necessarily recorded as such, since the statistics are manipulated. Artificial intelligence and robots will have begun to eviscerate fields including but not limited to drivers, clerks and a variety of knowledge work professions. We are increasingly seeing George Orwell’s nightmare unfold, as governments learn to use internet-enabled smart devices (televisions, smartphones, etc.) for surveillance. When the Internet of Things extends to smart cars, smart homes and so forth, the surveillance will be universal and unending. Governments are also increasingly redefining facts and history. Surveillance is not necessarily bad. As we have proposed it, ‘bimodal surveillance’ could offer full public recording, fully accessible by all citizens, thereby affording vulnerable individuals greater safety in public places. Full citizen access means that misdeeds by officers of the law would also be recorded. Private areas, so designated, would be completely free of recording unless all adults present explicitly agreed, or with a court-ordered particular warrant. Technology could enable us to build one or more societies rooted in systems of sustainable technological abundance. Those could then serve as models. Furthering that is the work of my associates and myself.”

Jonathan Morgan, senior design researcher, Wikimedia Foundation, said, “I’m primarily concerned with three things. 1) The use of social media by interested groups to spread disinformation in a strategic, coordinated fashion with the intent of undermining people’s trust in institutions and/or convincing them to believe things that aren’t true. 2) The role of proprietary, closed platforms run by profit-driven companies in disseminating information to citizens, collecting information from (and about) citizens, and engaging political stakeholder groups. These platforms were not designed to be ‘digital commons,’ are not equally accessible to everyone and are not run for the sake of promoting social welfare or broad-based civic participation. These companies’ profit motives, business models, data-gathering practices, process/procedural opacity and power (and therefore, resilience against regulation undertaken for prosocial purposes) make them poorly suited to promoting democracy.  3) The growing role of surveillance by digital platform owners (and other economic actors that collect and transact digital trace data) as well as by state actors, and the increasing power of machine learning-powered surveillance technologies for capturing and analyzing data, threaten the public’s ability to engage safely and equitably in civic discussions.”

Jonathan Taplin, author of “Move Fast and Break Things: How Google, Facebook and Amazon Cornered Culture and Undermined Democracy,” said, “Social media will continue to enable new and more-sophisticated forms of propaganda and disinformation. Artificial intelligence will enable deepfake videos that the average citizen will be taken in by. Facebook, YouTube and Twitter will continue to enable this content in their unending chase for revenue. Politicians will make noises about regulation, but since these platforms will become their primary source of advertising and publicity, they will never commit to the elimination of Safe Harbor and other rules that protect the social networks.”

Joseph Turow, professor of communication, University of Pennsylvania, commented, “There are certainly aspects of the digital environment that can enhance democratic awareness and participation, and I hope governments and civic organizations will work to strengthen them. On balance, though, I fear that a combination of political-marketing interests and anti-democratic forces within the U.S. and outside will create an environment of concocted stories (often reflecting conspiracy theories) targeted in hyper-personalized ways. The situation will make it virtually impossible for the press and civic groups to track and/or challenge lies or highlight accurate claims effectively to the electorate because there will be so many mass-customized variants, and because news audiences will be so fragmented. At the same time people running for election will convince a significant percentage of the population to refuse to deal with or to confuse pollsters that don’t represent their constituencies. These long-term dynamics will undermine our traditional sense of an open and democratic election – though politicians encouraging the dynamics will insist the system remains open and democratic. I fear regulations will not be able to mitigate these problems.”

Juan Ortiz Freuler, policy fellow, Web Foundation, wrote, “Technology will be leveraged to increase the number of issues on which citizens are consulted directly. People will have a chance to engage in a greater number of public issues and will have access to more information regarding issues of public interest and how the State operates. Yet, in parallel, the degree to which citizens are surveilled is already increasing. A further developed surveillance infrastructure will allow governments to easily clamp down on any form of participation that could affect core interests. The ways in which coordination between private-sector companies and governments on national security issues takes place today suggests that ‘signals’ of potential future crimes might increasingly lead to state interventions before any actual crime is committed. Furthermore, if the current trend toward allowing the private sector to both consolidate and run black-box algorithms for personalization and content-curation continues, these companies will take greater control over the shaping of public opinion. We’ve seen this trend, from surfing across blogs to find lists of links, to search engines that deliver a curated list, to artificial intelligence assistants (Siri, Alexa, Cortana) that deliver one specific reply to a query. Developments in augmented reality and virtual reality promise to increase this control further by allowing the companies that develop the tech to embed tailored information in contexts our brains won’t be capable of distinguishing from the natural environment we evolved in over millennia.”

Julie Cohen, professor of law and technology, Georgetown University, said, “Weakening is not inevitable, but there is a negative feedback loop resulting from underlying political polarization/gridlock/dysfunction, enhanced by current configurations of networked media optimized for ad revenue and time on device. That feedback loop needs to be disrupted in order to salvage democratic processes/institutions, evidence-based policymaking and the rule of law.”

Karl Auerbach, chief technology officer, InterWorking Labs, active in internet design since the early 1970s, said, “Democracy is dying at the hands of a concept called ‘stakeholder.’ This has little to do with technology except that people are being led to believe that they are not skilled enough or smart enough to decide for themselves, that technological experts ought to decide on their behalf. We are moving toward not improved democracy (direct or indirect) but closer to an oligarchy of ‘stakeholders.’”

Kathee Brewer, director of content for CANN Media Group, wrote, “We’re already seeing technology’s negative effects on democracy with the rise of deepfakes, online propaganda and incessant digital bullying of minority groups and those who are outspoken in their political beliefs. By 2030, I expect technology to either play a much larger role or a much smaller role, depending upon how successful ‘bad actors’ prove to be in infiltrating basic digital systems – including not only election systems and social media platforms, but also things like power grids. People already are tracked electronically whether or not they realize it, and that probably will increase ‘in everyone’s best interest.’ Some digital tracking, especially in political contexts, actually makes us LESS safe, not more so.”

Kathleen M. Carley, director, Center for Computational Analysis of Social and Organizational Systems, Carnegie Mellon University, said, “Disinformation and deepfakes in social media as well as the ability of individuals and media-propaganda teams to manipulate both who is and can communicate with whom and whom and what they are talking about are undermining democratic principles and practice. Technological assistants such as bots, and information tools such as memes, are being used in ways that exploit features of the social media and web platforms, such as their prioritization rules, to get certain actors and information in front of people. Human cognitive biases, and our cognitive tendencies to view the world from a social or group perspective, are exploited by social media-based information maneuvers. The upshot is that traditional methods for recognizing disinformation no longer work. Strategies for mitigating disinformation campaigns as they play out across multiple media are not well understood. Global policies for 1) responding to disinformation and its creators, and 2) technical infrastructure that forces information to carry its provenance and robust scalable tools for detecting that an information campaign is underway, who is conducting it and why do not exist.”

Keith Moore, an author and co-author of several IETF RFCs, said, “Though the internet has provided increased transparency into governments, the capacity of the internet for transmission of disinformation and distortion seems to have resulted in a net loss of accurate information dissemination to the public. In addition, the U.S. government, at least for the past several presidential administrations, has been working to normalize authoritarianism, and more recently, to work to intimidate progressive voices and those who would expose government corruption (presidents of both major parties). We now essentially live in a surveillance state, though Big Brother is happy to outsource his information-gathering to large companies (e.g., network operators, social networks, computing platform vendors, Internet of Things service vendors) instead of doing the dirty work himself. All of this has a chilling effect on democracy. In addition, the U.S. election system is rigged on multiple levels – voter suppression, gerrymandering, rigging of party primaries and conventions. There is also essentially no trustworthy source of accurate news to inform voters …  The more-recent efforts of companies like Google and Facebook to filter hate speech and ‘fake news’ are also chilling because these organizations are demonstrably not worthy of the public’s trust. If there is any hope for democracy, it lies in the hope that these and other large companies will be disrupted and rendered irrelevant by new businesses and/or technologies. But that’s a faint hope because these companies have proven nimble enough to adapt to change in the past and there’s no assurance that new technologies will be any more effective at promoting democracy than the old ones.”

Kenneth Sherrill, professor emeritus of political science, Hunter College, said, “When I’m optimistic, I believe that over time, increased information flow should generate higher levels of civic engagement. This is an interactive relationship. The more one is engaged, the greater the craving for more information and the greater the nose for reality.  When I’m pessimistic, I believe that the fragmentation of information sources will interact with selective attention – the tendency only to follow news sources that one expects to agree with. This will generate even greater polarization without any of the moderating effects and respect for democratic processes that come from genuine participation. This can lead to the collapse of democratic processes. Right now, I’m pessimistic. The 2020 election may be the test.”

Keri Jaehnig, chief marketing officer for a media-marketing agency, wrote, “Unless our elected officials change the trajectory, citizenship will be meaningless and elections will be corrupt. Big tech companies are already working to alter election results with censorship, and that combined with social platform censorship and the division this causes will increase.”

Kevin Gross, an independent technology consultant, commented, “Technology can improve or undermine democracy depending on how it is used and who controls it. Right now, it is controlled by too few. The few are not going to share willingly. I don’t expect this to change significantly by 2030. History knows that when a great deal of power is concentrated in the hands of a few, the outcome is not good for the many, not good for democracy.”

Larry Keeley, co-founder, Doblin, and professor of innovation at Kellogg Graduate School of Management and IIT’s Institute of Design, said, “The best answer was missing from the prior question: Technology will, of course, both materially strengthen and weaken participative democracy. The ‘balance’ will depend on individual users. Sophisticated users will be able to harness more and better tools for evaluating political issues, topics, candidates and ‘leaders.’ They will increasingly be able to see integral fact-checking, historic patterns, even be able to use predictive analytics tools to evaluate what that individual is likely to prefer in the future. Indeed, there will be a new class of tool emerging that will allow any of us – even curious elected officials (wherever they may still be found) to use simulators to manage complex questions, such as: Should we have higher or lower minimum wages? How about a guaranteed minimum income? Should we invest in more or less healthcare, and focused on which ages in particular? Should we invest in more infrastructure? How much? Should we give everyone free high-speed Wi-Fi? Etc.  Of course, at the same time, for unsophisticated users, there will be ever more (and more sophisticated) tools designed to engage, enrage, compel, cater to and amplify one’s previously held views, prejudices or suspicions. These tools will be everywhere. So I answered that, on balance, technology will hurt participative democracy, simply because I think casual participants vastly outnumber engaged and thoughtful ones. Wish that were not the case. Neil Postman nailed it with his title: ‘Amusing Ourselves to Death’ – and he wrote that book BEFORE the advent of the internet.”

Larry Masinter, internet pioneer, formerly with Adobe, ATT Labs, Xerox PARC, helped create internet and web standards with IETF and W3C, said, “Traditional democracy and democratic institutions rely on geographically defined boundaries for constituencies. Enabling technology will accelerate the rise of cross-jurisdictional malfeasance, whether it’s called collusion or something else.”

Larry Rosen, a professor emeritus of psychology at California State University-Dominguez Hills, known as an international expert on the psychology of technology, wrote, “I have watched the unfolding of technology since 1984 when I did my first study on computerphobia. We have come a long way, but we have reached a stumbling block where random public commentary can have a major impact on the public’s perception about the content of the commentary. I worry that many in the public will and do not have the skills to determine truth from fiction, and twisted truth can and does lead to misunderstanding the content.”

Leah Lievrouw, professor of information studies, University of California-Los Angeles, wrote, “Over the last decade mobile devices (especially smartphones) and social media platforms have had a dramatic influence on individuals’ political expressions and beliefs, particularly their confidence or trust in the credibility and capabilities of institutions (parties, media, government agencies and legislative bodies, scientific knowledge, even the law itself). As was said in the U.K. regarding the Brexit referendum, people no longer want experts or professionals in charge. Platforms have also proven to be exceptionally prone to technological manipulation by bad-faith actors seeking to spread misinformation and destabilize political traditions and practices. To date, virtually no democratic state or system has sorted out how to deal with this challenge to the fundamental legitimacy of democratic processes, and my guess is that only a deep and destabilizing crisis (perhaps growing out of the rise of authoritarian, ethnic or cultural nationalism) will prompt a serious response.”

Leila Bighash, assistant professor of communication, University of Arizona, expert in online public information, news and social media, said, “By 2030, there will be deep skepticism of democratic institutions by citizens. From the perspective of citizens, democracy will be perceived to be on shaky ground. The truth and falsity of claims made will constantly be questioned. Evidence will be faked or destroyed to support claims. People will wonder, how do we make democracy work if we can’t even be sure of objective truth and facts? How can we hold our elected officials accountable if we can’t get accurate or full information? Technology plays a role in this because, as we’ve already seen, there are sophisticated methods for creating and spreading disinformation and misinformation. Democratic elections, the fundamental essence of democracy, are already being threatened with technologically sophisticated operations by various actors.”

Lokman Tsui, School of Journalism and Communication of The Chinese University of Hong Kong, formerly Google’s Head of Free Expression in Asia and the Pacific, said, “The political economy of new technologies that are on the horizon leave me with many concerns for how they will impact democracy and its institutions. First, many of the new technologies, including artificial intelligence, machine learning and big data, are closed and centralized in nature. Unlike the open web before it, these technologies are closed and centralized, both in terms of technical design and also in terms of business model. The technology can indeed be used to improve democratic institutions and processes, but it will be hard and there will be many obstacles to overcome. Second, the new technologies are not only not helping democracies, but they by their design are also helping and strengthening non-democracies to further censorship and surveillance. While there are also technologies to counteract these tendencies, the balance tends to tip (heavily) in favor of the other side. Third, I’m concerned there is a global rat race toward the bottom when it comes to the collection of (personal) data, which has the potential to enable the suppression of many other rights. The General Data Protection Regulation might change that, but I’m not optimistic.”

Luis German Rodriguez, researcher and consultant on knowledge society and sociotechnical impact based at Universidad Central de Venezuela, commented, “Democracy is likely to be weakened by 2030 because Western Hemisphere countries have no grasp of the growing power of technology giants during the last few decades. The U.S. and Europe’s developed countries are trying to regulate this enterprise in vain. Liberal minds are dominating the understanding about the kind of controls and regulation this sector should have. So, few technological corporations are gaining control of citizens’ behaviors beyond the scope of humankind had seen ever before. On the Eastern side of the globe, authoritarian rules are advancing and crushing any sort of civil liberties movements. In sum, authoritarian rule seems to be growing stronger wherever you look, supported by the emerging technologies.”

Marc Brenman, managing partner, IDARE, LLC, said, “I expect democracy to dilute, due to interference from anti-democratic influences from within the body politic, and from outside. Artificial intelligence, with programmed and its own biases, will try to affect outcomes. ‘Deepfakes’ will confuse potential voters, including hoaxes and events that never happened. Celebrity will continue to influence voters. People will continue to confuse reality and reality TV.”

Marc Rotenberg, executive director, Electronic Privacy Information Center, said, “It was naive to believe that technology would strengthen democratic institutions. This became obvious as the technology companies almost immediately sought to exempt themselves from the laws and democratic rules that governed other businesses in such areas as political advertising, privacy protection, product liability and transparency. The rhetoric of ‘multi-stakeholder processes’ replaced the requirement of democratic decision-making. The impact was immediate and far-reaching. The rapid accumulation of power and wealth. Techniques that isolated and silenced political opponents, diminished collective action and placed key employees by the side of political leaders, including the president. And all with the support of a weakened political system that was mesmerized by the technology even as it failed to grasp the rapid changes underway.”

Mario Morino, chairman, Morino Institute and co-founder, Venture Philanthropy Partners, a pioneer in venture philanthropy, said, “The hijacked use of technology innovation is running far ahead of society’s ability to absorb and comprehend the implications – good, bad and ugly – and it will get far worse before we ever see a turn for the better. The challenges are as diverse as the fueling of ideological and disruptive differences to the weakening of sovereign governments.”

Mark Andrejevic, associate professor of communications, University of Iowa, wrote, “Much of my career has been built around my profound concerns about the impact that technology is having on democratic processes of deliberation, public accountability and representation. This is because technology needs to be understood within the context of the social relations within which it is deployed, and these have been conducive to privileging an abstract consumerist individualism that suppresses the underlying commitment to a sense of common, shared or overlapping interests necessary to participation in democratic society. I see the forms of hyper-customization and targeting that characterize our contemporary information environment (and our devices and mode of information ‘consumption’) as fitting within a broader pattern of the systematic dismantling of social and political institutions (including public education, labor unions and social services) that build upon and help reproduce an understanding of interdependence that make the individual freedoms we treasure possible. Like many, I share concerns about rising political polarization and the way this feeds upon the weaponization of false and misleading information via automated curation systems that privilege commercial over civic imperatives. These trends pre-date the rise of social media and would not have the purchase they do without the underlying forms of social and civic de-skilling that result from the offloading of inherently social functions and practices onto automated systems in ways that allow us to suppress and misrecognize underlying forms of interdependence, commonality and public good. I am not optimistic that anything short of a social/political/economic disaster will divert our course.”

Mark Raymond, assistant professor of international security, University of Oklahoma, wrote, “Over the next 30 years, democracy faces at least three kinds of technology-based risks. First, actual or apparent manipulation of voting data and systems by state actors will likely undermine trust in democratic processes. Second, social media manipulation (by states and by political campaigns and other nonstate actors) will compound ‘echo chamber’ effects and increase societal polarization; decreased trust will heighten social conflict, including but not limited to conflict over elections. Third, ‘deepfakes’ will undermine confidence even in video-based media reports. Taken together, there is the risk that these trends could increase the willingness of voters to accept fundamentally authoritarian shifts in their politics. Absent that, it is still likely that increased polarization will make the operation of democratic systems (which are heavily dependent on mutual acceptance of informal norms) incredibly difficult.”

Mark Surman, executive director, Mozilla Foundation, and co-founder, Commons Group, wrote, “Well-resourced states and bad actors are increasingly using the internet to misinform people and put cracks in democracy. They are censoring and blocking alternative voices. These trends are upending free speech and other democratic benefits the internet brought over the last few decades.”

Marshall Ganz, senior lecturer in public policy, Harvard University, said, “What conditions do we think can influence the use of tech in ways that can strengthen, weaken or have no impact on democracy? For me these conditions include political choices we actually make about the regulation of technology, about concentrations of power (and wealth) facilitated by ‘first user’ advantages when a new technology comes along, realistic control of campaign spending (almost infinite demand stimulated by profit-based use of new technologies), capacity of civic organizations to learn to use the tech to strengthen collective capacity rather than weaken it, etc. The combination of technological development that enhances aggregation of individual inputs, rather than the building of collective capacity, in the context of an increasingly unregulated marketization of politics, has been very problematic. I wrote a piece on this called ‘Voters in the crosshairs: How technology and markets are destroying politics,’ published in a 1994 American Prospect.”

Mary Griffiths, associate professor at the University of Adelaide, Australia, an expert in digital citizenship and e-government, said, “My hope is that liberal representative democracy will still look the best option from a citizen’s perspective in 2030. If it does, that will mean that democratic institutions have survived more than a decade of technology-enabled challenges, and also rebuffed the political alternatives that the rise of nationalist race- or class-based populism, the artificially created social divisions and the tightening of information security legislation by more authoritarian governments can offer. It would also mean fewer charismatic figures appearing on the political scene to present a spurious version of ‘direct democracy’ to citizens aided by access to and support from, as yet, unaccountable global technology platforms. But – and it’s a big but – can we be sure this will happen? Citizens deserve a liberal democracy and we all have responsibility to consider not only self-interest but the collective good in a polity. These ideas are key, and technology offers multiple ways to communicate them positively. What is essential for the future of democracy? Better-supported K-12 education systems where critical thinking is taught every day, along with routine civility, openness to new ideas, the importance to the whole collective of a free press and the expectation of peaceful transfers of fairly elected power. The impact of technology on democratic institutions has been simultaneously negative and positive. Positive institutional change may come from the distribution of mass calls for greater transparency and accountability in government, and the mobilising of support for progressive social and economic changes. Negative signs include the mobbing of individuals and ideas of merit by dismissive Twitter storms.”

Mat Larsen, CEO, Vistabeam, said, “Misleading data, focused on specific target groups that do not verify information, will play a factor in our democracy. Technology will amplify some of the worst elements of human nature.”

Matt Colborn, a freelance writer and futurist based in Europe, said, “I do not deny the potential for technology to strengthen or even revolutionise democracy. In fact, this is what I hoped for at the beginning of the revolution in the 1990s. However, from a citizen perspective, the new technology seems to me to have already reduced mental autonomy and the capacity for intelligent choice. Why? 1) Platforms like YouTube seem to be more appropriate for distributing propaganda and for involuntary brainwashing because of the algorithms used. 2) Extreme tribalism has also increased because of the ‘echo chamber’ nature of personalised media. 3) Government and corporations are demolishing any kind of privacy. Neurotech, where thoughts are read, is the ‘final frontier’ of this. The problem, too, is the toxic interaction between archaic authoritarian institutions, right-wing populism and new tech. These effects mean that democracy is diluted whilst a ‘surveillance’ state is strengthened and while deep tribal divisions are exacerbated. Although there are certainly counter movements to this, economic inequality is such that basically the rich and powerful are in a position to cash in on these developments and the rest of us are not. Those who want political innovation will find it tough in this environment.”

