Prophets at a Tangent: How Art Shapes Social Imagination

Book by Geoff Mulgan: “This Element asks if the arts can help us imagine a better future society and economy, without deep social gulfs or ecological harm. It argues that at their best, the arts open up new ways of seeing and thinking. They can warn and prompt and connect us to a bigger sense of what we could be. But artists have lost their role as gods and prophets, partly as an effect of digital technologies and the ubiquity of artistic production, and partly as an effect of shifting values. Few recent books, films, artworks or exhibitions have helped us imagine how our world could solve its problems or how it might be better a generation or more from now. This Element argues that artists work best not as prophets of a new society but rather as ‘prophets at a tangent’….(More)”.

Automating Immigration and Asylum: The Uses of New Technologies in Migration and Asylum Governance in Europe

Report by Derya Ozkul: “The EU’s Artificial Intelligence Act proposal categorises AI uses for immigration, asylum and border as high risk, but new technologies are already used in many aspects of migration and asylum ‘management’ beyond imagination. To be able to reflect on the AI Act proposal, we first need to understand what current uses are, but this information is not always publicly available.

The new report by the Algorithmic Fairness for Asylum Seekers and Refugees (AFAR) project shows the multitude of uses of new technologies across Europe at the national and the EU levels. In particular, the report explores in detail the use of forecasting tools, risk assessment and triaging systems, processing of short- and long-term residency and citizenship applications, document verification, speech and dialect recognition, distribution of welfare benefits, matching tools, mobile phone data extraction and electronic monitoring, across Europe. It highlights the need for transparency and thorough training of decision-makers, as well as the inclusion of migrants’ interests in the design, decision, and implementation stages…(More)”.

The Health of Democracies During the Pandemic: Results from a Randomized Survey Experiment

Paper by Marcella Alsan et al: “Concerns have been raised about the “demise of democracy”, possibly accelerated by pandemic-related restrictions. Using a survey experiment involving 8,206 respondents from five Western democracies, we find that subjects randomly exposed to information regarding civil liberties infringements undertaken by China and South Korea to contain COVID-19 became less willing to sacrifice rights and more worried about their long-term-erosion. However, our treatment did not increase support for democratic procedures more generally, despite our prior evidence that pandemic-related health risks diminished such support. These results suggest that the start of the COVID-19 crisis was a particularly vulnerable time for democracies…(More)”.

The Smartness Mandate

Book by Orit Halpern and Robert Mitchell: “Smart phones. Smart cars. Smart homes. Smart cities. The imperative to make our world ever smarter in the face of increasingly complex challenges raises several questions: What is this “smartness mandate”? How has it emerged, and what does it say about our evolving way of understanding—and managing—reality? How have we come to see the planet and its denizens first and foremost as data-collecting instruments?

In The Smartness Mandate, Orit Halpern and Robert Mitchell radically suggest that “smartness” is not primarily a technology, but rather an epistemology. Through this lens, they offer a critical exploration of the practices, technologies, and subjects that such an understanding relies upon—above all, artificial intelligence and machine learning. The authors approach these not simply as techniques for solving problems of calculations, but rather as modes of managing life (human and other) in terms of neo-Darwinian evolution, distributed intelligences, and “resilience,” all of which have serious implications for society, politics, and the environment.

The smartness mandate constitutes a new form of planetary governance, and Halpern and Mitchell aim to map the logic of this seemingly inexorable and now naturalized demand to compute, illuminate the genealogy of how we arrived here, and point to alternative imaginaries of the possibilities and potentials of smart technologies and infrastructures…(More)”.

The Doctor Who Wasn’t There: Technology, History, and the Limits of Telehealth

Book by Jeremy A. Greene: “The Doctor Who Wasn’t There traces the long arc of enthusiasm for—and skepticism of—electronic media in health and medicine. Over the past century, a series of new technologies promised to democratize access to healthcare. From the humble telephone to the connected smartphone, from FM radio to wireless wearables, from cable television to the “electronic brains” of networked mainframe computers: each new platform has promised a radical reformation of the healthcare landscape. With equal attention to the history of technology, the history of medicine, and the politics and economies of American healthcare, physician and historian Jeremy A. Greene explores the role that electronic media play, for better and for worse, in the past, present, and future of our health.

