Governing the Digital Future

Report by the New America Foundation: “…The first part of this analysis was focused on five issue areas in digital technology that are driving conflict, human rights violations, and socioeconomic displacement: (1) AI and algorithmic decision-making, (2) digital access and divides, (3) data protection and data sovereignty, (4) digital identity and surveillance, and (5) transnational cybercrime...

From our dialogues, consultations, and analysis, a fundamental conclusion emerged: An over-concentration of power and severe power asymmetries are causing conflict, harm, and governance dysfunction in the digital domain. Whereas the internet began as a distributed enterprise that connected and empowered individuals worldwide, extreme concentrations of political, economic, and social power now characterize the digital domain. Power imbalances are especially acute between developing and wealthy nations, as a handful of rich-world tech companies and nation-states control the terms and trajectory of digitization…

On a more practical level, a few takeaways and first principles stood out as in need of urgent attention:

  1. We have a critical opportunity to get ahead of possible harms that will stem from AI; science and citizen-centric fora like the Pugwash Conferences on Science and Technology offer a model means of refocusing the digital governance ecosystem beyond the myopic logic of national sovereignty.
  2. Amid digital divides and increasing government control over the internet, multilateral and multi-stakeholder agencies should invest in fail-safes, alternative or redundant means of access, that can shift the stewardship of connectivity away from concentrated power centers.
  3. Regional standards that respect diverse local circumstances can help generate global cooperation on challenges such as cybercrime.
  4. To reduce global conflict in digital surveillance, democracies should practice what they preach and ban commercial spyware outright.
  5. Redistributing the value from big data can diminish corporate power and empower individuals…(More)”