Matt Moore, innovation manager, Disruptor’s Handbook, Sydney, Australia, said, “The issue is not that essential democratic institutions will change, it is that they will not change enough. Elections, voting, representatives, parties – none of these things will go away. They may mean more or less (likely less) than they used to. The number of democracies in the world is likely to decrease as weak or destabilised states fall into authoritarian populism. Western democracies will continue to age and grow more economically unequal. States like China will continue to grow in power, often using new technologies to control their populations. Everyone is talking up the potential of blockchain for democracy. This is mostly nonsense. The issue is not that people do not have the opportunity to vote enough. It is that no one really knows what that vote means. Many of those who vote – or rather, who do not vote – have no sense of what their vote means. Many of those who are voted for, also do not know what that vote means – which is why they rely on polling and focus groups.  Deliberative democracy offers a potential new form of political engagement and decision-making – if (and this is a big ‘if’) it can be made to work beyond isolated experiments.”

Melissa Zimdars, critical media studies scholar and assistant professor, Merrimack College, said, “I want to say that technology will have a ‘neutral’ impact because there is so much potential for ‘good,’ for organizing around political issues, but there is too much evidence of how monopolistic technological companies are damaging civic life (by not protecting our data, by not effectively and transparently moderating hateful, conspiratorial or completely fabricated content).”

Michael Aisenberg, chair, ABA Information Security Committee, wrote, “Deployment of robust information and communications technology capabilities is uneven, as is legacy of democratic institutions. Intersection of advancing use of ICT tools and these institutions varies across nations. In the U.S., highly sophisticated and nuanced use of ICT falls on a very uneven level of civic sophistication in voting population in the wake of abandonment of U.S. history and constitutional study in public schools over past decades. While ICT may make participation and impact of election processes more democratic in South Africa or Spain, it is having a disruptive and polarizing impact in the U.S. and other nations with a legacy of more stable democratic cores (notwithstanding a 300-year history of voting fraud and abuse going back to Massachusetts Bay Colony). See findings and recommendations in the National Academies of Sciences 2018 report “Securing the Vote.”

Michael Muller, a researcher for a top global technology company focused on human aspects of data science and ethics and values in applications of artificial intelligence, said, “I fear continuing manipulation of social media by authoritarian regimes and (soon) radical right-wing organizations. The current U.S. administration and divided Congress are making little progress toward curbing these abuses, and the EU’s Rapid Alert System seems to be unable to function. The U.S. and EU should recognize this threat as a major research opportunity, and should engage with academic, commercial and nonprofit partners to create effective early-warning systems and appropriate counter-measures. This research will need to include computer science, social science, political science and ethical issues as analyzed by multiple fields. The problem is at least as important as the long-term research funded by e.g. NASA, and should be funded at the level of a ‘democratic space program,’ with enormous benefits to science, commerce and society.”

Michael Wollowski, associate professor of computer science and software engineering at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology and expert in the Internet of Things, diagrammatic systems and artificial intelligence, wrote, “I take a dim view of how technology will affect the future of democracy in the United States. I bank on the European Union to curtail technologies that are primarily produced in the U.S. so that their negative impact on democracy is held in check. My concerns are centered around how hard it is for citizens to stay informed in an objective way. If citizens cannot form an unbiased opinion, then democracy is lost. Technology designed to misinform will outperform those technologies that are designed to inform. Most people are not willing to inform themselves, and even those who are will have a hard time doing so. It is my fond hope that unbiased newspapers will make a comeback.”

Miguel Moreno, professor of philosophy, University of Granada, Spain, expert in ethics, epistemology and technology, commented, “There is a clear risk of bias, manipulation, abusive surveillance and authoritarian control over social networks, the internet and any uncensored citizen expression platform, by private or state actors. There are initiatives promoted by state actors to isolate themselves from a common internet and reduce the vulnerability of critical infrastructures to cyberattacks. This has serious democratic and civic implications. In countries with technological capacity and a highly centralized political structure, favorable conditions exist to obtain partisan advantages by limiting social contestation, freedom of expression and eroding civil rights.”

Mike Douglass, an independent developer, wrote, “I suspect the problem/answer isn’t technology but the way it’s sold. Facebook sold people on the idea that a race to accumulate ‘friends’ was a good thing – then people paid attention to what those ‘friends’ said. As we now know, many of those ‘friends’ were bots or malicious actors. If we continue in this manner, then things can only get worse. We need to reestablish the real-life approach to gaining friends and acquaintances. Why should we pay any attention to people we don’t know? Unfortunately, technology allows mis/disinformation to spread at an alarming rate.”

Mike Gaudreau, a retired entrepreneur and business leader, wrote, “No matter how hard the legislators clamp down on social media, the nefarious will still find a way around the controls. Look at the number of data breaches we see today. I see this happening more and more. The ones out to corrupt our democracy will find ways to do so. China, for example, graduates millions of engineers and scientists yearly. Many will be deployed to hack systems so that they can steal information or plant messages that will unduly influence people.”

Mike O’Connor, retired, a former member of the ICANN policy development community, said, “There is cause for hope – but it’s such a fragile flower compared to the relative ease with which the negative forces prevail. ‘A lie can get around the world while truth is getting its boots on’ – pick your attribution.”

Mutale Nkonde, adviser on artificial intelligence, Data & Society, and fellow, Harvard’s Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society, wrote, “Without significant regulation our future elections will be ruled by the parties that can optimize social media recommendation algorithms most effectively. In the present moment those are parties like Cambridge Analytica who used fear, racism and xenophobia to influence elections across the world.”

Neal Gorenflo, co-founder, chief editor and executive director, Shareable, an award-winning nonprofit news outlet, said, “You ask how technology use by citizens will impact democratic institutions, but that ignores a key question – who owns the underlying technology and how much say do users and other stakeholders have? The crisis is now. Currently, just a few big corporations control our digital lives and users have no say. If this monopolist regime and the gaping power asymmetry between platforms and users continues, we’ll see a continued decline of democratic institutions. In addition, tech culture is becoming popular culture. Tech culture prizes speed, scale, efficiency, convenience, a disregard for the law (move fast and break things; ask forgiveness not permission) and a dislike if not hatred of government – the perfect ingredients for fascism. Tech monopolies and culture are profoundly shaping our lives and perceptions, and this is done for profit at the expense of our ability to understand the world, relate to one another constructively, feel valued and have some control over our circumstances. If not corrected, this will lead to a collapse in our ability to rule ourselves effectively, and perhaps well before 2030.”

Nigel Cameron, president emeritus, Center for Policy on Emerging Technologies, said, “I fear deepening distortions in public perception by the leveraging of digital media on the part of governments (our own and foreign), tech corporations and other actors – as new technologies like fake video make it even easier to shape opinion. It will be some time before (assuming it happens) we have the will and the tech to rein in these abuses. As things stand, partisanship by politicians and the ‘Sorry, not sorry’ approach of Mark Zuckerberg and the other tech leaders portend deepening problems.”

Norton Gusky, a futurist and advocate for implementing technology to empower people, commented, “For many years I truly believed that the internet would bring greater access to information that would strengthen democracy. However, in the past four to five years, I’ve witnessed a darker side to the internet. We now see countries like Russia interfering in the elections of not just the United States, but other countries throughout the world. I think there will be a swing, but for the next two to four years, the darker forces will prevail. We’ll see countries like Turkey, China and Egypt limiting the access to the ‘truth.’ Even former pillars of democracy, Britain and France, are challenged by forces misusing digital tools.”

Pamela McCorduck, writer, consultant and author of several books, including “Machines Who Think,” said, “I am not sanguine about democracy right now. The internet amplifies trends that have been with us for a while – extremism and apathy. Our proportion of potential voters who actually vote only rose once or twice in the past few elections. Mostly it is dismal. Partly this is a result of voter suppression (not just removing voters from the rolls, but also making the process of voting far more cumbersome than it needs to be). Partly this is the realization by voters that elected officials are more beholden to dark money than to the people who elected them. I hope I am wrong about the future of this country I love.”

Paola Ricaurte, fellow, Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society, wrote, “Even after we are aware of the negative implications that technology can have on democratic processes, we have not seen significant actions by the U.S. government to limit the power of tech corporations. The extraterritorial control of technology companies will be further expanded and will continue to have consequences for the democracies of the Global South. The knowledge gap between data-rich countries and data-poor countries will deepen.”

Paul Lindner, a technologist who has worked for several leading innovative technology companies wrote, “Technology subsumes citizen democracy by replacing informed choices with behavioral modification in the service of profits and capitalism. Without a major shift toward community-owned-and-controlled platforms, society will become increasingly split into controllers and the controlled.”

Peter Lunenfeld, professor of design, media arts and digital humanities, University of California-Los Angeles, and author of “Tales of the Computer as Culture Machine,” wrote, “Commercial platform-driven communication technologies like Facebook, Twitter and their eventual successors are unlikely to strengthen representative democracy in the coming decades of the 21st century. They may add ‘voices’ to the conversation, but they will be unlikely to support and sustain the 20th century’s dominant forms of successful democracies – those that designated representatives to debate and legislate on their behalf, from coherent parties that had established ideologies and platforms. What we are starting to see is the development of dialoguing ‘communities’ that mimic the give-and-take of true democratic action without offering actual power to its participants like the Italian Five Star Movement, or the emergence of personality-driven, single issue pop-ups like Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party. Like Five Star and the Brexit Party, future political movements will use social media to offer the affordances of democratic dialogue without actually empowering participants to control or direct the movements. Social media technologies are creating skeuomorphs of democracies; they will have design attributes that look and feel democratic, but they will be authoritarian to the core.”

Philip Rhoades, a business futurist and consultant based in Australia, wrote, “The neo-liberal, developed Western world is sliding into fascism as the world’s sixth mass extinction reaches its inevitable conclusion. As this ecological collapse and political regression proceeds, modern technology will mostly be used for suppression of the great majority of people/citizens. Some technology may help defend the populations against state suppression and terror, but its effectiveness will be minor in the greater scheme of things.”

Philippe Blanchard, founder, Futurous, an innovation consultancy based in Switzerland, said, “The democratic model was born as a philosophical response similar to the ‘wisdom of the crowds.’ The collective decisions would be the best solution to find answers answering the needs of the community as well as ensuring the cohesiveness of the community. We are now living in more complex, multidimensional environments: 1) That complexity means that it is more difficult for the general public to understand the impacts of the political decisions. 2) The pace of change (technology, sociology) is conflicting with the institutional pace. In addition, we need to review different elements to ensure the relevancy of democracy: 1) Education of the citizens, and accessibility of information 2) Institutional structures of representation (direct democracy vs. indirect) 3) Regulation. But we need also to understand the fundamental differences in our respective cultures. The Greek philosophy structured the Western thinking (primacy of the concept, the model as per Plato’s idea) versus the Chinese/Asian philosophy, where the context prevails over the concept (Qi, the energy). The Chinese philosophy of efficiency only arises from the question of the ‘coming’ and not of ‘being’ and metaphysics. It does not ask the question of the self, the subject or the separation of practical theory but only the question of efficiency from the natural course of things. It is interested in the process, the procedure that leads to rather than the state. What interests the Chinese philosophy is therefore not the action but the ‘potential of the situation,’ which contains its own transformation. The availability of data (big data) is therefore the best way to assess and influence this potential of situation. Alongside the availability of the tools, the question of ‘democracy’ is therefore also challenged as the only relevant governance model.”

Prateek Raj, assistant professor in strategy, Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore, an economics expert, wrote, “Technology cannot be studied independently without considering the concentration of power. Of course, technology has had profoundly positive effects on civic activism in many parts of the world. It is bringing about a major transformation in governance in developed countries like India by making essential government services more accessible. However, we live in a world of digital monopolies where a large chunk of information is being funneled through a few, like Google and Facebook. These organizations are primarily driven by advertising revenue and aim to maximize user engagement. To achieve these, their algorithms can prioritize visceral content (e.g., YouTube suggestions), over content of public interest. Even encrypted platforms like WhatsApp have been notoriously associated with the spread of rumors, hate and misinformation, which is closely linked to their design architecture, which allows easy formation of large groups. There is a need to relook at the algorithms and architecture used by these digital giants, so the internet can fulfill its positive social purpose… As the public and regulators wake up to the harms of these platforms, we can expect timely steps.”

Puruesh Chaudhary, a futurist based in Pakistan, said, “Democracy needs to develop the capacity to negotiate in the interest of an ordinary citizen, who may not have direct influence on how key decisions play out in geopolitics but is invariably affected by it. The democratic institutions have to have systems that operate at the pace of technological advancements that have an impact on the society. Changing the preferences, choices, ultimately resulting into very different behavioural outcomes, the institutions need to adapt to the changes, and not expect the society matching its pace of service delivery. A career civil servant or a bureaucrat over a longer period of time would be the ones whose jobs will become more obsolete as the technology brings people together and the state is still obligated to follow the rules from the 19th century.”

Rey Junco, director of research, CIRCLE, Tisch College of Civic Life, Tufts University, said, “We can expect that attempts to influence public perceptions of candidates and elections are not only ongoing, but that they will continue to be successful. Technology use by citizens, civil society and governments will first weaken core aspects of democracy and democratic representation before there is a restructuring of technological systems and processes that will then help strengthen core aspects of democracy. There are two issues at play: 1) Ideological self-sorting in online spaces that is bolstered by algorithmic polarization and 2) The relative unwillingness of technology companies to address misinformation on their platforms. Note: 1) Individuals who get their news online (a larger proportion who are youth – Pew Research) choose media outlets that are ideologically similar and rarely read news from the opposing side (Flaxman, Goel, & Rao, 2018). In fact, these individuals are rarely exposed to moderate viewpoints (Flaxman, Goel, & Rao, 2018). Social media, in turn, allow for not just informational self-sorting as with online news, but such self-sorting is bolstered through algorithmic curation of feeds that promotes ideological separation. The effect of online interactions in these echo chambers mirrors the research showing how offline deliberation with like-minded individuals produces further polarization. Specifically, online interactions with like-minded individuals produce insulated communities where individuals polarize toward the dominant community narrative (Del Vicario et al., 2016; Quattrociocchi, Scala, & Sunstein, 2016). 2) Although major technology companies are aware of how misinformation was promoted and propagated through their networks during the 2016 elections and resultant congressional hearings on the topic, little has been done to mitigate the impact of such deliberate spreading of misinformation. Analyses from the security and intelligence communities show that state actors continue their attempts to manipulate public sentiment in social spaces, while the increased polarization of traditional outlets has minimized the impact of these reports. State actors are emboldened by the fact that the United States has not addressed the spread of misinformation through technological change or through public education.”

Rich Ling, professor, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore; expert on the social consequences of mobile communication, said, “Information technology has the potential to diffuse both information and disinformation. The forces that want to confuse/undercut legitimate information are learning how to best use these systems. They are also learning how to calibrate the messages they send so as to enhance their divisiveness. This division plays on confirmation bias and, in turn, undercuts the common ground that is needed for effective governing and democracy.”

Rich Salz, senior architect, Akamai Technologies, wrote, “Individual citizens cannot stand up to the organized ‘power’ of other countries. This is not like armed revolution; this is small numbers of employees able to affect what thousands, if not millions, see.”

Richard Bennett, founder, High Tech Forum and ethernet and Wi-Fi standards co-creator, wrote, “Digital tools and platforms are more often used to spread fear and misinformation than to educate and enlighten. This follows from the dynamics of engagement and monetization: People are naturally drawn to controversy, hence civil society groups traffic in outrage, often at the behest of corporate sponsors. Democracy depends on the engagement of informed citizens, but too many of the critical issues we face today are beyond the understanding of those who are driven to engage by civil society groups and even beyond the grasp of the activists themselves.  The internet in particular has done more to increase engagement by the under-informed than to spread enlightenment. This is abundantly clear in the campaigns around net neutrality, copyright enforcement, vaccination, genetic engineering and nuclear power. In all these cases, civil society amps up fear at the expense of the public interest.”

Richard Forno, assistant director, Center for Cybersecurity at the University of Maryland-Baltimore County, wrote, “It will weaken democracy; it will continue to reinforce echo chambers that disallow acknowledgement of, let alone tolerance of, alternative views, new discoveries, facts and/or realities. This will contribute to further tribalism among citizens and also be reflected in the views/actions of their elected officials.”

Richard Jones, an entrepreneur based in Europe, said, “Government will lag exploitation of data by state and corporate actors in unforeseen ways. Biased censorship (both well-intentioned and corrupt) and propaganda onslaughts will shape opinions as – combined with an anti-scientific revolution – confidence in the institutions and establishment figures essential to peaceful orderly improvement of societies crumbles further. Hysterical smear attacks will further intensify as attempts to placate minority pressure groups continue. Biased technocratic groupthink will continue its march toward authoritarianism. Charismatic leadership will flourish in truly liberal systems. Authoritarianism will take root elsewhere. Online preference surveys may be developed to guide many choices facing government, but it is not clear that can correct the current democratic deficit in a helpful way. As during the Gutenberg process, accompanying the digestion of ‘free-range’ information will be the re-evaluation of secular and religious values and objectives.”

Rick Lane, a future-of-work strategist and consultant, wrote, “The question for the tech community is do they want help make the internet safe, secure and sustainable for all or do they just want to bury their heads in the sand? For our democracy and democratic institutions, the status quo is not acceptable. There were those of us in the early days of social networks that tried to create ethical and community standards. That effort was completely rejected by Facebook, YouTube and others. Some of us saw that we were given a great opportunity with the Section 230 immunity protections to create a better social networking and internet environment. Others wanted to ‘move fast and break things’ or argue that ‘we are just online platforms and thus not responsible for what happens on our sites.’ Well, we have seen the outcome of those actions on our democratic institutions and democracy, which is why I am a strong advocate for amending Section 230 to get it back to its original purpose. Although the voices around amending Section 230 are getting louder and louder, there is a concerted effort by Google, Facebook, Twitter, NetChoice, the Internet Association, Engine, CCIA and other groups to try to confuse the issue. If they are successful, then our democratic institutions and the future of our U.S. democracy will be put at risk. But history is on our side and changes will be made (see FOSTA-SESTA legislation).”

Rob Frieden, a professor of telecommunications law at Penn State who previously worked with Motorola and has held senior policy positions at the Federal Communications Commission and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, said, “Technological innovations appear better suited for expanding government power versus improving the ability of individuals to evade surveillance. Across the entire spectrum of political ideology, national governments can justify increased budgets for ever more sophisticated surveillance technologies based on noble-sounding rationales such as national security. Governments have little incentives and incur even fewer penalties when they fail to calibrate surveillance technology for lawful reasons. Innocent people will have reasonable privacy expectations eroded, particularly with technologies that have massive processing power and range coupled with an ambiguous mandate. Unless and until citizens push back, governments will use surveillance technologies to achieve goals beyond promoting national security. We risk becoming inured and numbed by ubiquitous surveillance, so much so that pushback seems too difficult and unproductive.”

Russ White, infrastructure architect and internet pioneer, said, “It is important to begin by noting a ‘pure democracy,’ in itself, is not necessarily the best form of government; direct democracy tends to play into the worst aspects of mass media, particularly the media ecology built around internet technologies, producing mob rule. The question then becomes: Who controls the mob? Generally, this will be the strongest influencer(s), and the platform(s) they ‘live on.’ Given this, if technology companies continue along their current path, by 2030 democracy will be outwardly thriving, but inwardly failed. People will be able to vote, but their votes will be shaped by the commercial interests of the influencers and platform owners, rather than by deep reflection on the nature of humanity and justice. Either the social media platforms and influencers will take the situation in hand and control the mob through technological tyranny, resulting in peace, or they will not, resulting in anarchy. As people always prefer peace over anarchy, tyranny is the more likely outcome. The ideal, but not likely outcome, is that people will start taking responsibility for their knowledge and lives, and a techlash will develop around using technology responsibly. This path would result in (re)forming a republican, federalist government designed to allow maximum variation within beliefs while keeping the peace among various groups. Building this, however, requires acceptance of personal responsibility and social institutions who can take the lead – not likely/available in our current environment.”

Sam Adams, a 24-year veteran of IBM now working as s senior research scientist in artificial intelligence for RTI International, architecting national-scale knowledge graphs for global good, said, “The internet provides a global megaphone to everyone in that anyone can publish their opinions and views instantly and essentially for free. The problem with everyone having a megaphone is that we get drowned in more noise than useful information. This is even more problematic since interest groups from all sides have used their power and resources to amplify their own voices far above the average citizen, even to the point of effectively silencing the average citizen by burying their smaller voice under a landslide of blaring voices controlled by wealthy interest groups. Given the interest-driven news cycles and echo chambers of social media, only the loudest or most extreme voices get repeated. This further exacerbates the level of emotion in the public discussion and drives listeners to the extremes instead of more common ground. A democracy must fairly represent its people’s views if it is to succeed. And part of that fairness in this technology-dominant world must include balancing the volume of the voices.”

Sasha Costanza-Chock, associate professor of civic media, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, wrote, “Core aspects of the democratic process are deeply stressed or broken. In the United States, we need significant reforms to enable broader and more meaningful participation in democratic decision-making, such as instant runoff or rank-order voting, expansion of voting days and times, expanded voting rights for formerly incarcerated people, campaign finance reform, rethinking the electoral college and much more. Unfortunately, most of these are extremely unlikely. Instead, we seem locked into an elitist and extremely expensive electoral system where the players with the most money and connection to wealthy backers rig the system to their advantage. In this context, many technological tools primarily advance those who can develop and customize them for their own ends – again, the biggest players. There are some countervailing forces such as the ability of insurgent candidates to leverage social media.”

Satish Babu, founding director, International Centre for Free and Open Source Software, said, “If the world does not recognize the pitfalls and take corrective action, technology is likely to adversely impact the quality and practice of democracy. In particular, the pragmatics of democracy will deteriorate into an ‘anything goes,’ free-for-all fight where artificial intelligence will be used to dig up or magnify or even create antecedents of candidates from historical records and social media will be used to push such ‘facts’ to every citizen.”