Today’s telehealth devices are far more sophisticated than the hook-and-ringer telephones of the 1920s, the radios that broadcasted health data in the 1940s, the closed-circuit televisions that enabled telemedicine in the 1950s, or the online systems that created electronic medical records in the 1960s. But the ethical, economic, and logistical concerns they raise are prefigured in the past, as are the gaps between what was promised and what was delivered. Each of these platforms also produced subtle transformations in health and healthcare that we have learned to forget, displaced by promises of ever newer forms of communication that took their place. 

Illuminating the social and technical contexts in which electronic medicine has been conceived and put into practice, Greene’s history shows the urgent stakes, then and now, for those who would seek in new media the means to build a more equitable future for American healthcare….(More)”.

Why Do Innovations Fail? Lessons Learned from a Digital Democratic Innovation

Paper by Jenny Lindholm and Janne Berg: “Democratic innovations are brought forward by political scientists as a response to worrying democratic deficits. This paper aims to evaluate the design, process, and outcome of digital democratic innovations. We study a mobile application for following local politics. Data is collected using three online surveys with different groups, and a workshop with young citizens. The results show that the app did not fully meet the democratic ideal of inclusiveness at the process stage, especially in reaching young people. However, the user groups that had used the app reported positive democratic effects…(More)”.

The Autocrat in Your iPhone

Article by Ronald J. Deibert: “In the summer of 2020, a Rwandan plot to capture exiled opposition leader Paul Rusesabagina drew international headlines. Rusesabagina is best known as the human rights defender and U.S. Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient who sheltered more than 1,200 Hutus and Tutsis in a hotel during the 1994 Rwandan genocide. But in the decades after the genocide, he also became a prominent U.S.-based critic of Rwandan President Paul Kagame. In August 2020, during a layover in Dubai, Rusesabagina was lured under false pretenses into boarding a plane bound for Kigali, the Rwandan capital, where government authorities immediately arrested him for his affiliation with an opposition group. The following year, a Rwandan court sentenced him to 25 years in prison, drawing the condemnation of international human rights groups, the European Parliament, and the U.S. Congress. 

Less noted at the time, however, was that this brazen cross-border operation may also have employed highly sophisticated digital surveillance. After Rusesabagina’s sentencing, Amnesty International and the Citizen Lab at the University of Toronto, a digital security research group I founded and direct, discovered that smartphones belonging to several of Rusesabagina’s family members who also lived abroad had been hacked by an advanced spyware program called Pegasus. Produced by the Israel-based NSO Group, Pegasus gives an operator near-total access to a target’s personal data. Forensic analysis revealed that the phone belonging to Rusesabagina’s daughter Carine Kanimba had been infected by the spyware around the time her father was kidnapped and again when she was trying to secure his release and was meeting with high-level officials in Europe and the U.S. State Department, including the U.S. special envoy for hostage affairs. NSO Group does not publicly identify its government clients and the Rwandan government has denied using Pegasus, but strong circumstantial evidence points to the Kagame regime.

In fact, the incident is only one of dozens of cases in which Pegasus or other similar spyware technology has been found on the digital devices of prominent political opposition figures, journalists, and human rights activists in many countries. Providing the ability to clandestinely infiltrate even the most up-to-date smartphones—the latest “zero click” version of the spyware can penetrate a device without any action by the user—Pegasus has become the digital surveillance tool of choice for repressive regimes around the world. It has been used against government critics in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and pro-democracy protesters in Thailand. It has been deployed by Mohammed bin Salman’s Saudi Arabia and Viktor Orban’s Hungary…(More)”.