Scott B. MacDonald, an experienced chief economist and international economic adviser, said, “Democracy in 2030 will either be more direct in terms of voters being able to communicate their views in a more rapid fashion – either in letting their opinions be known to their representatives or via referendums – or totally gone. The risk is that the flow of information via technology becomes manipulated and complex issues are driven into simple soundbites and solutions. The future has a very real potential to be a dark Orwellian place, transfixed between strong technology under the control of a few wealthy and powerful and the great unwashed masses made economically redundant by machines and waiting for their daily dose of Soylent Green. One big change is that people may no longer have to go and vote but vote from hand-held or implanted communications devices. If we are not careful technology will be a device for greater control, not democracy, much as in China. Facial recognition anyone?”

Serge Marelli, an IT professional based in Luxembourg who works on and with the Net, wrote, “Fake news is overpowering people’s attention and it is becoming more difficult for real, factual news (‘truth’) to reach people. People chose to give fake news more credit; they somehow choose to distrust the ‘official,’ the ‘old-media’ institutions, just like they give credit to too many conspiracy theories, failing to recognise where the ‘truth’ actually is. Technology cannot replace a good, critical education and an astute mind, and the Dunning-Kruger effect [people’s tendency to believe their cognitive ability is greater than it is] is powerful. Technology is a tool. It can, it could be used in a positive manner to strengthen most aspects of democracy and for citizens, using their democratic rights. For instance, citizens might be better informed; they might get a more complete access to information. Use of computers and computer networks might make it possible for people in remote locations to vote, or they might make counting votes more efficient and faster. It can also be used in a negative way that weakens the use of citizens’ democratic powers. Most recent news tends to show that the negative outweighs the positive.”

Shane Kerr, lead engineer for NS1 internet domain security, said, “There is a widening gap in wealth and associated political and other power in the past generation. My assumption is that people accumulating that wealth and power only hold to a small part of Western democratic ideals. For example, they want strong laws protecting property rights for the rich, but anything allowing equal representation in government or working for common goals of all people is an anti-goal. While technology is agnostic about who uses it, those with resources will be able to harness technology more effectively to influence opinion and policies, ultimately working against democratic ideals. We already see this in a nascent form today, but it will likely evolve into such a pervasive narrative that the average citizen will not even be aware of it, unless they study history (assuming that ‘1984’-style revisionist history does not become the norm). One caveat with this picture is that artificial intelligence is a wild card. It is possible that the elite will view AI as another tool in their arsenal of accumulating power but being able to control AI is by no means certain.”

Shel Israel, Forbes columnist and author of many business books on disruptive technologies, including “Resurrecting Trust: Technology, Transparency and the Bottom Line,” said, “The use of fake news and unauthorized data collection via social networks is well-documented. As Brexit and the U.S. 2016 presidential elections demonstrate, such practices make it increasingly unlikely that a free and fair election will be held again until these abuses are remedied. So far, the social networks themselves, government and even fact-checking operations like Snopes seem unable or unwilling to stop existing abuses. Hackers and cyber terrorists keep getting better, and no one seems to have a realistic remedy. I am a career optimist and tech enthusiast. Yet, in this dire situation, I don’t see how tech will fix what tech has broken, and governments seem impotent in dealing with the issue.”

Srinivasan Ramani, Internet Hall of Fame member and pioneer of the internet in India, wrote, ‘Those who wish to exploit technology for their narrow purposes can hire the best, or at least very good, specialists. The citizens exploited can, on the other hand, be the weakest of the population, with inadequate education, knowledge and awareness. Unless society regulates democratic processes to avoid exploitation we have to assume that those who can get away with it will in fact get away with it. There is a very strong incentive for politicians to use technology to win elections. This is not matched by the zeal of the citizens’ representatives to use technology to learn about peoples’ problems and to deal with them. There is no movement to use technology to improve democracy. Improving transparency in governance, improving citizen awareness of societal issues and choices, and similar steps forward are essential. We did not let loose the monster of electricity on our people without regulations and safeguards. In comparison, we seem to be letting loose the privacy-eating monsters of technology on internet and telecom users.”

Stephanie Fierman, partner, Futureproof Strategies, said, “Sites seeking to maximize revenue – which all must do, particularly the ones that are public – has led to an unwillingness to do anything about false, anonymous, bot and database administrator activity. Once a real name is required and checked, the amount of activity would drop, as would the money-making potential from advertising. As long as advertising is the No. 1 source of revenue on the web, this dysfunctional dynamic will continue, and the unfortunate fact is that many parties have an incentive to issue false and damaging statements and content that people believe. Until we return to a world in which a fact is a fact is a fact, we will see a continuing degradation of truth and the existence of checks and balances, both of which being so vital to the presence of democracy.”

Stuart Umpleby, retired cybernetician, professor of management and director of research at George Washington University, commented, “I hope more people will be voting. Probably this will happen due to the recent polarization in opinions. Huge amounts of money are being spent on ads and on grassroots organizing. There is more diversity in political candidates, which I think is good. I hope there is less gerrymandering and less suppression of voting by minorities. The country will benefit by using the talents of a larger percentage of our citizens. I would like to see more science in the operation of democratic institutions. Use of science is steadily increasing, but corporate special interests often feel their interests are threatened by scientific studies of health and environmental pollution. I favor more evidence-based decision-making. The internet is a valuable means of education and sharing of information. There is a lot of non-sense and false information in social media. Perhaps there should be fines for deliberately publishing false stories. The operators of social media platforms, such as Facebook, need to take responsibility for content. Otherwise they benefit by distributing falsehoods.”

Susan Etlinger, industry analyst, the Altimeter Group, responded, “Technology advancement is far outstripping our ability to understand and govern it. Early in this decade, we began to see the implications of what we called ‘big data’ on privacy and human rights. As artificial intelligence and machine learning became more commonplace, different issues came into focus: perpetuation and amplification of bias, the need for transparency, the need for interpretability and auditability of algorithms, and, more broadly, the need for norms and governance structures for intelligent technologies. By the end of 2016, following both the U.S. and U.K. elections, we began to see how social media platforms could be used to weaponize information at scale and undermine the foundations of democracy. Now, as the decade comes to a close, we are starting to see synthetic data – e.g., data that is artificially created –become commonplace, along with ‘deepfake’ technology that can essentially create any kind of reality the creator desires. Today we have the ability to amass massive amounts of data, create new types of data, weaponize it and create and move markets without governance structures sufficient to protect consumers, patients, residents, investors, customers and others – not to mention governments – from harm. If we intend to protect democracy, we need to move deliberately, but we also need to move fast. Reversing the damage of the ‘fake news’ era was hard enough before synthetic content; it will become exponentially harder as deepfake news becomes the norm. I’m less worried about sentient robots than I am about distorting reality and violating the human rights of real people at massive scale. It is therefore incumbent on both public and private institutions to put appropriate regulations in place and on citizens to become conscious consumers of digital information, wherever and however we find it.”

Thomas Frey, founder and senior futurist, DaVinci Institute, said, “Is there a difference between a good citizen and a great one? Is it OK to only do the bare minimum of what it takes to be a citizen? Would we be a better country if we all tried a bit harder? Citizenship means different things to different people. We typically have a back-of-the-mind rating system in place that tallies things like standing and singing during the pledge of allegiance, installing a flag on the front porch during holidays and openly thanking our veterans into an overall citizenship quotient. But should there be a more formal ranking system, and more importantly, how would it be used? As a status symbol, the reinvention of citizenship is long overdue, and the possibilities are endless. We are moving quickly into a data-driven world where numeric values will be assigned to virtually everything we do. Here are a few quick examples: -File our taxes on time we receive an additional 3,000 points, but for every day we’re late, we lose 200 points. -Go in for regular health checkups we receive 1,000 points, but if we shrug off an appointment, we lose 2,000 points. -Receive a parking ticket we lose 1,500 points. Once we pay the fine, we get our 1,500 points back. -When an election is held, you receive 500 points for casting your vote. So does this mean that if you were taken hostage in a foreign country and your citizenship score is a scant 327, maybe you’d get a phone call from a low-level diplomat attempting to secure your release? But being a platinum gold citizen with a lofty score of over 87,000, a Navy Seal Team shows up within 12 hours, shoots all of the hostage-takers and flies you back home first class? As a status symbol, the reinvention of citizenship is long overdue.”

Wendy Belluomini, a director and research scientist for IBM whose focus is artificial intelligence and cognitive software, said, “Platforms are easily manipulated by actors hostile to democracy as well as factions within a democracy. The electorate is not typically sophisticated enough to see this happening in real time.”

Yaakov J. Stein, CTO, RAD Data Communications, based in Israel, responded, “Social media as they are at present have a polarizing effect that destabilizes democracy. The reason is that advertising (and disinformation) is targeted at and tailored to people according to their pre-existing views (as predicted based on their social media behavior). This strengthens these pre-existing views, reinforces disparagement of those with opposing views and weakens the possibility of being exposed to opposing views. The result is that free press no longer encourages democracy by enabling people to select from a marketplace of ideas. Instead the right to free press is being used to protect the distribution of disinformation and being manipulated to ensure that people are not exposed to the full spectrum of viewpoints. Perhaps an even more insidious result is that people attempting to keep open minds can no longer trust information being offered online, but that free information online has led to the bankruptcy of traditional news outlets that spend resources on fact checking.”

Yoshihiko Nakamura, professor of mechno-informatics, University of Tokyo, said, “Democracy has been a well-designed decision-making tool for the human being. However, it is based on the hypothesis that the opinions of the people in different communities of the society are naturally diverse. The digital society is losing the diversity and tends to become one consisting of small clusters. This would be the reason for divided societies. The digital environments and tools are convenient and useful means for democratic discussions and exchange of opinions. However, we have to invent an efficient social system to deepen the discussion and make people be conscious of the small differences.”

Zizi Papacharissi, professor of communication and political science, University of Illinois-Chicago, responded, “Technology, on its own, can neither strengthen nor weaken democracy and political processes. It is all up to how it is put to use. My projection was that by 2030 we will see a weakening of democratic and political processes facilitated by technology. This will happen not because there is something inherently bad or undemocratic about technology. It is because most technology is designed, implemented and/or deployed through mechanisms that support a strong capitalist model that was created centuries ago and needs to be updated in order to be compatible with contemporary societies, democratic and non. Our present system of governance supports strong capitalism/soft democracy. Until this balance is reorganized, to support soft capitalism/strong democracy, any technology we create will continue to underserve democracy.  In short, the technology we have created was designed to generate profit, not to support democracy. It is possible to do both. We just have not designed it that way, however.”

“Uses of technology will mostly strengthen democracy”

In this section of responses, when given three choices, respondents answered that over the decade between 2020 and 2030 people’s uses of technology will mostly strengthen democracy and democratic representation.

Byron Reese, CEO, publisher, futurist and author of “The Fourth Age: Smart Robots, Conscious Computers and the Future of Humanity,” commented, “Democracy’s underlying assumption is that an informed populous, will – more often than not – collectively make the best decisions. The key is that it relies on an *informed* populous. Unfortunately, the internet propagates inaccurate information even better than it does accurate information. This would seem a hopeless situation. However, this situation is simply the product of the relative youth of the internet. Through artificial intelligence, we can build tools that fact-check every statement, turn every sentence online into a clickable citation and, over time, score both people and sites on their accuracy. AI will verify that people said what they are claimed to have said, that photographs are real and un-doctored, and that recordings of audio and video haven’t been tampered with. It is easy to think this won’t happen, that tantalizing lies and salacious misstatements appeal to us so deeply we will prefer them to the truth even when we know better. But this sort of cynicism isn’t warranted. Imagine how much better off we are than before the internet, back when a few voices dominated every form of new media, and to fact check something required an afternoon at the library. Now the truth is a click away. The tools are coming that will help the internet be a real asset to democracy.”

Cheryl B. Preston, an expert in internet law and professor, Brigham Young University Law School, said, “With time, citizens will become savvy in distinguishing legitimate information online. They will be thus better informed. Social media are more than the deliverers of news; they uniquely bring users into the conversation. Anyone with an opinion can be a political pundit for those who follow their social media accounts. Recipients not only read their peers’ political views, they also ‘like,’ share the post or start up their own commentary. Those who shared or commented are often forced to defend their comments in response to pointed disagreement, and thus develop a personal stake in the controversy. Social media users acquire political power. As Sarah Tran argues in ‘Cyber Republicanism,’ ‘Beyond their mission statements, social media sites have built-in mechanisms for discussion and debate among citizens… The threat of a viral uprising can motivate government actors and special-interest groups to listen more closely to public concerns. It can further entice them to spend more resources on educating the public about issues of national, regional and local concern.’  Social media not only give users an added measure of interactivity, they also grant their users the ability to acquire political power. One study found that ‘interactive online communication is positively related to participation’ in political activities. Thus, the Net generation, along with many Americans, have become activists. This wealth of information and depth of involvement will increase over time.”

Jason Kelley, a respondent who shared no background details, wrote, “Democracy may seem sick for a while. That’s because we’re living in a petri dish. But we’re growing penicillin. The techlash we are experiencing is a valley in the sea change of positive impacts that technology has brought to our ability to organize, access accurate information and participate in our democratic institutions. Democratic institutions will become more beholden to citizens as the citizens become more capable of interacting with them and each other via technology. Also, citizens will become more interested in, and capable of, using technology to hold institutions accountable. It will likely be necessary for institutions to be more clear about their actions and processes to combat the spread of incorrect information and to adequately respond to citizens. It will certainly be necessary for citizens to become better at disentangling the truth from the fiction. This is already happening. Pew’s research has shown that younger people are now more aware of fake news and its likelihood to cause confusion. As candidates and campaigns become more accessible and better at using technology, we will hold them to higher standards, and society will, overall, require more tech-knowledgeable candidates, office-holders and citizens. Technology won’t be the solution – there is no algorithm that solves all of the problems. It won’t be a simple, quick, change; it will likely get worse before it gets better. The chances are good that our next election will be rife with these problems, and we’re going to have to work hard to figure out solutions.”

Robert Cannon, senior counsel for a U.S. government agency and founder of Cybertelecom, a not-for-profit educational project focused on internet law and policy, wrote, “We live in a time of alienation. We live in a time of disruption. The economy is going through a major revolution from the industrial economy to the information economy. In times of uncertainty and displacement, anxiety grows leading to tribalism (us versus them). Jobs are shifting – concentrations of wealth are shifting – therefore blame the (fill in the blank). People want something to blame or something to hate. Anything that is other or suspicious gets blamed regardless of any causal connection. The current political climate is a reflection of that anxiety. Old-economy markets are getting disrupted while the new economy grows. On the whole, the economy is strong, but it is not evenly divided. In the end, has technology played an ever-increasing role in democratic discourse? Of course it has. We have had misinformation campaigns that were received on fertile ground. People believed bullshit because they wanted to believe bullshit – not because technology caused them to believe bullshit. Meanwhile, on YouTube a new influencer has emerged presenting incredible presentations of history. Community organizations from animal rescue to immigration assistance are better networked than ever. During the federal government shutdown, community organizations coordinated over social media, distributing support to families in need. Coverage of local news and local government has matured, taking over the void left when mainstream media left the space. Cycling sub communities have formed, and influencers review products, produce training content and cover the latest race news. Dingo rescue organizations in Australia are receiving support from individuals all around the world.”

Avery Holton, associate professor and vice-president’s clinical and translational scholar, University of Utah, commented, “If we are to look more than a decade down the road, we might be able to imagine a democratic system (in the broadest sense of the word) where politicians are actually held accountable for their actions and the content they share with the public. While social media spaces such as Facebook and Twitter are content to provide privilege to politicians (without clearly defining who exactly a politician is or may be), the legal and ethical platforms they use to support such an approach will have eroded by 2030. Laws will be in place to prevent disinformation and malinformation, especially of the most malicious kind, and those laws will apply to the full democratic society. There will be less of a hierarchy of information privilege and more of an accountability system. This will bring about a re-strengthening of civil discourse and community built around the sharing of the truth, even its various forms, with the knowing that what is not truth is equally important and the labeling of it perhaps even more so.”

David Weinberger, senior researcher, Harvard Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society, said, “Who knows? If in 2008 I didn’t predict that someone like Trump would be president in 2019, why would you think I can predict what democracy will be like in 2030? Heck, I didn’t predict he’d be elected the day before he was elected! So my prediction that democracy will be mostly strengthened in 2030 is pure, dumb optimism of the sort that failed to stop Trump from being elected. But I’ll add one thought. Based on our online experience, it seems to me (and many others) that we’re undergoing an important change in our conception of what free speech means. We could afford to let speech be much freer back when so few voices could actually be heard and the range of opinions was far more constricted. Back then, the filtering out of harmful ideas was accomplished by only giving the mic to a homogenous set of folks. (White men of a certain class, if you were wondering.) Now that everyone has the mic, the filtering – if we decide we actually prefer our free speech to stay within particular boundaries – has to be done by the platforms. So, it’s quite possible – but who knows? – that the online platforms where we hear the bulk of public speech will enforce limits that in the past we would have rejected as overly inhibiting – not only hate speech, but also speech that promotes ideas that we consider to be harmful to the public weal. For example, anti-vaxxers may find their views banned from online platforms or intentionally marginalized so that they have little purchase on public opinion. There’s certainly a slippery slope possible here, but as with all slippery slope arguments, that’s only a problem if we choose to slide down it. It’s also possible that platforms will segregate according to which sets of views they find harmful, in which case the divisions among us will get yet more severe. I also have a prediction for the 2032 election :).”

Adam Powell, senior fellow, USC Annenberg Center on Communication Leadership and Policy, wrote, “We will devise methods of detecting and counteracting bad actors. Then again, I am an incurable techno-optimist.”

Alex Halavais, associate professor of critical data studies, Arizona State University, wrote, “There are two parallel streams here that will continue to play against one another. On one hand, political advertisers are becoming more-savvy. Money has been important to campaigning in the U.S. context largely because of the necessity to make broadcast advertising buys. It will continue to be important, as political marketing becomes ubiquitous. Assuming that regulatory controls remain as they stand, I would not be surprised to see political ‘product placement’ and similar broad-based political advertising (though not from the campaigns directly) find its way into a growing breadth of locations. At the same time, there is a growing thirst for trustworthy reportage and data, and some are willing to pay a premium to get at the truth. Networked technologies may allow for new voices that revitalize public information. I fear that we may see a growing gap between voters who are basing their opinions on advertising-based media and those who can afford direct subscription to less-biased sources of information.”

Alex Simonelis, a professor of computer science at a university based in Canada, said, “I’m optimistic, and recognize that my optimism may turn out to be wrong. I assume and hope that the tech corporations will be regulated – e.g., repeal Communications Decency Act section 230 so they can be sued when they misbehave.”

Alexander B. Howard, independent writer, digital governance expert and open government advocate, said, “I expect democracies to look a lot like they do today: stable, peaceful and equitable in countries that succeed in maintaining good governance, sclerotic and messy in flawed democracies captured by corporate influence, and devolving toward authoritarianism, or outright dissolving into civil wars in others. In the U.S., unless fundamental reforms have been enacted in some states that address money in politics, gerrymandering, government corruption and climate change, citizens will understandably remain skeptical about the meaning of their public participation in national elections, turning toward the endless rivers of infotainment and diversion instantly available on ubiquitous screens and projections. Many people will experience civic life through personalized feeds of infotainment from technology companies and media companies, mixed with digital services and information from municipal, state and federal governments, and updates from our friends and family. Government agencies at every level will have replaced retiring ‘Baby Boomers’ with automated services, augmented with artificial intelligence, putting a high premium on algorithmic transparency accountability and accessibility. Many more of the newspapers that play key roles in communities will be gone, and, despite the best efforts of state governments and foundations – and public media, radio and digital nonprofits won’t replace all of their civic function everywhere, leaving news deserts behind. That void will be filled up by the descendants of today’s social media platforms and media companies, which will gain more power in shaping both conversations and civic participation. At the same time, continued innovation in civic technologies will have the potential to enhance social cohesion, equity and justice when they are deliberately built and designed with the public they connect and empower, enhancing the capacity of journalists, watchdogs and whistleblowers to make institutions transparent and hold powerful people and organizations to account for abuses of power. The role of schools and libraries as community hubs for information access and civic life will continue to be critical.”

Alexander Cho, digital media anthropologist and postdoctoral scholar expert in youth and social media, University of California-Irvine, wrote, “In the next 10 years essential democratic institutions won’t change. I hope what we will see is a recognition that we need to strengthen and safeguard those institutions in order to preserve trust in them. Government entities as well as the private market need to actively develop process checks that come up to speed with the flow of information that digital media has enabled.”

Amali De Silva-Mitchell, a futurist and consultant participating in multistakeholder, global internet governance processes, commented, “Technology will play a critical role in providing the opportunity for people running for political positions to engage with their public and hopefully encourage solicitation of input from a wide demographic in their jurisdiction. Care has to be taken in regard to skewing of responses and associated analysis, fake data and the other issues now commonly discussed transparently. Freedom of expression for all is critical for good democracy, judgment, decision-making and effective public transparency. There is great opportunity; how it is managed is where the risks are.”

Amy Sample Ward, a director with the Nonprofit Technology Network, said, “The internet is a tool, not a solution. And I believe it to be a tool that can be used for transparency, visibility, connection and engagement. As such, it can be used for change, and change is essentially what democracy is about. I’m optimistic that as more and more people get online, we have more participants connecting and engaging, and more people (more diverse people) creating the technologies that support democracy.”

Andrea Romaoli Garcia, an international tax lawyer actively involved with multistakeholder activities of the International Telecommunication Union and Internet Society, wrote, “The hyperconnected global community opened a new consumerist society, development strategies and business intermediation in the global economy by making feasible the use of tools or utilities to expand manufacturing processes, increase knowledge and allow the accomplishment of multilateral business through computer communication. This new model has brought direct consequences to dynamics of capitalism as well as to the contours and effect of social and civic innovation in the digital age. Of course it brought new challenges such as the techlash in response to emerging negatives of digital life. There is an imbalance between political representativeness and legitimacy since a small group that doesn’t represent the majority is affecting political decision making. I believe that the fourth industrial revolution will inaugurate a sixth dimension of human rights and introduce technologies that will impact human evolution in all fields. There will be a new model of democracy: neo-constructivist democracy. The new, hyperconnected, consumerist society will actively work to establish and monitor ethical standards that will strengthen the pillars of democracy.”

Andrew Nachison, chief marketing officer, National Community Reinvestment Coalition, commented, “In the U.S. between now and 2030 I see a mix of government inaction and perpetual discord, and a mix of rising citizen activism and activation on the one hand, enabled by clever and increasingly capable tech platforms, and widening despair, detachment and digital dropouts. I worry that things will get worse, that inequality and corruption, which tech has done nothing to abate, will lead to violence and civil collapse. The dominance of a handful of digital overlords has brought us magical capabilities and services, like being able to search for information on nearly anything, or buy nearly anything you need, or keep up with friends, family and news, all with a few finger taps. But the costs have been devastating to local journalism, small businesses and governance. Facebook turns out to be the world’s most powerful engine for censorship and political manipulation, and there’s no sign it will do enough, on its own, to materially change itself. I also don’t know that breaking up the company will change much. Facebook doesn’t need Instagram or WhatsApp to be Facebook. Unless vastly stronger consumer protections are put in place to protect privacy, ensure transparency and put real control and economic benefit in the hands of content creators and users, Facebook will still be Facebook. Ditto for Google. But that’s just the U.S. story, which is similar in the U.K. but not everywhere. State censorship and control of the internet seems to be on course to suppress and more or less crush democracy, and even talk of it, in places like China, Russia, Iran and North Korea. When governments can flip a switch and turn the internet off, it’s hard to see how citizens stand a chance against repression. My optimism rests with progressive visions for digital governance and citizenship in outlier countries, like Estonia, and civic tech innovators promoting similar visions. Maybe they will succeed and spread. By 2030? I doubt it. I’m more hopeful for 2130.”

Artur Serra, deputy director, i2CQT Foundation and Research Director of Citilab in Catalonia, Spain, wrote, “Democracy in 2030. 1) I expect the birth of the first democratic systems working with the basic rules of the Internet Engineering Task Force: ‘Rough consensus and running code.’ 2) Changes: I expect the birth of the first end-to-end democracies, based in a radical reduction of the central government role, the empowering of the edges of the political system, with a generation of a distributed political system. Only these systems can allow a climate of international collaboration native to the internet. 3) ‘Technology’s role.’ The role of the internet is to inspire how political systems of the 21st century could be organized and work nationally and globally. 4) No changes will mean an increasing control by new digital hyper-corporations on one side and a progression of digital authoritarian regimes on the other, ending probably in a final fragmentation of the internet.”

Arzak Khan, director, Internet Policy Observatory-Pakistan, said, “Democracy will become more citizen-centric, with technology playing a key role in bringing changes in democratic institutions and the way these institutions operate given technology is allowed to operate openly without any censorship and information filtering. Citizens will have the key access to their constitutional rights as a citizen and institutions will be more responsible in ensuring democratic norms and rights are valued.”

Banning Garrett, an independent consultant and futurist, said, “The current situation obviously is one of great concern about the use of technology to undermine democracy – from Russian trolling and efforts to even hack elections to home-grown hate groups using the internet to spread disinformation – and to bring to power a president who is actively seeking to undermine U.S. democratic institutions and values. It does not seem likely this situation will change substantially in the near term. But 2030 is a decade away and much will change in the meantime, including both technology (capabilities, regulations, impact) and politics, which is changing at an exponential rate. The current impact of authoritarianism, populism and nationalism is already generating a strong backlash that could lead to a paradigm shift in politics, while the tech companies and regulators may find ways to diminish the impact of bad actors. I am uncomfortable predicting the situation will be more favorable for democracy and democratic institutions in 2030, but I also do not think that we can extrapolate the present into the future – more likely there will be major, unpredictable, shifts in trends and outcomes.”

Barry Chudakov, principal, Sertain Research, said, “By 2030 I expect democracy to still be caught in a dilemma: freedom versus intrusion. Civil liberties will continue to be a fraught area with digital xenophobes on one side concerned that ‘others’ will seek to harm democracy and so any counter-measures are justified, and civil libertarians on the other side who will argue that the surveillance state has gone too far and pushed democracy toward Big Brother Panopticon totalitarianism. Technology has already revolutionized our notion of what democracy means. It used to mean one person, one vote. Now it means, one device, one voice. Every voice will be heard via Twitter, Snap, YouTube, Facebook or Instagram. The question we will still be wrestling with in 2030: who is this person? How will essential democratic institutions achieve authentication? The fundamental challenge to these institutions is – and will continue to be –identity. That is, the multiplication and falsification of identity, from which flows the falsification and distortion of information. At the same time, as we wrestle with confirming identity, democratic institutions confront the reality of the internet as a vast copy machine, where behaviors and attitudes can be mimicked and adopted like trying on a new shirt. What do we do when these behaviors and attitudes are reprehensible or downright evil? The copy machine remains, and we are left with our outrage – which is not enough. The ongoing threat to democracy is organized chaos. This strategic distraction deploys asymmetric information warfare to inflame social differences into bitter partisan divisions. While at the same time, because artificial intelligence systems designed to engage with humans will collect and convey increasing quantities of data, these systems must be built on empathy for the ethical development and deployment of AI.”

Barry Parr, technology marketer at Delphix, previously an innovator and analyst in online journalism, said, “Citizens will be better informed and better organized than they are now. There are certainly risks of misinformation, but these are outweighed by the general availability of quality of information and tools available to those who are working to make civil society better.”

Beth Noveck, director, NYU Governance Lab and its MacArthur Research Network on Opening Governance, said, “Because of the work that so many people are undertaking to transform our institutions for the better, I remain, despite pressures to the contrary, optimistic about the power of technology to make it possible for citizens to participate in new and better ways in governance using new technology. This is what I call crowdlaw. If we continue to experiment with building better crowdlaw tools and practices, the public will be able to inform the agenda-setting process by sharing what they know about problems as they experience them. They will be able to do more than identify problems. They can contribute solutions to problems and deliberate with other citizens to craft and refine those solutions. They can and should be able to participate in drafting policies and proposals. Perhaps most important, they will be able to collectively hold government to account by tracking the effectiveness of the implementation of new policies and services. Finally, they will be able to exercise decision-making authority, voting on how money is spent and power wielded. With new technology, we can experiment with new ways of doing such things, too, including comparing the impact of having people volunteer to participate in such online processes versus selecting a sample of people to participate. There is much work to be done to test what will work to improve the impact of new technology on democracy in 2030.”

Bryan Alexander, a futurist and consultant at the intersection of technology and learning, wrote, “There are numerous possibilities, and it’s likely each will take hold in different places to varying degrees. Some will push to build transnational alliances to grapple with climate change and other issues, while others will encourage more local politics at the level of nation, region or city. Technology gives us more opportunities for direct democracy, possibly via rolling plebiscites. It also increases connections between officials and citizens through polling, sentiment analysis and surveillance. We should expect a role for artificial intelligence as political analyst and campaign assistant. The speed of political action should ramp up. So many things should remain, unless something extraordinary occurs: the practice of voting, most political boundaries, judicial review, constitutions.”

Christopher G. Caine, president and founder of Mercator XXI, a professional services firm helping clients engage in the global economy, commented, “We are living in an era of radical transparency enabled by the diffusion of technology and its distributed capabilities. We are learning how to live in this environment right now, and our skills will improve over the next 11 years. Our judgment and awareness of the implications of statements and behavior will evolve and ‘mature.’ I believe and am hopeful this will bring us back to a more shared-values-based society.”

Daniel Estrada, digital humanities and ethics lecturer, New Jersey Institute of Technology, said, “The internet has been a bastion of democracy and education – an anarchist space – from its earliest days. Its early participants understood that the new space required developing new cultures, norms, aesthetics and practices of engagement and moderation. These were the cultures developed on message boards and Internet Relay Chat channels, that primordial soup from which the memes of today first emerged. But in the last decade, the internet has consolidated around a few major tech channels: Facebook, Google, Apple, Amazon. A techlash that targets these big companies will make room for the internet to return to its early values of digital anarchy and free education. These changes will take two forms. First, there will be growing public support for regulation and oversight of the big tech companies, especially in the use of targeted advertising. Second, and more importantly, we’ll see further fragmentation of internet cultures, away from the consolidated streams and toward more niche community spaces that are independently moderated, like early internet or cable TV. Self-moderating, self-organizing cultures will provide a basis for demographic-focused advertising without the anti-social consequences of targeted advertising, allowing the internet to self-organize a healthy diversity of cultural and normative frameworks. I believe this will ultimately strengthen public education and democracy.”

David J. Krieger, director of the Institute for Communication & Leadership, based in Switzerland, wrote, “The digital transformation supports values such as communication, participation, transparency, the free flow of information, connectivity and authenticity. On the basis of these values, democracy will become more responsive to citizens, who will be able to access more information, assess the value of information and participate in shaping and using information. A global socio-sphere will replace the traditional public sphere of political deliberation, reducing the importance of representative middlemen in democratic processes. More forms of direct democracy will become not only feasible, but the only credible form of legitimation for democratic government. Not government, but governance will become an increasingly important form of regulation. Stakeholders in hybrid-networks will become responsible for implementing cooperatively regulated datafication schemes that create value in many areas of society including healthcare, education, business, scientific research and politics. These developments will be accompanied by cultural and ideological changes that depart from the convictions, values and traditions of Western industrial society.”

David Wilkins, instructor of computer science, University of Oregon, said, “The internet gives a voice to those ignored by a well-educated media who have massive implicit biases against any who are significantly less formally educated.”

Deana A. Rohlinger, a professor of sociology at Florida State University whose expertise is political participation and politics, said, “The technology pendulum, which swings back and forth much faster than the political pendulum, is headed in the direction of increased governmental regulation of the technology companies frantically avoiding the ‘media company’ label. Facebook, Amazon, Google and others will be forced to be better actors in marketplace – and unlike previous public debates regarding the role of media in deliberative processes – the discussions and resulting policies will explicitly address the role of information and ICTs in democratic institution building.”

Deb Socia, executive director, Next Century Cities, said, “Access to technology will allow greater participation in the democratic process. The opportunity to share concerns and celebrations asynchronously, to sign up for services, to participate in decision-making are all made easier when technology is involved. I think of options like participatory budgeting, the immediate sharing of the existence of a community hazard, the opportunity to watch and participate in city council hearings, the ability to engage with elected officials online as examples of how technology is enhancing engagement today. I can only imagine how technology will provide further enhanced engagement options in the future. However, I am deeply worried that these enhanced opportunities will not be equitably available to those who are living in low-income households, for those who live in rural America, for those who live with disabilities and for those who are not facile with technology.”

Devin Fidler, futures strategist and founder of Rethinkery Labs, commented, “Social media technologies today are really still in their infancy. However, research being done in areas like human computation and crowdsourcing and collective intelligence suggests that these systems can be greatly refined toward specific targets, including strengthening democratic governance.  This is interesting because it allows us to design and optimize a new generation of *organizational technologies* that combine what we have learned about digital orchestration with generations-old thinking about designing institutions and governance mechanisms for specific outcomes. However, as with all large-scale business activities in history, legislation will be necessary to ensure that the public interest as a whole is protected when it is in conflict with financial motives. At a minimum, we need researchers to systematically identify the positive and negative externalities that these tools have on our organizational technologies and social operating systems. The Federalist Papers demonstrate that the framers of the U.S. Constitution explicitly saw the creation of the government as a design problem. As an ‘operating system,’ their design has been remarkably resilient. But it was not designed to support the organizational technologies that digital networks make possible and needs to be patched to avoid a crash. This redesign is a problem that Silicon Valley has many tools to help with. But is will take a civic mindset that Silicon Valley is less familiar with, rather than the venture capitalist-centric innovation model still at the center of the tech world today. Failure to integrate this wider ‘social operating system’ perspective will perpetuate ‘techlash’ and ensure that the ‘bugs’ that new technologies are causing in society will only get worse.”

Doug Royer, a retired technology developer/administrator, responded, “Individuals are being empowered for the first time in history, to easily describe their wishes, views, hopes and fears directly to and from politicians without distortion from news or information collectors. 1) Knowledge is the enemy of manipulation. 2) The ability to collect and search for facts increases knowledge. 3) I have noticed over time that debates between open individuals over the Net also increase an observer’s knowledge base. 4) The exceptions to No. 3 are being reduced by peer pressure to read up before commenting. Often the exceptions to No. 3 are isolating in and of themselves, and this is being noticed by their peers. And hopefully will be noticed by themselves and hopefully they will change or become less rigid in their reactions to others. 5) Technology like never before has allowed small pockets of intense beliefs and political stubbornness to be exposed. 6) Politicians like never before in the history of mankind, are being held accountable for past actions. It is a pendulum of reaction that will swing a bit back and forth. The process will flail out the extreme left and right over time. 7) People are learning to tell what is and is not fake news. And the opposing news sites allow open individuals to search for the actual truth.”

Ebenezer Baldwin Bowles, founder of CornDancer.com, said, “If the republic as presently constituted survives the regime of Trump, we shall emerge stronger and more egalitarian through the wise use of cyber communication: sharply targeted calls to action, immediate citizen-inspired exposure of institutional propaganda and an altruistic search for fact-based decision-making by civic-oriented activists. Ah, the utopia of the dreamer! I suppose, instead, the republic shall crumble, district by district, through the self-serving lies and intentional misdirection of emerging American oligarchs and their bought-and-paid-for elected representatives. Fragmentary electronic texts and cynical videos, rooted in the Culture of Self, shall deliver sharply targeted messages, leading to incessant public and private conflict, profane hectoring and the strange sense of individual isolation in a churning sea of indecipherable data and imagery – each of us, connected and disconnected simultaneously, continually off guard in the macrocosm but weirdly secure in the false structures of the microcosm. And everywhere the enforcers shall be watching and listening, monitoring and tracking, through the eyes and ears of their smart devices and cloaked drones and hovering balloons. Control, tighter and tighter, shall descend like a shimmering electronic noose on the public weal, and dissent shall fall into silence, and We the People shall become as ever the sheep of the 1%.”

Eline Chivot, a public-policy researcher for the Center for Data Innovation, commented, “From an optimistic standpoint, 21st century tools could enable more, rather than less, civic engagement. For instance, policymakers, elected representatives (such as mayors) and policy officials (such as diplomats) could use online platforms and various applications to respond to constituents’ questions in real-time, to involve them in decision-making processes at the local level, to gather more information from citizens’ concerns, to solve any democratic deficit and gap between ‘policy makers’ and ‘policy takers.’ Artificial intelligence tools, for example, can be used or bring governments closer to citizens this way, mobilize citizens, build stronger constituencies. North Carolina’s government is building chatbots to answer real-time constituency questions. The Singaporean government is using Microsoft-based chatbot systems to assist their citizens in key government services such as registration, licensing and utility management. Technologies can also improve government-to-government relations, level the playing field between big countries with significant capacity and resources to deal with the growing flow of information and smaller, understaffed nations. Natural language-processing tools in particular can cut down on research tasks, support the meaningful analysis of unstructured data at scale, make text easier to digest and facilitate the adoption of laws. Democratic processes and relations will no longer be about nations as a state actor or cities as their challengers and closed-door negotiations with national flags in the background. State actors will remain important, but democracies’ policymakers/officials will increasingly work based on the acknowledgement that there needs to be new partnerships between governments and industry/tech companies. These have taken on roles and sizes that are comparable to foreign policy actors. It’s an opportunity to share expertise and protect borderless societies e.g., tech companies have the tech expertise, the data and the means to secure cyber infrastructure and help in preventing data breaches, election meddling or supporting police investigation.”

Ellery Biddle, an advocacy director for Global Voices whose specialty is protection of online speech and fundamental digital rights, said, “I would have preferred to give a ‘neither/nor’ answer on this question, but chose the positive, since I suspect that in spite of all the negative effects of networked technologies on democracy and democratic institutions and norms worldwide, access to networked technologies is still having a net positive effect on peoples’ abilities to engage with democratic institutions and processes. As a person who works primarily on these issues in the Global South, the issue of disinformation is hardly new to me, and the potential for companies like Facebook to manipulate information and enable state actors to manipulate information at a large scale is not novel either. But when I look at parts of the world where access to technology is still rising and has yet to plateau, I am constantly reminded of how big of a game changer these tools can be, despite their limitations. Last week, a colleague in Ethiopia (who is a well-known civil society activist) tweeted a positive message about LGBT pride. He got a few hundred responses, most of which were negative, but some were not. Another colleague swiftly pointed out that this, in spite of the vitriol it triggered, was a sign of real progress for online discussion of LGBT issues in Ethiopia. Before, she noted, you could not even speak of it. In many parts of the world, the internet is still enabling speech and engagement in ways that are literally not possible in ‘real life’ public spaces. In my view, this is where democracy begins. So, I have some hope.”

Eric Vance, director, Laboratory for Interdisciplinary Statistical Analysis, University of Colorado-Boulder, commented, “With the advent of blockchain-like security, we should be able to vote via internet or sign petitions that way or make comments to be entered into the public record. These things will help strengthen democracy.”

Frank Feather, president, AI-Future, said, “Elections will and should be conducted electronically, online. Public opinions will be sought through online surveys, not just in general but by way of consultation about prospective legislation. However, such a democratic online platform must be 100% secure in terms of data, shared opinions and privacy. Anyone caught tampering with such a system should be severely punished and the survey in question canceled and re-taken.”

Frederico Links, a journalist, governance researcher and activist based in Africa, said, “Technology, specifically communications tech, has already significantly changed democratic practice and institutions, both positively and negatively. This mixed effect will only continue to play out over the decade to 2030, especially in still emergent democracies and transitional societies. In some the effect could be more good than bad; in others it could be more bad than good. What is definitely happening everywhere is that people are more and more using the technologies, such as social media platforms, to find their voice and express themselves. As the tech becomes ever more pervasive, especially in developing societies, there will be disruptions to vertical power structures, which could lead to destabilisation of some societies, and could lead to increased democracy in others. On the whole, I think it leans more to the positive, as the pressures are many on state authorities everywhere to become more responsive and accountable, while everywhere there appears to be a tech-mediated awakening of political consciousness, which I don’t think will be quelled or repressed, despite the best efforts of many authoritarian-minded actors also trying to use the tech to attempt mass control and manipulation.”

Gabriel Kahn, former bureau chief for The Wall Street Journal, now a professor of journalism researching innovation economics in emerging media at the University of Southern California, wrote, “My hope is that the current backlash against the arrogance, concentrated power and lack of responsibility of big tech translates into some concrete regulatory action that levels the playing field. In addition, my hope is that all the attention given to this issue now creates a more sophisticated media consumer.”

Garland McCoy, president, Technology Education Institute, said, “History is instructive in addressing the question. Think of the control over content the teletype companies like Western Union had. The power people like William Randolph Hearst had to impact news and J.P. Morgan financial markets. Think of privacy during the decades when folks shared ‘party lines’ or lived in small communities for generations never venturing far from home. We have been here before and will use the tools of ever advancing technology to get the information we need from sources we trust. Good old fashioned ‘analog’ ‘walking around money’ still impacts elections far more than the digital internet social media and search platforms.”

Gianluca Demartini, senior lecturer in data science, University of Queensland, wrote, “Information and communication technologies have been influencing democracy since its existence. Newspapers, television and later the web as a means to receive information has shaped our decision-making processes. Over time, available information has increased and our decision-making processes have adapted. In future, processes will be affected more as more technology-supported information will be available. Society will adapt to this increasing amount of information.”

Gina Glantz, political strategist and founder of GenderAvenger, said, “I want to believe that the dark underbelly of the digital world that is distorting democracy will be exposed and its impact lessened over the next decade. I hope by 2032 safeguards will have been created so that voting can take place electronically, encouraging much greater participation in the most fundamental of democratic processes.”

Greg Shatan, a lawyer with Moses & Singer LLP and self-described ‘internet governance wonk,’ wrote, “We must look at technology more broadly than the internet and the web. I believe that the capacity for technology to improve the ability to obtain information, to vote, to express yourself and to engage with others is largely positive and will come in ‘off-web’ ways that use the internet as a means of carriage. That said, we are in a difficult place with regard to misinformation, radicalization and manipulation using the web, particularly social media. The values of free speech tolerance are being tested even as ‘free speech’ is being co-opted … for purposes of intolerance. I’m hopeful the pendulum will swing back and we will be better equipped to sort the web’s wheat from its chaff.”

Harold Feld, senior vice president, Public Knowledge, said, “I expect technology to continue to reshape how democratic institutions and civic engagement work. What we have seen in recent years has been similar to other stages of evolution of services over the internet. Bad actors learn how to manipulate systems based on trust and user ignorance. But we are already seeing successful pushback. Overall, I expect use of technology to continue to improve civic engagement.”

Henry Lieberman, research scientist, MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab (CSAIL), said, “The original design criteria for U.S. democracy still are great: government by the people; life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. But the details and mechanisms of government were designed for the agricultural and industrial age, not today’s digital age. By 2030, this will become so obvious, and so appreciated especially by younger people, that we will have begun the debate about how to redesign our political and economic institutions.”