2023 Edelman Trust Barometer

Press Release: “The 2023 Edelman Trust Barometer reveals that business is now viewed as the only global institution to be both competent and ethical. Business now holds a staggering 53-point lead over government in competence and is 30 points ahead on ethics. Its treatment of workers during the pandemic and return to work, along with the swift and decisive action of over 1,000 businesses to exit Russia after its invasion of Ukraine helped fuel a 20-point jump on ethics over the past three years. Business (62 percent) remains the most and only trusted institution globally. …

Other key findings from the 2023 Edelman Trust Barometer include:

  • Personal economic fears such as job loss (89 percent) and inflation (74 percent) are on par with urgent societal fears like climate change (76 percent), nuclear war (72 percent) and food shortages (67 percent).
  • CEOs are expected to use resources to hold divisive forces accountable: 72 percent believe CEOs are obligated to defend facts and expose questionable science being used to justify bad social policy; 71 percent believe CEOs are obligated to pull advertising money out of media platforms that spread misinformation; and 64 percent, on average, say companies can help increase civility and strengthen the social fabric by supporting politicians and media outlets that build consensus and cooperation.
  • Government (51 percent) is now distrusted in 16 of the 28 countries surveyed including the U.S. (42 percent), the UK (37 percent), Japan (33 percent), and Argentina (20 percent). Media (50 percent) is distrusted in 15 of 28 countries including Germany (47 percent), the U.S. (43 percent), Australia (38 percent), and South Korea (27 percent). ‘My employer’ (77 percent) is the most trusted institution and is trusted in every country surveyed aside from South Korea (54 percent).
  • Government leaders (41 percent), journalists (47 percent) and CEOs (48 percent) are the least trusted institutional leaders. Scientists (76 percent), my coworkers (73 percent among employees) and my CEO (64 percent among employees) are most trusted.
  • Technology (75 percent) was once again the most trusted sector trailed by education (71 percent), food & beverage (71 percent) and healthcare (70 percent). Social media (44 percent) remained the least trusted sector.
  • Canada (67 percent) and Germany (63 percent) remained the two most trusted foreign brands, followed by Japan (61 percent) and the UK (59 percent). India (34 percent) and China (32 percent) remain the least trusted..(More)”.

Nudge and Nudging in Public Policy

Paper by Sanchayan Banerjee and damPeter John: “Nudging has been used to make public policies widely, in various fields such as personal finance, health, education, environment/climate, privacy, law, and human well-being. Nonetheless, with an increase in the applications of nudging, the toolkit of nudges also expanded massively, which ultimately led to multiple different conceptualisations and definitions of the nudge. In this entry, we review developments to nudge and nudging in public policy. First, we briefly discuss the political philosophy and psychological paradigm behind the conventional nudge, and examples of economically modelling nudge applications. Then, we highlight the role of nudges in behavioural public policy, an emerging subdiscipline of public policy which uses insights from behavioural sciences to develop new policies. We review the many definitions of nudge and introduce alternative toolkits of behaviours change, such as thinks, boosts, nudge+. We conclude with a discussion on the limitations of nudging in public policy and future research in behavioural public policy….(More)”.

Experiments of Living Constitutionalism

Paper by Cass R. Sunstein: “Experiments of Living Constitutionalism urges that the Constitution should be interpreted so as to allow both individuals and groups to experiment with different ways of living, whether we are speaking of religious practices, family arrangements, political associations, civic associations, child-rearing, schooling, romance, or work. Experiments of Living Constitutionalism prizes diversity and plurality; it gives pride of place to freedom of speech, freedom of association, and free exercise of religion (which it would protect against the imposition of secular values); it cherishes federalism; it opposes authoritarianism in all its forms. While Experiments of Living Constitutionalism has considerable appeal, my purpose in naming it is not to endorse or defend it, but as a thought experiment and to contrast it to Common Good Constitutionalism, with the aim of specifying the criteria on which one might embrace or defend any approach to constitutional law. My central conclusion is that we cannot know whether to accept or reject Experiments of Living Constitutionalism, Common Good Constitutionalism, Common Law Constitutionalism, democracy-reinforcing approaches, moral readings, originalism, or any other proposed approach without a concrete sense of what it entails – of what kind of constitutional order it would likely bring about or produce. No approach to constitutional interpretation can be evaluated without asking how it fits with the evaluator’s “fixed points,” which operate at multiple levels of generality. The search for reflective equilibrium is essential in deciding whether to accept a theory of constitutional interpretation…(More)”.