Herbert Gintis, external professor, Santa Fe Institute, and professor of economics, Central European University, said, “New technology will advance science and expose corruption and bigotry.”

Ian Thompson, a self-employed futurist/consultant based in New Zealand, said, “Keeping people better informed is key to improving democracy. We may struggle with new ways of doing this and the abuse of it, but it has ever been thus. Technology in itself is neutral, empowering both the good and bad in people (and institutions).”

Ibon Zugasti, futurist, strategist and director, Prospektiker, wrote, “If technology is used in the right way, it will contribute to a better monitoring and control of public policies by civil society.”

Iona Marinescu, assistant professor of economics, University of Pennsylvania School of Social Policy & Practice, wrote, “The expansion of the internet has had some negative effects on democracy, including the growth of fake news. However, the internet also allows people to be more informed (e.g., I use Twitter to keep track of my colleagues’ research) and to better organize to make their voices heard. I think better regulation and technological innovation have the potential to create an internet that serves democracy even better.”

James Gannon, a cybersecurity and internet governance expert based in Europe, said, “Democracy is a process; processes are by their very nature subject to disruption both in the positive and negative. I believe, hope, that democracy in 2030 will be dealing with the fallout of the populist years, where nations realised that disinformation and intellectual warfare were dangerous concepts that drove democracy to the edge of viability. One possible scenario: In the 2020s an international effort was undertaken to establish norms for inter-governmental attacks (similar to the Geneva Conventions) that drove institutions to look at both operating more independent sources of information (such as the Irish Referendum Commissions) and that use of fact checking and independent verifiability of critical information was defined as critical to a functioning democracy, NGOs and IGOs were established to assist with election security as an end-to-end process, with increasing standardisation globally, both reinforcing developed nations, and supporting developing nations. Technology played a critical role, with technology helping fight disinformation, and also a move away from vulnerable electronic voting systems, back to verifiable paper ballots.”

Jamie Grady, a business leader, wrote, “Technology can strengthen the connection between politicians and the constituents they serve. This is especially true as the population ages. We see a positive effect already with small donations to major candidates lessening the effluence of corporate money. However, if the population continues to get information on government activities from the internet and social media sources, other than ‘news agencies,’ the populous will continue to be misinformed and divided. A lot will depend upon the next presidential election.”

Jean Russell, co-director, Commons Engine, focused on building tools and capacity for a commons-based economy, wrote, “The current crisis over our digital tools and how they impact democracy will create more-sophisticated tools and a more-educated population, which will help develop democracy. It won’t look pretty or be idealistic, and the improvement will still be insufficient to our aspiration. But it will still be an overall improvement. I am specifically working on projects to ground that in reality.”

Jeff Jarvis, director of the Tow-Knight Center and professor of journalism innovation at City University of New York, wrote, “There is no predicting how people will use technology, for good and ill, but we can examine new dynamics opened up with the technology – namely, the internet as a grand network connecting people with people, people with information, information with information and machines with machines. Already we see, for example, that new voices not represented by institutions including government and mass media can now speak. Thus we have, for example, #metoo and #livingwhileblack. Thus we also have a backlash from entrenched forces – read: old, white men – who fear loss of power and who so far would seem to rather destroy institutions than share power in them. Who will win? There is no way to yet tell. We also see globalization not only in commerce – affecting jobs and economies – but also in social interaction. Thus borders are challenged and so are nations. Is this challenge a reason why we see the rise of nationalism? We see now that wars can be fought with data and without national armies or weapons. We see that virtual currencies can challenge the monetary power of nations. Will the nation-state as we know it survive intact? No way to yet tell. At the same time, governments are trying to regulate the net – which actually means they are trying to regulate the behavior of citizens on the net – goaded on by their own worries and by the spending of political capital by legacy media and other threatened industries and institutions. Can the net, built to withstand the disruption of nuclear attack, withstand effort to balkanize it by government? Will liberties prevail? Too soon to know.”

Jeremy Foote, computational social scientist and professor, Northwestern University, wrote, “It is tempting to think that the problems of technology that we have now will continue to be problems in the future. None of the problems that we have now – from privacy concerns to disinformation bots to polarization – seem tractable and amenable to technological and legal remedies. Despite the problems we have had, I still believe that the broader implications of the internet as a tool for connection and conversation and individual expression are more closely aligned with democracy. That is not to say that there are not other dangers. Facial recognition-enabled surveillance and artificial intelligence and simulated videos all pose real risks. However, I think the most likely outcome is that we find social, legal and technological compromises that allow us to gain some of the advantages of these technologies while avoiding their worst dangers. For example, while surveillance technologies dramatically reduce the costs of surveilling citizens, it is difficult to imagine a scenario whereby current democracies accept Big Brother-like surveillance. Democratic institutions are set up to identify and regulate these sorts of dangers, and, so far, they have been adequate in doing that.”

Jim Cashel, author of “The Great Connecting: The Emergence of Global Broadband and How That Changes Everything,” said, “In the U.S., internet technologies will both strengthen and weaken democratic institutions over the next decade. From a global perspective, however, internet technologies will greatly strengthen democratic institutions. Three billion people globally currently have no internet – but soon will. Internet satellite and other technologies will be blanketing the planet in broadband in the next few years. For those that until now have had no voice whatsoever, the arrival of the internet will be transformative.”

John Carr, a leading global expert on young people’s use of digital technologies, a former vice president of MySpace, commented, “The internet is likely to improve our democratic processes running up to 2030 but only because I believe things are currently so bad they are bound to improve. Democratic legislatures around the world simply will not tolerate or allow there to be any reasonable doubt about the legitimacy of the outcome of those processes which form the cornerstone of how we live, namely elections and referenda. The ‘foundation stories’ of a great many countries frequently turn on how its people won universal suffrage and the right to determine their own affairs free of the influence of an imperial or foreign power. Silicon Valley right now looks like a foreign imperial power in a great many jurisdictions.”

John Paschoud, elected politician of the Lewisham Council (a London borough), wrote, “Technologies (e-voting, e-referenda, managed social media and e-fora) will enable more people to participate in a meaningful and thoughtful way. But some technologies (which make it too easy to influence democratic representatives, or encourage thinking that all issues are best decided by a simple majority vote) may either be regulated, or will be dealt with in more automated ways by elected representatives, thus nullifying the advantage they seem to offer.”

Jon Lebkowsky, CEO, founder and digital strategist, Polycot Associates, wrote, “It’s tempting to say that technology will weaken democracy, based on current events. However, I’d rather speak to the potential, which is that intelligent and effective use of technologies to inform the electorate and support civic debate could make democracy stronger. We have a lot of work ahead for this to be the case, and we probably have to re-think the case for ‘social media’ as it stands today.”

Joshua New, senior policy analyst at the Center for Data Innovation at the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, said, “Technology has the potential to massively increase the responsiveness and participatory nature of government, leading to a more informed and engaged citizen population. The many concerns that people have about the impact about technology on democracy – misinformation, deleterious effects of social media, and so on – are neither fundamentally technological problems nor are they inevitable.”

Kenneth A. Grady, adjunct professor and affiliate of the Center for Legal Innovation, Michigan State University, commented, “Democracy will become more transparent as technology advances. Citizens will have greater insight into the actions and omissions of elected representatives. They also will be able to see the effects of actions and omissions across a broader swath of society. These changes will come from greater access to data and from new tools that will analyze and present the data in ways that make it more available to citizens. At the same time, technology will have a distorting effect on democracy and democratic institutions. Access to data and tools will be uneven across society, with the ‘haves’ (urban heavily populated areas) able to use the data and tools to their advantage while the ‘have nots’ (rural lightly populated areas) being disadvantaged.”

Kenneth Cukier, senior editor, The Economist, and coauthor of “Big Data,” commented, “We are starting to see incredible civic action, public deliberative forums and public voting on budgets on the municipal level all based around digital technologies. These will increase. No matter how appalling governance is at the national level, and inept at the international level, we will see a revival of good governance at the local level in large part by technologies that let people express themselves, be in dialogue with others and monitor and track government activities.”

Kevin Carson, an independent scholar on issues of post-capitalist and post-state transition, wrote, “Networked communications will continue reinforcing the trend toward self-organized, horizontalist movements and the proliferation of access to alternative news outside traditional gatekeeping institutions, as well as toward distrust of traditional leaders. It’s true that in recent years the right (especially alt-right offshoots from GamerGate) has seen part of the benefit from these trends, alongside horizontalist movements of the left like Occupy, Black Lives Matter, #NoDAPL and the various municipalist movements in Barcelona, et al. But I am hopeful that … we’ll see a real tipping point in the next decade, and governance will become more open.”

Kevin Doyle Jones, co-founder, GatherLab (it convenes visionary people looking to transform climate, communities and capital for good), said, “Collective action is necessary for us to respond effectively to climate change, across neighborhoods. I have more hope of that bubbling up from cities to the state governments and I hope even the federal governments. Watersheds and foodsheds and economic biospheres are key, and to keep the good from being the enclave of the few, with water poor shanty towns outside for the others, we will need to understand and act on the protocols of neighborliness. https://solutions.sphaera.world/building-blocks/walter-brueggmann-on-neighborliness”

Knut Erik Solem, professor of environment, technology and social change, Norwegian University of Science and Technology, said, “Liberal democracy will survive and likely outcompete all other socio-political systems provided it maintains and further develops its key element of empathy.”

Lee McKnight, associate professor, Syracuse University School of Information Studies, commented, “Following the grand reveals of how undemocratically-inclined billionaires (including but not only Putin) used data analytics and widespread internet platforms to manipulate the U.K. into Brexit and the U.S. into electing an unqualified president, I am optimistic for the future. The clear and present danger to democracy that technology-enabled manipulation of individual citizens and wider public opinion represents is now far better understood and more widely recognized. The U.K. cutting off its nose to spite its European/global face – at the behest of the out-of-the-shadows Mercer family, and of course the Russian oligarchy – will be an ongoing object lesson in the severe consequences of democracies letting their guard down. These recent ‘shocking’ lessons of the many mortal threats to democracy are really just commonsense ones from the past we are all painfully relearning. Use of technology to manipulate ‘public opinion and propaganda’ were widely understood and appreciated to be significant challenges in the 1930s, for example. But those lessons had been largely forgotten with the passage of time since World War II and the Cold War. Until now.  Trust in democracy and civil society, however, can be rebuilt and extended throughout democracies also with the help of technology, as for example blockchained, tamper-proof voting records (plus old-fashioned paper receipts) will both trust and verify elections automatically by 2030. More generally, secure cloud (to edge) architectures can limit mischief and mayhem attempted to similarly manipulate cities, communities and states as was done to the U.K. and the U.S., whether attempted by ransomware gangs/firms, billionaires, firms or by nation-states, with people and technology thwarting attempted manipulation of democratic processes for undemocratic reasons.”

Loren DeJonge Schulman, deputy director of studies and senior fellow, Center for a New American Security, previously senior adviser to National Security Adviser Susan Rice, said, “My expectation is that citizens will begin to put more of a premium on aligning with candidates or movements that 1) are able to tailor their engagement to the narrow interests of particular voters and 2) allow them to preserve their technology comfort zones while protecting them from technological threats. I believe parties will fracture, as voter and fundraising issue-based microtargeting becomes more feasible and effective. Individual polling could become less reliable as means of access to specific voter blocks declines or fragments across generational or value (e.g., privacy) divides.”

Louis Gross, professor of ecology and evolutionary biology and mathematics, University of Tennessee-Knoxville, said, “I expect that many organizations (religious, cultural, educational) will band together to enforce data privacy for their members and will be an effective political force to bring about legislative action. New means to carry on discourse that have data privacy constraints built into them will be developed and flourish. I anticipate continued development of tech tools for individual use that constrain the availability of personal data, as well as tools at above-individual-level that carry out a variety of automated checking of online materials that individuals can connect with to decide what is best from their perspective. I also anticipate very strong legislative action to protect those individuals who do not have access to these tools, including the young and those who are not otherwise capable of protecting themselves.”

Marcus Foth, professor of urban informatics, Queensland University of Technology, explained, “The internet’s early heyday painted perhaps romantic pictures of the democratisation of knowledge, participatory culture and the global village. Today these visions have largely been replaced with much more realistic, pragmatic, opportunistic perspectives that ground the internet’s benefits in realities of walled gardens, platform economies, corporate interests and data harvesting. I believe as a result of this more balanced and mature view of the internet’s actual pros and cons today, democracy in 2030 may benefit and be strengthened not just from the usual allies such as progressive academics, human rights and environmental groups. New segments of society are starting to get concerned and be protective of the internet’s role in the future of democracy. For example, backdoor access requested by governments in the US, China and Australia has widely been recognised as a risk not just to human rights and anti-surveillance advocates but to corporate and commercial interests, too. Additionally, the climate emergency is starting to trigger a process of strategic essentialism of so-far rather-splintered activism groups that have the potential to remind humanity that there is no business (and no democracy) on a dead planet.”

Marilyn Cade, principal, mCADE, LLC, wrote, “I was disappointed not to have a fourth option in responding to this question – ‘it depends.’ Citizens are informed by whatever information sources they can access. In rural Missouri/U.S. there is limited access to information about the realities faced by those who flee hostile regimes that torture them and threaten their lives. Local/state-level news does not cover that. Education in many states in the U.S. and in other countries suffers from lack of current information and from lack of access to the World Wide Web resources that are neutral and informational and can support critical examination of issues. Democracy depends on information – neutral information that a citizen is competent to analyze for themselves, which requires an education. Understanding even what a democratic process is takes a discussion in the school – say fifth to eighth grade – studying facts, not opinions, and guided by a teacher that is neutral in their teaching methodology. Do students understand the democratic process of elections? Do they actively study policy issues that affect their lives/their families lives in their ‘social studies’ courses? Do they study math and science? Do they debate how emerging technologies – artificial intelligence, etc. – can or are affecting voting decisions? Do they recognize implications of climate change on their lives/the lives of others around the world? Democratic processes can be significantly affected, IF properly applied, and taking into account cultural issues, such as opposition to women voting by some cultures, so any restriction to use identifiable marks – e.g., inking of a finger – may put a woman or other voter at risk. Application of technology and other forces must show cultural sensitivity and be designed to adapt to situational challenges, so that the voice of citizens can be heard. Otherwise, we have a society of the dominant players, whether that is a regime in a country that restricts the voice of its citizens, or the propagation of uninformed views by Americans who do not – even though the information is available – have equal access to information, versus opinions of dominant voices.”

Marius Oosthuizen, board member with the Association of Professional Futurists group in Johannesburg, South Africa, wrote, “Communications will be enhanced as a core enabler of democratisation. But 2030 is less than a decade away – that is very little in the context of institutional evolution, unless a systemic tipping point or new disequilibrium is reached. In some countries, where democracy is under strain, such a rapid change is likely, while in others, the impact will largely be on sub-systems within the political economy. I expect, for instance, extra-national trading systems such as cryptocurrency to both democratise finance rapidly, while also weakening the role of the democratic state in monitoring illegal activity and tax evasion.”

Mark Maben, a general manager at Seton Hall University, wrote, “To date, the internet and social media have mostly weakened core aspects of democracy and democratic representation, but I nonetheless selected ‘Mostly strengthen core aspects of democracy and democratic representation’ as my response to the question. This is because I have been witnessing firsthand how individuals and grassroots organizations are using technology to respond to the negative impact digital technologies have had on our democracy. New Jersey 11th for Change is just one example of a civil society group harnessing technology to not only elect candidates, but also change the legislative agenda, expose conflicts of interest, raise awareness of issues and mobilize individuals to engage our democracy. Yes, powerful forces will continue using technology to weaken democracy, but by 2030 there will be scores of groups utilizing current and yet-to-be-developed technologies to counteract these efforts. Technology will be employed to rapidly mobilize people quickly and effectively, as well as to reach elected officials, bureaucrats and the business elite with direct messaging that will be difficult to ignore. It would not be surprising to see this strengthening occurring at the local and state level well before it reaches Washington, D.C. Beyond government, citizens will be using technology to force changes in corporate behavior as well.”

Mary Alice McCarthy, senior policy analyst, Higher Education Initiative, New America, said, “My preferred response to this question would have been ‘it depends.’ Whether technology strengthens or weakens democracy depends fundamentally on the political will of representatives from both parties and their voters to support robust rules and regulations to govern how the internet can be used to spread information and how efforts to spread misinformation will be identified and penalized. I firmly believe that technology and the internet can strengthen democratic processes and institutions. They can do so by making voting easier and more convenient; enabling citizens to communicate more directly and immediately with their representatives; supporting organizing efforts by community-based organizations, unions and political parties; and enabling greater access to information on issues of importance to voters. But, as we have learned over the last decade – and particularly since the 2016 election – technology can also be a source of disinformation, radicalization and polarization. It can be used to spread lies, sow hate and create confusion about what is real and what is not.”

Melissa Michelson, professor of political science, Menlo College, and author, “Mobilizing Inclusion: Redefining Citizenship Through Get-Out-the-Vote Campaigns,” said, “The future will include a complex interplay of increased online activity but also increased skepticism of those virtual interactions and an enhanced appreciation of offline information and conversations. As more adults are digital natives and the role of technology in society expands and becomes more interconnected, more and more aspects of democracy and political participation will take place online. At the same time, the increasing sophistication of deepfakes, including fake video, will enhance the value of face-to-face interactions as unfiltered and trustworthy sources of information.”

Micah Altman, director, Center for Research in Equitable and Open Scholarship, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, wrote, “Technology is a powerful tool for democratic change. Independent commissions, empowered by participative mapping technology, are now our best hope for curbing gerrymandering and its corrosive effect on politics. Open science empowered by technologies for open publication, long-term data access and knowledge-mining are our best hope for making science more inclusive, effective and equitable – which has an immense long-term impact on societal well-being. Advances in cryptography and statistics-based technologies can help us reap the benefits of big-data, while avoiding the death of privacy. But society faces critical decisions of governance in the next decade. If we continue to make decisions piecemeal that cede small bits of privacy, transparency and accountability to corporations and government, we face potentially catastrophic losses of freedom.”

Michael Pilos, chief marketing officer, FirePro, London, said, “These technological challenges will prove to be very fruitful for global democracy. Technology has consistently proven to expand and fine-tune democracy. Social media and other multimedia platforms have exponentially opened minds and flattened perceptions across the globe. Let’s not miss out on the bigger picture. Yes, on the short term, ‘antiheros’ have been always ahead of the curve in utilizing it. This is why we see Western democracies now traumatized by several events in the political sphere, but the fact is these folks have always been there and have always been trying to influence the public in their own mind set. We are now more responsible and more capable in further educating people about intentions and policies. This, of course, does require that we now build better policies and more transparency than ever before. It also requires that political communication becomes more sophisticated and tech savvy. It will.”

Michael R. Nelson, public policy lead, Cloudflare, active in internet governance, wrote, “The internet and the cloud are still immature technologies. In the future, they will be even more powerful and pervasive. In particular, many of the vulnerabilities that enable criminals and governments to intercept or steal personal or sensitive data will be eliminated. Perhaps, most importantly, easy-to-use, seamless, global systems of authentication will enable content and applications to be attributed to their creators so that spoofing and disinformation will be much less likely to have an impact. Another potential benefit of the internet, blockchain and the Cloud of Things will be the ability to detect or prevent corruption. Wikileaks revealed how corrupt many governments of North Africa were and spurred citizens there to protest and replace their leaders. While most of those countries have not evolved into democracies – in part because governments are using digital technologies to track and suppress dissidents – advocates for freedom and democracy continue to use social media in countries ranging from Turkey to Saudi Arabia to Russia. The next phase of the internet could provide better encryption and privacy protections, which could empower journalists and others who oppose corrupt, autocratic leaders.”

Miguel Alcaine, an ITU area representative based in Central America, said, “Technology will impact positively and negatively different areas of democracy. We need to ensure that the balance is positive – from governments, technologists, academia, private sector, activists, NGOs, IGOs and people in general.”

Milton Mueller, professor of internet policy, Georgia Tech, governance expert, said, “Social media is controversial in part precisely because it does increase and broaden communication and representation of different views. It is possible that reasonable modifications in laws, policies and technology will deal with some of the abuses of social media over the next 10 years. It is also possible, however, that techlash will result in more censorship and restrictions on speech that will undermine democracy.”

Moira de Roche, entrepreneur, International Professional Practice Partnership, based in Africa, said, “Democracy will be driven by society using technology. We have already witnessed uprisings empowered by technology. Governments, political parties and others intent on propaganda and false news will use it for adverse effect, however, I believe the power that digital technology gives to the masses can be used to overpower its negative uses. Citizens should use their duty of care to keep themselves safe, and also make sure that governments and businesses act responsibly. Technology gives everyone a voice.”

Nick Tredennick, engineer, technology innovator and administrator, vice president, Jonetix Corporation, commented, “The net effect of technology’s advance is always positive. Wealth grows; life expectancy grows. Better communication informs more people and decisions become better. Advantages outweigh the disadvantages. Improving technology increases productivity, which accelerates wealth creation, and that improves life for everyone.”

Osvaldo Larancuent, a professor based in the Dominican Republic with expertise in the governance of cyberspace, said, “What do I expect democracy to look like in 2030 from the perspective of citizens? The fundamentals of democracy will change as more citizens will demand more commitment and responsibility from governments, using digital tools and platforms that will allow better monitoring of their execution. What aspects of essential democratic institutions will change? The transparency of promises, public policies and execution of goals, and the improvement of governance based on social inclusion and crowdsourced participation enabled by specialized digital platforms. What role will technology play in whatever changes take place? More smart participation of communities in different aspects of democracy, promoting social inclusion and via the evolution of social media networks digital platforms to a more granulate participation in the institutions. More information available, and better monitoring of results achieved.”

Paul Jones, founder and director of ibiblio and a professor at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, wrote, “Communications technologies, especially at their early adoptions, can be subject to centralization, control and exploitation creating new identities (imagined communities) and often polarization within populations. But in the longer run, as the social formation of each technology is more established, communications enrich our daily lives and become the field and even background of our extended interactions. At the moment, democracy is both under attack and surging in the streets. Not to be caught up in presentism or to be utopian, but to be optimistic – our present technologies point toward more oversight, control and polarization, but in the longer run we have seen both mass media and personal communications tend to empower democratic institutions. By 2030, we will have adjusted to the abuses of data aggregation, of surveillance, of misinformation, and will be honoring – not without tension and required attention – informed public participation. Like the growing pains of democracy during the rise of newspapers, then radio, then TV, the adjustments will not be smooth, but they will be made.”

Paul Saffo, chair, futures studies and forecasting, Singularity University, visiting scholar, Stanford MediaX, a Silicon Valley-based forecaster with three decades experience helping corporate and governmental clients understand and respond to the dynamics of change, said, “There is a long history of new media forms creating initial chaos upon introduction and then being assimilated into society as a positive force. This is precisely what happened with print in the early 1500s and with newspapers over a century ago. New technologies are like wild animals – it takes time for cultures to tame them. I am not in any way downplaying the turbulence still ahead (the next five to seven years will not be fun), but there is a sunnier digital upland on the other side of the current chaos. Did I mention that I utterly hate the neologism ‘techlash?’”

Ray Schroeder, associate vice chancellor of online learning, University of Illinois Springfield, wrote, “Our democracies will look much the same in 2030. They will be enhanced by online voting and will be strengthened by secure technologies. We have faced many deception challenges over the years – from political cartoons and yellow journalism in the pre-internet era to ‘photo-shopping,’ trolling, spamming and other ‘dirty tricks’ strategies of more recent years. Truth is resilient and durable. It has persevered through those times and will do so again in the face of more technologically sophisticated assaults – and so will it and democracy upon which truth is dependent.”

Rebecca Theobald, assistant research professor, University of Colorado-Colorado Springs, said, “After dealing with the unpleasant aspects of social media and gerrymandering, for instance, academics, voting-rights advocates and community organizations are working to make sure technologies such as geospatial technology work for good of many rather than for a few.”

Sanoussi Baahe Dadde, a self-employed internet consultant, said, “I would like democracy to look like trade in 2030, where people everywhere will understand that ‘I have a choice,’ which means it is not by force that a party can win election, but by the voice of people.”

Scott Burleigh, principal engineer at a major U.S. agency, said, “Technology is likely to strengthen democratic institutions by providing voters with more information and eventually making it easier to participate in elections, possibly increasing turnout. I don’t think this is necessarily a good thing, as it will make it easier for misinformed voters to swing elections in ways that are not constructive. But there has never been any guarantee that strengthening democratic institutions will, in itself, strengthen society.”

Scott McLeod, associate professor of educational leadership at University of Colorado, Denver, wrote, “In the U.S., democracy will build on current American democratic processes and institutions, without dramatic change: 1) Voters, those disabled too, may be able to vote from their computers via voice with identity verified one person, one vote; 2) Ranked-choice voting as in Maine may become mainstream in 50 states; 3) Issues voted upon may be more tied information-technology-wise to knowledge resources. What aspects of essential democratic institutions will change? U.S. representative democracy may be extended to include more individuals including even potentially other species (other higher primates in the U.S. + ‘cognitive’ species in U.S. waters – dolphins, octopi). In terms of representative democracy and the U.S. Constitution, I think technology will change the following four democratic institutions by 2030: 1) Free, fair and frequent elections. 2) Freedom of expression. 3) Independent sources of information. 4) Freedom of association – mediated by information technology but safeguarded by the Constitution. There will perhaps be an increase of all of the above. What role will technology play in whatever changes take place? In terms of the ‘Network Society’ (per Manuel Castells) and democracy in the U.S. – and regarding Castells’ juxtaposition of Net and Self (e.g., diverse identities as voting groups), technology will continue to co-constitute a ‘liberal democracy with well-established and reasonably effective political institutions headed up by a credible system of electoral representation,’ supported especially by the U.S. legal system. The importance of legal systems, especially regarding related information technologies, artificial intelligence and machine learning, will play a very significant role.”

Scott Santens, an activist for basic income whose writing has appeared in The Huffington Post, The Boston Globe, TechCrunch, Vox and Politico, commented, “By 2030, unconditional basic income (UBI) should exist, which will have a significantly positive effect on democracy by reducing economic insecurity and enabling people with the mental space and time to be more civically engaged. I expect important reforms to have occurred, like ranked-choice voting, fair representation multi-member districts, automatic voter registration, open primaries and democracy dollars, so that technology utilization works better with democracy instead of against it. The rise of negative partisanship enables tech to influence democracy in negative ways, so making the changes necessary to reduce partisanship will change the way tech interacts with democracy for the better.”

Sharon Sputz, executive director, strategic programs, Columbia University Data Science Institute, said, “Technology can be used for good and evil, but I believe humanity will prevail. The spread of knowledge is enabled through technological advances. This spread of knowledge reduces oppression and increases our ability to raise the education and prosperity across the globe. The larger issue we face is the changes to our planet that will cause disparities.”

Stephan G. Humer, lecturer expert in digital life, Hochschule Fresenius University of Applied Sciences, Berlin, commented, “Empowerment of people will be stronger than the negative aspects. In terms of educational impact alone, the internet will be more positive than negative. Online learning will be much more positive, with more possibilities for everyone.”

Stephen Abram, managing principal, Lighthouse Consulting, wrote, “I see the two polarities. I see the U.S. doing little to deal with their election interference by foreign actors. On the other hand, other countries outside of the G20 are having their public discourse democratized and opening up criticism of poor or bad governments. On the whole, on a global basis I think technology is a force for good. If I had to answer the question from a strictly U.S.-centric point of view, I’d say for the period through 2030 we will see a steady weakening of democracy as foreign actors, the Supreme Court, etc. weaken rights and public discourse.”

Stephen Downes, senior research officer, digital technologies, National Research Council Canada, commented, “The internet is gradually moving society from representative democracy to participatory democracy. It does this by creating the capacity for individuals or small groups to do things for themselves. People can educate themselves as a distributed community, they can mobilize themselves as a decentralized social network and they can finance themselves using a digital currency. As always, it’s the extreme and sometimes criminal cases that capture the headlines. But the real change to society is taking place among the rest of us, as day-by-day we become more capable of organizing ourselves, and less reliant on the rich and powerful to do the organizing for us.”

Steven Miller, vice provost and professor of information systems at Singapore Management University, said, “As we continue our civilisation’s and humankind’s journey toward digitalisation, and the ongoing hybridisation of physical interactions and virtual/online interactions, we will see examples where these capabilities simultaneously strengthen our institutions and threaten them. I am surprised you forced the responses to be either one way or another and did not allow for simultaneous change along both dimensions. As long as humankind has been interacting, there have undoubtedly been efforts at political manipulation within a society/group, and efforts of interference and meddling of one society/group in the affairs of another. This is not new. It is as ancient as humankind and civilisation. And yet, even with this, many positive developments have occurred. In the early stages of the internet, and in early stages of social network platforms, all the positives were envisioned and highlighted. And somehow, the typical narratives seemed to forget that human nature is, well, it is human nature – both at the level of the individual, as well as at the level of the larger group and overall society. And somehow, some naive assumptions were made that these forces that have been with us for thousands of years would not be part of what would happen with the internet and then later with social network platforms. That was a naive assumption and proved to be wrong. So nothing that is happening is surprising – and we will continue to see wonderful social developments as a result of increasing digital connectedness, and simultaneously the co-occurrence of malevolence and ill intent.”

Susan Price, founder and CEO, Firecat Studio, user-centered design and communication technologies expert, said, “We’ll get increasingly better at helping citizens and information platforms curate, sort, filter and tag content, especially as our use of artificial intelligence becomes more nuanced. We’ll discover ways of uncovering and verifying provenance. Although we’re seeing a doubling down in some governments on anti-democratic tactics (e.g., Citizens United that extended many of the rights of citizens to corporate entities), other governments are enacting sensible legislation to protect citizens and users and limit the influence of money on elections and commerce (e.g., General Data Protection Regulation).”

Terri Horton, workforce futurist with FuturePath LLC, wrote, “Broad access to artificial intelligence systems and advanced technologies across society can facilitate the democratization of civic innovation by 2030. Particularly, civic innovation aimed at solving some of the most complex social challenges related to work and employability may mitigate the impact of artificial intelligence and automation on people, reimagined careers and the future of work.”

Thierry Gaudin, co-founder and president, France 2100 Foundation, wrote, “The internet develops and widens the information of the citizen at local, national and international levels. Therefore, awareness is increased. Local democracy will benefit, as will concern of citizens regarding environmental and planetary issues. Up to now, democracy has functioned through elections of representatives. Only in rare cases, votes have been used to approve or disapprove a project. Webocracy allows public consultations on projects and that might bypass some corruption. The web may also contribute to the revival of local cultures and traditions, particularly in South America.”

Tim Bray, well-known technology leader who has worked for Amazon, Google and Sun Microsystems, wrote, “Our societal and online ugliness is a phase that we can transcend and indeed will be forced to in order to pull together and survive the devastation wrought by the climate crisis. Whereas most of us would do anything to stave off the worst effects, some of those effects have become unavoidable, and the pain will be only slightly ameliorated by knowledge that the crisis is a forcing function that will require that we learn to distinguish real science-backed news from fake charlatanry, in the face of existential threat.”

Tomslin Samme-Nlar, consultant in technology security and policy based in Cameroon, wrote, “Citizens and civil society will try to use technology to improve debate on issues and to inform more citizens about issues. Technology will be used more and more to express dissenting views on government policy positions. And governments and politicians will look for and attempt to use innovative uses of technology to suppress dissent and promote propaganda.”

Tony Patt, professor of climate policy, ETH Zurich, and author of “Transforming Energy: Solving Climate Change with Technology Policy,” said, “Democracy is a tool to manage problems in a way that takes into account diverging goals and objectives in society. It allows people to accept and support the solutions even if they do not enthusiastically support them. To a large extent, this represents an issue of data and information management. So advances in data and information management will have a large impact on how democracy functions. I believe in people’s desire to make the world a better place for their children. So, where things happen that create both opportunities and threats, we are likely to take advantage of the opportunities and deal with the threats. In the long run, change will be more likely positive than negative, even if in the short run there are major problems.”

Torben Riise, CEO, ExecuTeam Inc., based in Phoenix, Ariz., said, “As the young generation comes of age as voters and as electable individuals, and as young people will depend almost exclusively on the digital world, technology will become THE factor that most will impact the democratic process. That requires a well-educated population in terms of discerning facts from ‘fiction’ as the strength of the process also is the weakness of the system (until security like blockchain) plugs the holes in the system. If the benefits outweigh the risks, as I believe they will, this will strengthen the political system by 2030.”

Travis Lusk, head of Ebiquity Tech, North America, said, “Expanding use of technology in daily life will only continue to accelerate. This includes all aspects of life from cashier-less payments, making major purchases online (like buying a car), engagement with the government via mobile devices. Voters that come of age in 2030 are in first and second grade right now. They will grow up knowing no other way of life. Most interactions with peers, family and the government will involve some degree of digital technology. The reason our society struggles today is due to generations (Boomers) that straddle the legacy ways of doing things with the new, technology-first way.”

Valdeane W. Brown, scientist and expert in biofeedback, Zengar Institute, wrote, “The simple truth is that ‘technology changes everything’ and the negative aspects of techlash are very similar in character to all prior technological advances, especially in relation to information dissemination. Look at the role played by Thomas Paine’s ‘Common Sense’ in the American Revolution, FDR’s use of radio for his ‘Fireside Chats’ and Kennedy’s performance in the first televised debates and Trump’s use of social media. While I disagree with the outcomes of that last effort, Trump effectively used the emergent technology and others didn’t – he succeeded; they failed. Disinformation and misinformation still inform, so it’s critically important to keep ALL forms of information flowing. The American Revolution and its push for independence was really only supported by less than 40% of the country and Thomas Paine and other writers of the day were an enormous support to that effort. We must do at least as well now and into the future.”

Valerie Bock, VCB Consulting, former Technical Services Lead at Q2 Learning, responded, “We are beginning to understand the weaknesses in current technologies and are in the process of addressing those weaknesses, as well as developing more sophisticated ways of interpreting the information they provide for us. I am hopeful that by 2030, the concentration of power will have been reversed somewhat, and citizens will have a renewed sense that their vote matters, that it is important to inform themselves, and that they know where to find reliable sources of that information.”

Walid Al-Saqaf, member, board of trustees, Internet Society, said, “Looking to the future, on one hand, democratic processes are targeted by those who have leverage in technology and resources by polluting public spaces with disinformation and enhancing echo chamber effects using predictive analytics (as demonstrated by Cambridge Analytica). Voters are subjected to content that is slanted, potentially causing them to vote based on an incomplete picture since the sources they are exposed to do not make them properly informed. However, on the other hand, more-inclusive and objective sources also get a boost by using technologies that promote trust and transparency such as blockchain (since it provides means of tracking provenance and assessing integrity of information). This would largely mitigate the risk, help inform voters and citizens and filter out noise and disinformation.”

Warren Yoder, longtime director of the Public Policy Center of Mississippi, now an executive coach, responded, “Much will change in the practice of representative democracy by 2030. Democracy is an ideal that must be substantiated in a particular practice. Representative democracy is the predominant practice now, but it is inherently fragile and must be re-formed every political generation. Winning political power in a representative democracy requires skills and resources that elites learn to control. But elites are prone to gradually isolating themselves in self-referential communities. The politicians, operatives and supporters all have much the same education, experiences and life chances. As times change, they lose the ability to create compelling accounts that represent the new reality. The Great Recession, several foolish wars and growing inequality created such a generational change. The digital world allows many new actors to participate in forming new accounts and competing for power. We are at a low point in the changeover, with populist leaders using digital media to command the political narrative. But this has happened many times in the past with pamphleteers, muckraking newspapers, radio, deregulated television. Each time the political world reformed itself with new elites that mastered the new world. The changeover is already happening. From the current low point things will get better, just in time for a new generational crisis beginning soon after 2030.”

Wendy Seltzer, strategy lead and counsel, World Wide Web Consortium, responded, “Technology can enhance citizen self-organization and participation in democracy and improve data-gathering for democratic governance. It can also increase the noise, provide opportunities for informational attacks on citizens and government, and help anti-democratic forces to organize. As we continue research into technologies’ uses, I hope we’ll be able to tune those asymmetries in favor of democracy. Some of that depends on re-differentiating contexts or spheres of activity – an individual is not just one persona everywhere, but should be recognized as a unique and persistent participant of communities.”

Shahab Khan, CEO at PLANWEL, based in Karachi, wrote, “In Pakistan we can FEEL the movement. It is quite logical and a foregone conclusion that in the years ahead proliferation of digital tools will definitely improve the governance and efficiency of democratic institutions.”

Yves Mathieu, co-director, Missions Publiques, Paris, France, responded, “There are great chances that more transparency will create more dialogues between elected citizens and voters, between elections. The elected citizens will not have the possibility anymore to vote for their constituency without having an interaction prior to the vote or the decision process. The work of the elected persons will be totally changed. Technology creates new forms of communications and messaging that can be very rough and divisive. Some contributors are rude, violent, expressing very poor comments, insulting or threatening elected citizens. There will be a strong need for face-to-face format, as the technologies will not allow process of deliberation. There will be need for regular meetings with voters, in meetings where people will have the time and the possibility to exchange arguments and increase their understanding of each other’s position. Being associated with media, this will reduce the divide that we know today, as it will increase mutual understanding.”

“There will not be much change”

In this section of responses, when given three choices, respondents answered that over the decade between 2020 and 2030 there will not be much change in the impact upon democracy and democratic representation of people’s uses of technology.

John Battelle, co-founder and CEO, Recount Media, and editor-in-chief and CEO, NewCo., commented, “We have a lot to work through as a society before we can fully understand and embrace the potential of the technologies we’ve created. Ten years seems like a long time, but 10 years ago Facebook had not yet unleashed advertising in the News Feed, and the smartphone remained a luxury for the wealthy. Android was in its first two versions. Plus, democracy takes generations to significantly morph. The two forces, tech and politics, are now inextricably linked. We’ll need more than 10 years to figure out what that means.”

Alan Inouye, senior director for public policy and government for the American Library Association, said, “I expect multiple forces that net to an indeterminate state. The positives of technology: Increasingly easier for people to obtain relevant information and participate in political discussions and democratic institutions. Elected officials and intermediaries are better able to reach out to people to obtain their views. Innovations such as remote testimony at Congressional hearings. The negatives of technology: Continuing tribalization by political ideology and views. Easier participation but also shallower participation – ‘just click here’ may replace some real or potential substantive political engagement. Increasing competition for people’s attention, with democracy and politics on the losing end. Debate of Democratic presidential candidates versus ‘Game of Thrones’ (or just everything else on the internet). What will people watch in 2030?”

Alan Mutter, a consultant and former Silicon Valley CEO, commented, “Depending on how politics, economics, climate change and other macro events play out, technology will change everything or nothing. Information technology has acted as an accelerator of both information and misinformation. If evil forces hijack and dominate the conversation, then technology will make things worse than they otherwise might have been (see Trump promotion of racist tropes). If the world comes to its senses and dumps Trump and others of his craven ilk, then technology potentially could speed an era of enlightenment. The outcome will be determined by the ballot box, not the black box.”

Andrew Lippman, senior research scientist and associate director, the Media Lab, MIT, wrote, “Two things seem clear: 1) In the U.S. and some other countries, people have lost faith in the traditional institutions that build a common social core. In part this is due to the multiplicity of outlets that address fringe elements. These were not economic in the past when there was more friction in publishing. 2) The increased use of artificial intelligence manipulation of data and the visceral impact of much news allows falsehoods to penetrate more effectively than in the past. This does not bode well for an informed and thoughtful populace in the near term.  However, I am not in a position to gauge how much this is the fault of the internet or of other aspects of society, of which there are many. Nor do I think that the current trends need continue. We have generally been able to adapt to media evolution and invention, so I suspect that we can do so again, although it may take some real work.”

Axel Bruns, professor, Digital Media Research Centre, Queensland University, said, “The years ahead are clearly deeply troubled by a range of factors, but technology will play both positive and negative roles in this. Illiberal and antidemocratic actors have been successful in their use of technology for propaganda and division, but others have also used these same technologies to organise and fight back. We must avoid any technologically determinist perspectives here – the same technologies can be and are being used both constructively and destructively. The strengthen/weaken/not much change options available for the preceding question miss out the most likely result, therefore: there will almost certainly be _substantial_ change, but I would anticipate such change to strengthen some and weaken other democratic institutions, rather than flow uniformly in one direction. How this unfolds will depend on various other, circumstantial factors.”

Bach Avezdjanov, a program officer with Columbia University’s Global Freedom of Expression project, wrote, “In 2030, the citizen will perceive democracy just as s/he does now – a governing and political system based on the rule of the people. Technology will likely bring more transparency to the democratic process and give voice to those who have long been on the margins. This empowerment will benefit women, minorities and traditionally silenced electorates. However, it will also empower those on the extremes. This in turn will lead to a society that is more aware of what the other side might be thinking, but not necessarily improve tolerance for opposing ideas. I would argue that by allowing disparate voices to hear echoes online, there will be less compromise.”

Ben Schneiderman, distinguished professor of computer science and founder of Human Computer Interaction Lab, University of Maryland, commented, “Social media strengthens democratic institutions by giving a greater voice to a wider range of people, however it also strengthens malicious actors such as political operators, criminals, terrorists and other socially disruptive forces. The goal of increased responsibility for actions will be helped by tech companies doing a better job of stopping bots, and improved ways to limit but not eliminate anonymity. Limiting malicious actors will require newly designed technology, social structures and government policies. New forms of independent oversight, regulatory strategies and community pressure will be helpful.”

Brandt Dainow, whose research specialty is ethical aspects of ICT innovation over the next 30 years, said, “The view that technological functions will have any specific effect without reference to the context, in particular, that opposing groups can access and use the same tech for competing purposes, is a variety of technological determinism. The tech will be used to change things but will be driven by the same power dynamics and competition which has always existed. Things will be ‘better’ in some ways and ‘worse’ in others. The net effect of such competition is unpredictable with any reliability. Technology will play a bigger role, but the net impact on institutions is absolutely unpredictable.”

Brian Southwell, director, Science in the Public Sphere Program, RTI International, said, “How much can and will change in roughly a decade depends on whether you are considering core human tendencies or the rise and fall of specific applications. Clearly, particular social media applications have developed and gained widespread use in a decade. At the same time, some observations from the 1920s, e.g., Walter Lippmann’s ‘Public Opinion’ or ‘The Phantom Public,’ about the opportunities for and limits of public opinion as a source for governance, are still relevant today. New technologies theoretically offer some promise for new mechanisms for representation, and yet we still do not have widespread use of electronic voting. New technologies offer some promise for citizens to communicate horizontally rather than depending on major news outlets, but then we also have seen some dysfunction in that regard. Insofar as new technologies allow us to gather and focus together on central issues of concern then they will improve our democratic institutions. If we allow them to divide people into specialized groups, then there is some threat in the use of those technologies.”

Camille Crittenden, deputy director, Center for Information Technology Research in the Interest of Society, University of California-Berkeley, commented, “There are too many variables to predict how technology will affect democracy and democratic institutions in the next decade. Some trends may be positive (greater representation among those groups traditionally underserved by representative democracy, better-informed electorate, more effective get-out-the-vote efforts, etc.). Others may be negative (effects of disinformation campaigns and computational propaganda accelerated by bots, increased partisanship through recommendation algorithms that promote divisive content, etc.).”

Carol Chetkovich, professor emeritus of public policy at Mills College, said, “Information technology will have both positive and negative effects on civic engagement and the functioning of democratic institutions. The capacity of social media to provide information about policy issues, politics and engagement opportunities (and to ‘connect’ people) on a large scale can certainly be helpful. But it can also be very damaging – when the information is wrong, messages are antisocial and the paranoia or hatred of some individuals becomes magnified through their online associations. The business model of for-profit social media is highly problematic for the perverse incentives it creates (rewarding the harvesting and selling of private data with little or no regard to consequences for individuals or the society as a whole). The dangers of social media/IT are aggravated by the degree to which large segments of the population seem to be lacking the skills needed for democracy (ability to listen, think critically, gather data, weigh sources and empathize), because when voters lack these capacities, they become extremely subject to manipulation. Manipulation in politics has always been a concern, but it seems as if the scale and sophistication of manipulation through social media has taken this threat to a new level. And we are not really working on the problem of ensuring a better equipped/educated electorate. If profits could be made by increasing users’ critical thinking and research skills rather than by increasing the impact of advertising, I’d be more sanguine about the outlook for our democracy. As it is, I’m worried.”

Carolyn Heinrich, professor of education and public policy, Vanderbilt University, said, “I believe the positive and negative forces are counter-balancing. I do worry about the negative aspects, primarily in terms of the polarization of the populace. As internet content is increasingly customized for us by who we know and where we click, the range of information and perspectives we are exposed to will narrow unless we make the effort to read more widely ourselves. To minimize the negative effects, we have to proactively make the effort to broaden our circles of communication and sources of information/knowledge. As technology increasingly pervades our K-12 school curricula, we also need to examine exactly what technology vendors are conveying in their content, and who is the ‘face’ of that content in instructional videos. That is something we are currently investigating in our research: https://my.vanderbilt.edu/digitaled/publications/.”

Danya Glabau, interim director of Science and Technology Studies, Tandon School of Engineering, New York University, and author of the report “Hate in Social Virtual Reality,” said, “People make technology. If technology creates problems in society, it is ultimately the fault of people, and the responsibility of people to change it. Technology on its own can’t fundamentally fix or break things that society already does or does not favor, unless society is complicit.”

David Eaves, public policy entrepreneur expert in information technology and government at Harvard’s Kennedy School, said, “I selected that democratic institutions are unlikely to be significantly affected, not because I think they won’t be altered but because I don’t think technology will strengthen or weaken democratic institutions (my only alternative). I see technology having three drivers: 1) Destroying the business model of the mainstream press and resurrecting the partisan press of the late 18th and early 19th century. 2) Social and online media, combined with polling and increasingly big data, tilting power away from representatives and toward the executive branch, which, with more relative resources, can ‘know’ more about constituents than their representatives and being able to connect directly with them. 3) Online tracking and facial-recognition software reducing privacy and thus increasing the long-term social, political and economic costs of dissenting or protesting. All of these could pose threats to our democratic institutions, but they are likely also manageable and could even be harnessed to improve representation.”

David Sarokin, Sarokin Consulting, author of “Missed Information,” wrote, “Politics has always been a pretty nasty business with little allegiance to honesty. It has also been prone to widespread swings in sentiment, sometimes rather noble and sometimes quite ugly. Technology doesn’t alter those basic truths; it merely provides new avenues for their expression. Interference from foreign powers is a new factor (in U.S. elections, at least), but this is not, fundamentally, a technological problem, at least not as long as it’s tolerated and dismissed by the powers-that-be. My biggest concern is that internet-based voting processes will be disrupted or manipulated by outside forces. There’s no evidence I know of that this has occurred, but certainly no assurance, either, that it couldn’t happen anytime in the next few years.”

Denise N. Rall, academic researcher of popular culture, Southern Cross University, New South Wales, Australia, said, “Australia is a bit behind the curve of things in the U.S., and also we are somewhat more tied to Europe (mostly England) and Asia than the U.S. But a lot of our land has already been purchased to grow food for China and Indonesia, and institutions are being bought up and controlled by China. I have responded before to these surveys. I believe technology will help the dictators that we now have stay on top and control more aspects of all of our lives, worsening the prospects for democracy as has already happened in most economic powerhouses of the world (U.S., Russia, China, and right-wing elections in Europe, the absurdity of Brexit in the U.K., North Korea, etc.). I think environmental degradation will increase exponentially and people will be fighting over resources like energy, water and food quite soon. I do not think technology will have the power to change these outcomes without real desire by governments to reduce resource consumption and a global birth control program of some kind.”

Douglas Rushkoff, well-known media theorist, author and professor of media at City University of New York, said, “I think the damage has already been done, or at least that the degree to which the public is misinformed remains fairly constant. Direct-mail campaigns from Republicans against John Kerry told voters that Kerry meant to take away their guns and Bibles. People in Czarist Russia were told that Jews conducted blood rites with murdered Christian children. It’s hard to see social media or deepfake videos doing much more damage. So, when I say things will stay about the same between now and 2030, I take into account that they’re already in pretty horrific shape. Democracy, as currently configured, isn’t working so well in America, and tech exacerbates certain problems while also correcting others. The main way that tech impacts democracy is more subtle than disinformation and Russian propaganda. Our use of technology disconnects us from the local realities in which we live. While TV may have misinformed us about what was going on in the non-local world, our digital devices often keep us from even engaging with the local world. We become de-socialized, less empathetic. Less capable of thinking civically.”

Erhardt Graeff, a researcher who studies the design and use of technology for civic and political engagement, Olin College of Engineering, said, “Technology and its designers will continue to play a role in making this transformation in our democratic culture easier in some ways and harder in others. We simply cannot rely on technology for the democratic culture change we need. Democracy and democratic representation will be both strengthened and weakened by technology use over the next decade. The most important moves for reinforcing democracy during the next decade will likely be ideological and organizational rather than technological. Recent efforts by technology workers to organize themselves in protest to the policies, engineering decisions and business practices of their employers, joining increasingly vocal demands from the press and politicians to change their ways, should mean that technology culture starts to be more accountable to democratic public interest. One likely result is major technology companies will become more conservative in their design – less willing to dramatically change patterns of communication affecting democratic practice. This will hopefully reduce the ability of anti-democratic movements to amplify their efforts through platforms. But this will also likely lead to rollbacks of designs that allow pro-democratic movements to benefit from amplification. More mass movements advocating for democratic renewal are needed to actively resist anti-democratic trends in our systems of governance and the ways technology is used. These movements must focus on a broad-based organizing and alliance building to catalyze cultural changes that spread values and norms of democratic practice in ways that emphasize equity and social justice, such that we can work toward building and rebuilding democratic institutions that are more inclusive and robust.”

Esther Dyson, internet pioneer, journalist, entrepreneur and executive founder of Way to Wellville, wrote, “Tech will both strengthen and weaken democracy, depending on how ‘we’ use it and depending on how we define ‘we.’ Democracy depends on a shared sense of community and right now we are creating too many warring communities when we should be enlarging them. We also need to educate people on how they can be manipulated through tech and give them the understanding and the tools to manipulate themselves more effectively.”

Ethan Zuckerman, director, MIT’s Center for Civic Media, and co-founder, Global Voices, said, “The problems facing democratic institutions are less about technological change and more about a 40-plus-year slide in trust. Many institutions aren’t working well for citizens of democracies. Technologies are helping people articulate their loss of trust, but they’re also helping people organize outside traditional institutional channels. My prediction is that we’ll see an increasing number of anti-institutional, insurrectionist movements that seek solutions by working around existing institutions and using technical tools as a key part of their movement building.”

Faisal A. Nasr, an advocate, research scientist, futurist and professor, wrote, “Democratic institutions are currently under fire and will continue to be if the present political regime is extended by a skewed democratic expression. If the political regime changes, it will take some time to undo the damage done and begin a new stage of the journey toward a genuinely representative democracy that benefits all layers of society instead of the very thin top it has thus far served. So, by 2030, we are likely to be where we were a few years back or even worse.”

Fred Baker, board member of the Internet Systems Consortium and longtime leader in IETF and ICANN, said, “I observe that there is a lot going on in the digital sphere. We are learning about corporations and nations abusing it in various ways – as you say, manipulating public opinion, creating echo chambers in which people communicate primarily with people who agree with them, and so on. This is not, in itself, news; News Corp, for example, has a history of owning distribution outlets organized by the viewpoints of its readers, creating echo chambers as part of its business model. The U.S. First Amendment was created in part, I’m told, to protect people who were distributing papers related to government and government practices, which may or may not have had any basis in fact, but could be squashed by a government that viewed commentary regarding it as negative. One of the things I really like about the U.S. is that we have a constitutional right to be wrong and to promote our viewpoint. I say that the net change will be small in the coming decade and a half primarily because I expect to see both improvements and retrograde behavior; the sum is close to zero.”

Gary L. Kreps, distinguished professor of communication and director of the center for health and risk communication, George Mason University, said “Unless there are major public information technology policy changes that are designed to protect against organized misinformation campaigns, there will not be much progress in providing the public with information needed to participate meaningfully in making informed governance decisions. Efforts need to be made to identify organized misinformation efforts and remove them from the infosphere. Moreover, government agencies must aggressively identify misinformation perpetrators and prosecute them to the full extent of the law. Automated review technologies can be employed to identify organized misinformation efforts, but strong policies and programs are needed to uproot these unethical communication practices.”

Gary M. Grossman, associate director of programs and associate professor in the School for the Future of Innovation in Society at Arizona State University, commented, “The assessment that democracy will not change first, based on the notion that technology does not ‘change’ anything in and of itself, merely facilitates changes of all kinds. Thus, technology COULD enhance democracy, as the communication could encourage the development of new democratic institutions. Alternatively, it COULD enhance the erosion of democratic institutions, as well. It will depend on the purposes for which it is used. Second, if 2030 is considered an important date, I am not sure why. In any case it is a mere decade from now, in which case it is hard to envision the events that would dramatically change political practices and institutions in a meaningful way. My guess would be, some things will get better, some things will get worse, consistent with our experience over the past decade.”

Hans J. Scholl, professor, The Information School, University of Washington, commented, “While we have already seen a number of significant negative impacts of social media uses on democratic systems, ‘the’ internet, at large is a technological platform, which is and – in my view – will remain neutral to both democratic and authoritarian systems. In democratic societies, abuses like the interference with elections (direct or indirect) has happened and will happen again. However, the learning curve of populations and governments in dealing with and uncovering these abuses will increase, and with that the impact will be lessened. In authoritarian systems, individual surveillance will increase and be perfected (via artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things, etc.), while despite those mechanisms, people will always find ways of circumnavigation. Distributed ledger technologies like blockchain might help track voting and government transactions in ways that make them unfalsifiable, leading to more trust, better transparency and accountability. In a nutshell, can (or even, will) each new foundational technology pose new challenges? YES. Will that fundamentally change the trajectory of a society from democratic to authoritarian, or vice versa? NO.”

Ian O’Byrne, assistant professor of education at the College of Charleston, wrote, “The impact of technology on democratic institutions will ultimately continue to balance out in the next 10 years. Power and money ultimately influence decisions made by democratic bodies. With growing unrest citizens can use social media and current/new digital tools to make themselves heard. Ultimately this will be pushed back again by existing powerholders and nothing may ultimately change. The existing powerholders will continue to exert their influence, and citizens will be left to continue to voice their opinions by shouting into the cyberverse.”

Jaime McCauley, an associate professor of sociology at Coastal Carolina University expert in social movements and social change, wrote, “I suspect little overall variation because I believe we will adapt to the new tech landscape. While much false information continues to be shared, there are larger conversations about the phenomenon and what can be done to vet and factcheck information. In addition, more educators are developing media literacy and similar curricula so, hopefully, we will be better able to spot mis/disinformation in the future.”

Jeffrey Alexander, senior manager, innovation policy, RTI International, said, “The increasing integration of digital technology into civil and public discourse will have a bimodal effect on democracy and democratic institutions. The key driver of this influence will be the prevailing norms of political and social systems, while the features and capabilities of digital technology will be a secondary driver. In societies where people are accustomed to power being centralized in a few institutions, and where central governments already exert power through surveillance and state authority, digital technology will facilitate intimidation, disinformation and other mechanisms for reducing individual liberty, suppressing minority opinion and enforcing authoritarian control. This will enable such governments to enhance the appearance of following democratic norms, such as offering ‘free and open’ elections, but use those mechanisms to reinforce their power by suppressing dissent well before voters reach the polls.  In societies with strong individual education and a tradition of liberty and citizen-driven initiatives, digital technology could help thwart the rise of authoritarian rule, improve oversight and governance of law enforcement and policy processes, and enhance citizen involvement in government and politics. The coordination of protest as seen recently in Hong Kong and San Juan, and in the Women’s March in January 2017, illustrates this capability. The crucial question is whether the use of digital technology can be regulated as it advances, particularly as it can accelerate the spread of misinformation and manipulative content. Still, we can use digital technology to crowdsource the response to those forces.”

Jennifer deWinter, professor of humanities, Worcester Polytechnic Institute, said, “Modern democracies are mostly based on an ideology of exclusion, adopting in the U.S. ‘will of the many over will of the few’ – the few will always be excluded. This has historically been based on national origin, race, sex/gender and class/gentry, but the underlying ideologies of exclusion –built into the political system – are still active in contemporary politics. Internet technologies streamline metonymies of self, sometimes making it easier to find ‘people like me,’ but it is only people like me based on a small component of identity. What internet technologies enable is an amplification of those metonymies to be more representative of a whole identity. However, space, newspapers, countries and community centers have played this role in the past.”

John Leslie King, professor of information, University of Michigan, wrote, “Many hot new technologies are said to bring power so great that it can only be used for good or evil. This immediately stirs up beatific and demonic visions. The net effect of this is to strengthen the claim that technology can bring power so great that it can only be used for good or evil. Most technologies do not bring that kind of power. When they do, people are smart and figure out pretty quick how to leverage their interests with the technology. Pluralistic interests lead to pluralistic leverage. It’s like the old cartoon with the devil on one shoulder and the angel on the other shoulder, and in between the hapless person, torn between the two forces. It is a good cartoon, but it is still a cartoon. ‘Or other forces’ is kind of an out. A giant asteroid hitting Earth would certainly affect democratic institutions and processes significantly. So would a virulent pandemic or nuclear war.”

John Pike, director and founder of GlobalSecurity.org, said, “Democracy in 2030 will face the best of times, and the worst of times. All the optimistic predictions about social media and other online implementations strengthening citizen participation will be realized. All the pessimistic predictions about the ease with which the surveillance state can manipulate public opinion will also be realized. Autocratic regimes such as Russia and China are skilled at such dark arts at home and will practice them globally. In the old days it was pretty obvious that the Communist Party USA member hawking the Daily Worker was working for Moscow, but now attribution is difficult and contested.”

John Senall, small-business owner and digital consultant, said, “A decade after 2030 will show the bigger change potential. We’re now in a new decade of more caution and public discussion about data ownership and possible adaption. But it will take this decade to figure it out, think about what our ideal is and to begin real variations. The type of channels widely used will also likely not change in a huge way between now and 2030, even if the specifics of them do. And the older generation will still have more control of government policy, which is as always a slow process of change.”

Joshua Hatch, a journalist who covers technology issues, said, “It’s difficult for me to imagine a net positive or negative effect from the use of technology – not because I don’t think there will be either, but because I suspect they will cancel each other out. The ability to connect with other citizens, to gain access to information and to connect with social/political leaders will likely be offset by disinformation/misinformation, deepfakes, the digital divide, etc. As a result, it wouldn’t surprise me to find some people with greater civic prominence/influence, due to technological advances, and others more marginalized, disengaged and even harmed by those same advances being purposefully or inadvertently leveraged against them. So, what might democracy look like in 2030? I could imagine more direct connection to elected officials. Better ways of taking the pulse of the citizenry on a regular basis (not just through elections). But with that comes more opportunity to distort what public servants think the public believes. Perhaps we’ll see a bit more direct democracy. Perhaps we’ll also see more direct communication between civic and political leaders and the public through new technologies and platforms. But such developments may also increase the risk of bad actors seeking to interfere with the public sphere.”

June Parris, a member of the Internet Society chapter in Barbados, wrote, “As a person who loves technology, I would hope that it will make the world a better place. However, I do not see this actually taking place. Technology should close gaps between various members of society, however, I can see that it may drive society apart. What is actually taking place is that it is being used to further and improve the lives of those that are already actualized, and some members of society are left out. Democracy should be inclusive, yet the gap between rich and poor is widening. However, we can work to prevent this by being more inclusive.”

Kenneth R. Fleischmann, associate professor, School of Information, University of Texas-Austin, wrote, “Technology will have complex effects on society that will be difficult to predict, that depend on the decisions of tech companies, governments, the press and citizens. Provenance will be key, as deepfakes and other forms of information will make it challenging to differentiate between authentic and fake and between grassroots and AstroTurf roots. Trust will be key, not just blind trust, but trust based on transparent provenance of information that can help users exercise their autonomy and agency.”

Lawrence Wilkinson, chairman at Heminge & Condell and founding president of Global Business Network, the pioneering scenario-planning futures group, wrote, “While tech has distorted civil discourse and challenged (incumbent) democratic norms, it has also reinforced and amplified many of those same institutions/processes. As we learn our way, as a society, into the use of these new technologies, their impact should be felt to be moderate – should be ‘absorbed’ into our democratic norms/institutions, which will feel consistent with their legacy, even if they are, in fact, materially modified by new tech (as was the case with the telegraph, the radio, then television). Civil society will be different in ways that don’t feel different.”

Mark Jamison, a professor at the University of Florida and visiting scholar at American Enterprise Institute, previously manager of regulatory policy at Sprint, wrote, “Well-formed democratic institutions have proven to be quite robust through technological change. The greater challenge to institutions that are intended to protect our freedom is whether we will live with the integrity and character that is necessary for freedom to endure. Failure to live up to this challenge has caused other free peoples to lose their freedom over the centuries.”

Mary K. Pratt, journalist covering information technology, wrote, “Technology does indeed impact democracy and democratic institutions in both positive and negative ways. Inaccurate information and misinformation campaigns, for example, spread quickly in this day and age; but then again so do corrections, while access to sources that can verify or debunk talking points has increased due to technology. Misinformation and inaccurate information existed decades and centuries ago, and while it spread more slowly, so did data-correcting the original misinformation. Similarly, people organized in the past, but those gatherings – whether to support or protest policies – may have been smaller and slower to form than today where technology enables new speed and size to such measures. Overall, I see technology amplifying what has always been present but both on the positive and negative fronts. I’m not sure if either the pro or con is pulling ahead of the other side due to technology.”

Mike Roberts, Internet Hall of Fame member and pioneer CEO of ICANN, said, “Among the effects of the internet on social discourse are 1) amplification of voices (often without enough thought behind them); and 2) a speeding-up of the action-reaction dimension of expression. We are currently in a phase of reaction to having allowed too much power to accrue to social media platforms. Consensus on remedies is difficult to achieve because of the factors noted above, and also because the problem itself is difficult to deal with. Perhaps the single most difficult aspect is moderation, i.e., censorship of expression – how far is too far, etc. We are lucky that the big platforms evolved in the U.S., with our history of First Amendment protections. So, bottom line, there will be a lot of noise, especially from politicians, not many solutions and not much overall movement.”

Miles Fidelman, founder, Center for Civic Networking and principal, Protocol Technologies Group, responded, “There is plenty of history showing that our governing institutions resist such things as ‘electronic town halls,’ and other forms of direct engagement between citizens and policy making (at least in the U.S.). This has been the pattern for almost 30 years – since the day the internet opened to the public. There is little reason to expect that things will change. When it comes to campaigning, politicians are using the internet for fundraising and messaging – just as they have used the mails, newspapers, radio and television in past decades. Just one more medium. When it comes to petitioning the government, there’s little difference between online petitions and offline ones.”

Oscar Gandy, professor emeritus of communication, University of Pennsylvania, said, “I almost never say that there will be little change in the future of democracy. The reason I did so this time is that the list of actors (citizens, civil society, government) excludes too many actors who are likely to make things much worse. I grant that citizens and civil society can balance the impact of government on democracy, but they are not likely to be able to effectively oppose the impacts on democracy that I continue to associate with profit-seeking corporations.”

Philip J. Salem, professor emeritus, Texas State University, expert in complexity of organizational change, said, “People will become increasingly more careful about how they use the internet. Each person must be more mindful of use. More and more people are currently going through an awareness phase about the veracity of claims about civic issues and public figures. We have been here before. Similar abuses and corrections have occurred with each new technology going at least as far back as tabloids and yellow journalism. My concern is that reflexive, non-mindful reactions can spread so fast and have more tragic consequences with the speed of the internet.”

Phillip Downs, senior partner in a market research organization based in Florida, commented, “Humans are still politicians and vice versa, mostly flawed. Technology does not change human behavior.”

Polina Kolozaridi, a sociologist based at the National Research University of Economics, Moscow, expert in the politics of Russia, wrote, “I suppose that what is called democracy now is a temporal bunch of issues that might not further develop in the same way, as plenty of other conditions do change. Technology is, at the same time, changing and is constructed with these changes. Then, concerning democracy, I am sure that the election systems will change. There will be restrictions on the right to vote (e.g., based on data profile). At the same time, the ability to vote directly for some particular and local issues/candidates will increase. It will be more like the Pirate Parties suggest, but only on the local level. Inequality is increasing; this could lead to war. This might change everything in unexpected ways. The media’s role in the public sphere and informed citizenship will be a part of the political discussion in some countries, in some not at all.”

Predrag Tosic, a researcher of multi-agent systems and AI and faculty, Whitworth University, said, “Institutions and political process will be considerably affected, for sure. But this impact will go both, or rather many, different ways. It is therefore hard to predict whether democratic institutions, citizens’ control over their privacy, the political process and societal issues of their concern, stranglehold of any entity or group over the media, etc., will weaken or strengthen. My belief is there will be dynamic counter-balancing of opposing effects.”

Raimundo Beca, a longtime ICANN participant based in Chile, said, “I do believe that democratic institutions do have the means to overcome any technological risk. It has been the case in the last decades. In my opinion, there is no reason why it will not happen again in the next decade.”

Randall Mayes, technology analyst, writer and futurist, commented, “Q: What do you expect democracy to look like in 2030 from the perspective of citizens? A: As an independent without a party that is adequately represented, I ironically feel my voice is actually becoming more important. This is because hard-core ideologues – democrats (~30%) and republicans (~30%) – are spending vast sums of money and basically neutralizing each other’s votes. At the individual rather than party level, independents (~40%) are left to making the major decisions by engaging their brains. Q: What aspects of essential democratic institutions will change? A: Like other sectors of society, politicians and parties that best utilize social media and the digital economy will have an advantage. Q: What role will technology play in whatever changes take place? A: By 2030, the technology divide will shrink as it becomes mainstream similar to the AI Effect. Technology is about trade-offs. The benefits will outweigh the costs, so we will be better off.”

Richard Lachmann, professor, comparative/historical sociology and political sociology, State University of New York-Albany, said, “Democracy will continue to weaken but technology is only a secondary factor. More important in the decline of democracy are the disappearance or weakening of labor unions, the growing power of corporations in all sectors due to mergers, extreme levels of inequality and the ability of the rich and of political actors to manipulate ‘veto points’ to paralyze government initiatives, which then increases citizens’ cynicism about politicians and lessens their participation. All of these preceded the expansion of the internet and will not be significantly lessened by citizens’ online activities.”

Rick O’Gorman, writer for the Evonomics blog and lecturer and employability development director for the department of psychology, University of Essex, said, “We are talking about just a decade. Historically, we always overestimate the rate of change to society from technology. We have already seen many developments, yet arguably the overall/net effect is neutral. This is not to say that there have not been negative or positive effects, just that they seem to balance out. The greatest threat seems to be the prevalence of tracking of people and apps that deceptively capture information. Search apps/tools also are a risk because they can allow for data mining to determine things like voting intent among people with certain other traits and that allows powers to manipulate voting by targeting those groups (somehow – ads through violence). On the flipside, this is increasingly recognised, so governments that represent democratic processes can act to reduce this harm. And groups with positive intent can also use the same tools, though they may be less well financed.”

Riel Miller, head of foresight, UNESCO, based in Paris, wrote, “Taking tools as the entry point to the question of power dynamics mis-specifies both the theory and practice of change. The birth, death and evolution of power relations and the structures that assist the expression of such power make different uses of different tools at different times. The decay of the patterns characteristic of the post-war period is rooted in typical evolutionary processes, of which the changes in the actual tools are only an accompanying symptom.”

Robert Y. Shapiro, professor of political science specializing in American politics, Columbia University, wrote, “These changes will be less important than the realities of political, economic and social life and events. Especially the very real partisan conflict in politics that would still exist without changes in communication and technology. The same for the real-world problems that exist today.”

Robyn Caplan, media and information policy scholar, Data & Society, commented, “It is difficult to say whether social media is a net bad or a net good for democratic institutions. Though it appears that social media is a common denominator in global destabilization, the timing also reflects political and economic trends from the late 1980s and 1990s toward deregulation (and pre-emptive deregulation of social media), and more extreme global income inequality. It is just as likely that these forces play a role in the weakening of democratic institutions. Though states, political campaigns and other actors have been able to use social media to influence public opinion in nefarious ways, it is unclear whether these efforts are better, worse or the same as previous efforts to do the same over other media, such as broadcast or cable.”

Ryan Sweeney, director of analytics, Ignite Social Media, commented, “As I see it, the largest factor in how we look as a democracy in 2030 comes down to the actions of elected leaders and the citizens they represent. I would expect that in the next decade there will be shifts back and forth. Technology can be an instrumental tool of revolution in the same way it can be an instrumental tool in oppression. We as citizens will continue to use emerging technology to make our voices heard while those in power will attempt to leverage technology to work for them.”

Seth Finkelstein, programmer, consultant and EFF Pioneer of the Electronic Frontier Award winner, wrote, “Warren Buffett has said ‘There’s class warfare, all right, but it’s my class, the rich class, that’s making war, and we’re winning.’ We can examine how this class warfare changes with advances in technology, analogous to how military warfare has been affected by technology. But no weapons technology to date has inevitably produced democracy over dictatorship (or vice-versa). For example, there once was a type of boosterism that talked about how ordinary people could make websites and promoted its very rare cause-celebre success. But that storyline is now going out of fashion. It’s finally getting to be pundit knowledge that there’s a whole system behind which material gets promoted. Paid professional liars can both make websites themselves and work this system better than amateurs. There’s currently a national panic over Russian trolls. But native fiends can do the same thing, with more skill, incentive and opportunities.”

Shannon Ellis, an expert in data science and teaching professor, University of California-San Diego, said, “I am fearful of the ways in which technology *could* be used going forward. If done correctly, technology could strengthen our democratic institutions. However, without appropriate resources aimed toward smart, secure systems, we put ourselves in a very perilous situation. I answered that not much will change because I think we’re at a decision point right now and it’s not yet apparent in which direction we’ll go.”

Stowe Boyd, consulting futurist expert in technological evolution and the future of work, responded, “There is no single answer for this because governments and political agendas vary so widely across the world. In highly repressive states, new technologies to monitor citizens and control dissent will be employed to thwart democratic processes. In more democratic regions, we will see an increasing resistance to corporate and governmental application of technologies – like surveillance, artificial intelligence, and social media – to attempt to influence popular opinion and democratic processes. I’ve written about a ‘Human Spring’ where a majority of individuals in Western countries more-or-less spontaneously rise up in a general strike against the status quo, demanding a response to climate change, inequality and the hollowing out of work by AI and other advanced technologies. Perhaps 2023?”

Tracey Follows, futurist and founder, Futuremade, wrote, “I believe that the negative effect of technology on democracy has been significantly over-hyped. One reason is that for the most part people have inherent beliefs and values that become ingrained in early life and through their development, reinforced by the communities one spends time with and the information, narratives and evidence one is exposed to in those groups. To think that people suddenly change their entire values-system because they see a message from an unknown or known messenger on a social media platform is nonsense. Yes, information, en masse and in public, can change public opinion over time but the effect of singular messages to individuals on social feeds is exaggerated. One is more likely to ignore a fact that does not fit one’s world view than change one’s world view to fit the fact. Human nature is stronger than social media. However, social media has changed the nature of institutions because the messaging is no longer one-way and broadcast, but two-way and dialogue, and by virtue of that means that institutions have to be open to criticism, and question. We can only expect more of this over the next decade or so to the point that almost every policy, statement and utterance an authority or institution makes in the future is immediately questioned in detail and in public, rather than is taken as objective fact. That is what has changed and will continue to change.”

Tyaga Nandagopal, program director, Networking Technology and Systems, U.S. National Science Foundation, wrote, “The process by which people engage in a civil, democratic society is only catalyzed by technology, but technology itself does not fundamentally change how people look at their willingness to engage in the democratic process. This has been the way for each technology revolution (newspapers, telegraph, radio, television and now the internet). The speed at which this catalysis happens has increased with each new generation of technology, but people have not changed fundamentally, and we can expect the very same to happen in the near- to medium-term future (for another 40 years). Speaking of the United States, the institutions of democracy (namely the legislature, judiciary and the executive) are all governed by archaic procedures and rules that predate the digital era. Congress still works the way it did the day it was first constituted, with not much different procedures in place (representatives have to be physically present inside the chamber to vote!). The people who control the levers of power within these institutions are also those who came of age before the dawn of the personal computer. As such, these ‘principals’ have very little appreciation to the power of change that technology can provide to the process of governance, rule-making, societal representation and citizen feedback. Given the current trends that point to an increase in average lifespan, it is unlikely that any of these power brokers are going to relinquish their powers to a younger generation of leaders who might be more inclined (but not necessarily guaranteed) to consider an increasing role to bring in technology into the democratic process. Therefore, the prospects for any changes to democracy in 2030 are dim.”

Vince Carducci, researcher of new uses of communication to mobilize civil society and dean, College of Creative Studies, wrote, “With technology changing so quickly it is difficult to predict one way or another what the effect on democracy will be. First is the nature of liberal democracy itself, which one might argue has always been limited in its participatory function. There have always been ways to manipulate voters, from the ward bosses of the 19th century to mass-media propaganda in the 20th century to fake news in the 21st. Second, institutional changes are occurring more as a function of power and money rather than technology, particularly in the selection of candidates and in the judicial system. Those are more of threat than technology.”

William L. Schrader, founder of PSINet and internet pioneer, now with Logixedge Inc., said, “Social media is the name used to describe the disruption in society caused by today’s extensively connected communications fabric. Now that ‘bad actors’ who lie about facts are fully active in all segments of society, we must ask ourselves: 1) Whom did we listen to before social media? 2) Is this better or worse? 3) Whom do we believe? 1) There are those who thought that all media was government controlled before the internet’s social media days. The counter-media still published in paper its negative messages filled with rage and fury to their ‘small’ groups. Whether Neo-Nazi, KKK, pro-some-president or against, and all the obvious fake news we have heard in the past two-plus years from the USA’s current president, many people still make up their own minds and others listen to whomever they choose. This SAME insanity was presented 30 years in paper form and mailed to our homes or offices. We complained then as we do now. 2) Better or worse? Well, we are absolutely certain now that anyone anywhere can publish anything! And that was our goal in creating this commercial internet. How people think, listen, debate and choose to vote is STILL their right, and their responsibility. If they only listen to people they agree with, then they’ll not be challenged and will continue in their rut of a life. Only educated people can properly participate in democracy; that has not changed since democracy was invented. 3) How do we learn and how do we decide? Read more than one source, such as 10, and make sure you include all sides of the argument(s) in your readings. Try hard not to make rash decisions and have an open mind to others’ views. Then make up your own mind, and vote or act in that way which maximizes the value for society (if that is your goal). If you always vote with your wallet then you’d better understand how trade wars work.”

Yogendra Pal, a technical lead for a global networking company, said, “I don’t believe there will be much effect to social/civic part of democracy, reason being there has to be overall consensus for adoption of technology. In adoption of technology, each country has its own pace and growth attached, which is not certain which dynamics involved.”

The following are attributed responses made by those who wrote a comment after not choosing any of the three options on the democracy question

Amy Webb, quantitative futurist and founder of the Future Today Institute, wrote, “There are too many variables in play to predict just one plausible trajectory for the future of our democratic institutions. If we enter a decade of synthetic media without restrictions, increased algorithmic determinism and financial incentives that favor competition over collaboration, the core strengths of our democracies will have eroded. Citizens will be more vulnerable to misleading information and will be served the kinds of content that capture their attention. However, if we develop guardrails, norms and standards now that encourage transparency, authenticity and collaboration, our democratic institutions could be significantly strengthened. I see movement along both trajectories.”

Anthony Nadler, associate professor of media and communication studies, Ursinus College, and fellow at the Tow Center for Digital Journalism, said, “One way of thinking about technological development is as a process of discovery and innovation that simply unfolds along a predestined path. But I hope the techlash helps to challenge this way of thinking about the future of technology. When it comes to issues like the growth of online disinformation or exploitation of user data – just to draw on a couple poignant examples – today’s tech crisis is not simply the inevitable outcome of digital technology. These problems stem from particular choices about how our contemporary digital architecture has been designed to serve the commercial purposes of the dominant players in the market. The question for the next 10 years, then is not simply a matter of what new technologies will be invented or which technical problems will be solved. It’s going to be a matter of how technologies are ‘regulated’ in the broadest sense – i.e., which groups and whose perspectives will have a decisive input into how technology is designed and what values and goals it will be built to prioritize. In the midst of the techlash, the question is whether our digital infrastructure is going to be reformed or overhauled to better suit democratic values and serve a wider range of interests than profit incentives.”

Arka Bhuiyan, a computer science and engineering student at the University of Dhaka, said, “Democracy, on that particular period, would definitely utilize all the available tools of technology. People will not have to go to election polls to cast their vote. There will be ways to vote online from their verified gadgets. The candidates will go for their publicity in social media or through internet. We can see that very few people try to get through to people with social media and ask about their opinion. I guess that day is not very far that social media or say internet will be the primary medium for publicity.”

Barbara Simons, past president of the Association for Computing Machinery, commented, “If climate change is not treated as an emergency and as the existential threat to civilization and much life on earth that it is, civilization as we know it will be destroyed. In all likelihood non-democratic regimes will be created that are fascist in nature because of the limited amount of resources available. Technology will be used to control citizens. Perhaps it also will be used to decrease the amount of carbon in the atmosphere, but that remains to be seen.”

Bebo White, internet pioneer and longtime leader of the International World Wide Web conference, wrote, “I chose not to answer the question since it does not address technological change and regulations/safeguards. Technology certainly has the capability to effect significant positive change in the exercise of a democracy and empower a portion of the population who have otherwise been ignored. But the issues that have arisen in the past two years regarding social manipulation and disinformation must be addressed.”

Daniel Rogers, expert on disinformation and co-founder of the Global Disinformation Initiative, wrote, “We are at a crossroads when it comes to the impact the internet will have over the next decade. The internet was founded by idealists who believed in transparency and the free exchange of information. That transparency and decentralization led to tremendous advancement, from the Arab Spring to the #MeToo movement. But the internet is no longer dominated by such idealism, and instead is dominated by the largest for-profit, ad-driven business models in history. Fundamentally, these business models are toxic. They turn the users into products that are commoditized and sold to a small number of marketers who control the pipes and the conversation at the expense of the users, their data and their privacy. These models reward increasingly divisive and toxic content, as that garners attention and keeps the users’ eyes on the screen. And as these behavior modification tools become more sophisticated and ubiquitous, they attract the employment by authoritarians around the world, shoring up the toxic business models in a vicious feedback loop. The good news is, we know this, and we can change it, through strong privacy regulation, anti-trust, strong content moderation and platform liability, and other regulatory and civic interventions. But such change will require political will, and I’m not yet convinced we have it. So, while I’m bullish on the long-term positive impact the internet will have on the world, I’m 50/50 on whether we make it there without destroying ourselves first.”

Nancy Heltman, manager of a state agency based in the U.S., wrote, “The negative aspects of bots and influencers driving opinions are likely to outweigh the positive aspects of increasing involvement in the political process.”

David Greenfield, founder and medical director, The Center for Internet and Technology Addiction, University of Connecticut School of Medicine, said, “If technology is simplified and voting is portable (smartphones) then there would be a possible positive outcome.”

Evan Selinger, professor of philosophy, Rochester Institute of Technology, said, “I’m not sure how anyone can make a credible prediction. First, momentum from the techlash hasn’t resulted in a tipping point. It’s unclear whether momentum for real change is slowly building or resignation and cynicism have become more deeply entrenched. Second, it’s still too early to know what the long-term consequences will be of the General Data Protection Regulation. Third, new challenges like deepfakes are springing up, and they serve as a reminder that the speed of innovation has an edge over the slower changing horizon of regulation. Fourth, politics matter! Whether or not Trump gets re-elected will have a major impact on what democracy looks like in 2030. and not only in the U.S. Fifth, we’re living through a moment where leading experts are struggling to come to terms with the disruptive potential of artificial intelligence. If using AI products and services helps authoritarian governments further eviscerate personal and collective liberties, will democratic ones get nudged closer to authoritarianism themselves?”

Gry Hasselbalch, co-founder of DataEthicsEU, wrote, “Our technological environment holds the potential for both – a weakening or a strengthening of democracy. Basically, this depends on how conflicts between different interests in technology development are resolved today. Which interests will dominate over others in the design standards, the laws, education and culture of technology development? Commercial interests in profiting from data intensive technologies? States’ interests in technological control and efficiency? Or the human interest in terms of agency, self-determination and dignity? The answer to this question will shape technological design, business models and their interaction with our world in the future. It depends on technical, design practices, legal, economic and cultural processes that support a human centric distribution of powers. I am optimistic because I see a social movement of change and action. Across the globe, we’re seeing a cultural shift and a technological and legal development that increasingly places the human at the center. The European General Data Protection Regulation is a great example of this shift as well as new citizen privacy concerns and practices such as the rise of use of adblockers, privacy enhancing services, etc.”

Roger E.A. Farmer, research director, National Institute of Economic and Social Research, London, and professor of economics, University of Warwick, author of “Prosperity for All,” wrote, “Technology is profoundly changing the nature of democracy for both the better and the worse. More people than ever are able to participate in political discourse and that is a strength. But, at the same time, social media is polarizing society, destroying free speech and exerting a chilling effect on the ability of intellectuals of all stripes to voice an unpopular opinion without fear of censorship from the mob. This is a profound weakness.”

Judith Donath’s two scenarios

Judith Donath, a fellow at Harvard’s Berkman Klein Center currently writing a book about technology, trust and deception and the founder of the Sociable Media Group at the MIT Media Lab, chose not to select any of the three possible choices offered in this canvassing, instead sharing two possible scenarios for 2030 and beyond. She wrote:

Scenario #1: Democracy is in tatters. The rise of authoritarianism is worldwide, triggered by rapid social change and stoked by fear of immigrants, of the vast refugee populations, fleeing war and famine (due ultimately to overpopulation and environmental degradation, including but not limited to climate change). Surveillance technology aids repressive governments. News is abundant but unreliable, often exquisitely tailored to persuade, anger or confuse. Automation has eliminated numerous jobs and joining some form of militia (whether government army, street gang or terrorist organization) is the main alternative.

In the big picture, unemployment, overpopulation and environmental degradation — the ultimate causes of this turn toward repression — are disasters we created with technology. The extraordinary technological developments of the last several centuries were accompanied by, and inextricable from, political and moral philosophies which included the belief that everything on earth exists for the use and exploitation of humans, that growth is good and wealth is the goal.

Yet in an immediate sense, this is not a scenario that has been brought about or relies on technology. The turn toward authoritarianism, fear of outsiders, etc. is an ancient response. Yes, repression is aided by surveillance — but there have been plenty of repressive regimes predating contemporary panoptic technologies. Nor has it been caused by disinformation campaigns — though they may well have tipped crucial elections, it is only with a receptive, i.e., angry and fearful, population that they can succeed.

But let’s look at another scenario.

Scenario #2: Post-capitalist democracy prevails. Fairness and equal opportunity are recognized to benefit all. The wealth from automation is shared among the whole population. Investments in education foster critical thinking, and artistic, scientific and technological creativity. New economic models favor sustainability over growth. Radical infrastructure changes reduce human environmental footprint: e.g., eliminating private cars vastly reduces percentage of earth’s surface that is paved plummets. New voting methods increasingly feature direct democracy – AI translates voter preferences into policy.

What would it take to move seriously in this direction? It’s a revolutionary scenario, one that requires moving beyond capitalism and the assumption that growth is inherently good. Yet this change is arguably necessary: Our exploitive relationship with the world around us has brought us and the other inhabitants of this planet to the brink of extinction. While essential, it would entail tremendous political and social change, which I am doubtful will happen. But let’s look at what could help.

Short term: While, as I said, I don’t think disinformation campaigns are the cause of our current political problem, they can tip key elections. And, unreliability confuses people, and even the most well-intentioned just learn to tune out. So, battling fake news, etc., is key. One reasonably easy fix is for Facebook and other newsfeed aggregators to make seeing the source of a news article or video a prominent and hard-to-detach part of the viewing experience. Another is better interfaces for discussion and moderation.

Longer term: One problem facing democracy in America is that we are far from a situation where government is by and for the people and where each citizen’s vote counts as much as any other’s. The sources of this problem include the electoral college and Senate, which give citizens in rural states far greater influence per vote than residents of populous states; Citizens United and many other ways in which corporate interests have an overwhelmingly powerful voice in governing, and the inherent problems of representation, where we vote for people, not policies. The last is an issue that contemporary technology could address – can we create a government system in which people vote for policies and outcomes they want, and the government consists of people, aided by machines, who figure out how, within Constitutional boundaries, to fulfill these goals?

A note on automation: We have a looming unemployment crisis directly caused by technology — but only because of how we have chosen to structure work and profit. Automation should be a tremendous boon to workers, making everyone better off, not a nightmare of unemployment, homelessness and hopelessness. In addition to revising how we distribute the benefits of automation, we need to rethink the meaning of work. One meaning of work is the job you go to make money, to be compensated for doing something you would not otherwise choose to do. But there is also the meaning of work as in artistic, personal work — we say of some artists and writers that the held a day job and then went home to do their work. Here, the word “work” is used to mean doing something meaningful. As more and more jobs are eliminated by automation, we need to ensure not only that people can still survive, still have food and shelter, but also that they have a place for ambition and accomplishment.

To read the full report on the Future of Democracy in the Digital Age, click here:

To read the credited responses to the questions, click here: