The citizen’s panel on AI issues its report

Belgian presidency of the European Union: “Randomly select 60 citizens from all four corners of Belgium. Give them an exciting topic to explore. Add a few local players. Season with participation experts. Bake for three weekends at the Egmont Palace conference centre. And you’ll end up with the rich and ambitious views of citizens on the future of artificial intelligence (AI) in the European Union.

This is the recipe that has been in progress since February 2024, led by the Belgian presidency of the European Union, with the ambition of involving citizens in this strategic field and enriching the debate on AI, which has been particularly lively in recent months as part of the drafting of the AI Act recently adopted by the European Parliament.

And the initiative really cut the mustard, as the 60 citizens worked enthusiastically, overcoming their apprehensions about a subject as complex as AI. In a spirit of collective intelligence, they dove right into the subject, listening to speakers from academia, government, civil society and the private sector, and sharing their experiences and knowledge. Some of them were just discovering AI, while others were already using it. They turned this diversity into a richness, enabling them to write a report on citizens’ views that reflects the various aspirations of the Belgian population.

At the end of the three weekends, the citizens almost unanimously adopted a precise and ambitious report containing nine key messages focusing on the need for a responsible, ambitious and beneficial approach to AI, ensuring that it serves the interests of all and leaves no one behind…(More)”

Sorting the Self

Article by Christopher Yates: “We are unknown to ourselves, we knowers…and there is good reason for this. We have never looked for ourselves—so how are we ever supposed to find ourselves?” Much has changed since the late nineteenth century, when Nietzsche wrote those words. We now look obsessively for ourselves, and we find ourselves in myriad ways. Then we find more ways of finding ourselves. One involves a tool, around which grew a science, from which bloomed a faith, and from which fell the fruits of dogma. That tool is the questionnaire. The science is psychometrics. And the faith is a devotion to self-codification, of which the revelation of personality is the fruit.

Perhaps, whether on account of psychological evaluation and therapy, compulsory corporate assessments, spiritual direction endeavors, or just a sporting interest, you have had some experience of this phenomenon. Perhaps it has served you well. Or maybe you have puzzled over the strange avidity with which we enable standardized tests and the technicians or portals that administer them to gauge the meaning of our very being. Maybe you have been relieved to discover that, according to the 16 Personality Types assessments, you are an ISFP; or, according to the Enneagram, you are a 3 with a 2 or 4 wing. Or maybe you have been somewhat troubled by how this peculiar term personality, derived as it is from the Latin persona (meaning the masks once worn by players on stage), has become a repository of so many adjectives—one that violates Aristotle’s cardinal metaphysical rule against reducing a substance to its properties.

Either way, the self has never been more securely an object of classification than it is today, thanks to the century-long ascendence of behavioral analysis and scientific psychology, sociometry, taxonomic personology, and personality theory. Add to these the assorted psychodiagnostic instruments drawing on refinements of multiple regression analysis, and multivariate and circumplex modeling, trait determination and battery-based assessments, and the ebbs and flows of psychoanalytic theory. Not to be overlooked, of course, is the popularizing power of evidence-based objective and predictive personality profiling inside and outside the laboratory and therapy chambers since Katherine Briggs began envisioning what would become the fabled person-sorting Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) in 1919. A handful of phone calls, psychological referrals, job applications, and free or modestly priced hyperlinked platforms will place before you (and the eighty million or more other Americans who take these tests annually) more than two thousand personality assessments promising to crack your code. Their efficacy has become an object of our collective speculation. And by many accounts, their revelations make us not only known but also more empowered to live healthy and fulfilling lives. Nietzsche had many things, but he did not have or…(More)”.

Dynamic Collective Action and the Power of Large Numbers

Paper by Marco Battaglini & Thomas R. Palfrey: “Collective action is a dynamic process where individuals in a group assess over time the benefits and costs of participating toward the success of a collective goal. Early participation improves the expectation of success and thus stimulates the subsequent participation of other individuals who might otherwise be unwilling to engage. On the other hand, a slow start can depress expectations and lead to failure for the group. Individuals have an incentive to procrastinate, not only in the hope of free riding, but also in order to observe the flow of participation by others, which allows them to better gauge whether their own participation will be useful or simply wasted. How do these phenomena affect the probability of success for a group? As the size of the group increases, will a “power of large numbers” prevail producing successful outcomes, or will a “curse of large numbers” lead to failure? In this paper, we address these questions by studying a dynamic collective action problem in which n individuals can achieve a collective goal if a share of them takes a costly action (e.g., participate in a protest, join a picket line, or sign an environmental agreement). Individuals have privately known participation costs and decide over time if and when to participate. We characterize the equilibria of this game and show that under general conditions the eventual success of collective action is necessarily probabilistic. The process starts for sure, and hence there is always a positive probability of success; however, the process “gets stuck” with positive probability, in the sense that participation stops short of the goal. Equilibrium outcomes have a simple characterization in large populations: welfare converges to either full efficiency or zero as n→∞ depending on a precise condition on the rate at which the share required for success converges to zero. Whether success is achievable or not, delays are always irrelevant: in the limit, success is achieved either instantly or never…(More)”

Empowered Mini-Publics: A Shortcut or Democratically Legitimate?

Paper by Shao Ming Lee: “Contemporary mini-publics involve randomly selected citizens deliberating and eventually tackling thorny issues. Yet, the usage of mini-publics in creating public policy has come under criticism, of which a more persuasive  strand  is  elucidated  by  eminent  philosopher  Cristina  Lafont,  who  argues  that  mini-publics  with  binding  decision-making  powers  (or  ‘empowered  mini-publics’)  are  an  undemocratic  ‘shortcut’  and  deliberative democrats thus cannot use empowered mini-publics for shaping public policies. This paper aims to serve as a nuanced defense of empowered mini-publics against Lafont’s claims. I argue against her  claims  by  explicating  how  participants  of  an  empowered  mini-public  remain  ordinary,  accountable,  and therefore connected to the broader public in a democratically legitimate manner. I further critique Lafont’s own proposals for non-empowered mini-publics and judicial review as failing to satisfy her own criteria for democratic legitimacy in a self-defeating manner and relying on a double standard. In doing so, I show how empowered mini-publics are not only democratic but can thus serve to expand democratic deliberation—a goal Lafont shares but relegates to non-empowered mini-publics…(More)”.

Participatory mapping as a social digital tool

Blog by María de los Ángeles Briones: “…we will use 14 different examples from different continents and contexts to explore the goals and methods used for participatory mapping as a social digital tool. Despite looking very different and coming from a range of cultural backgrounds, there are a number of similarities in these different case studies.

Although the examples have different goals, we have identified four main focus areas: activism, conviviality, networking and urban planning. More localised mapping projects often had a focus on activism. We also see from that maps are not isolated tools, they are complementary to work with other communication tools and platforms.

The internet has transformed communications and networks across the globe – allowing for interconnectivity and scalability of information among and between different groups of society. This allows voices, regardless of their location, to be amplified and listened to by many other voices achieving collective goals. This has great potential in a global world where it is evident that top-down initiatives are not enough to handle many of the social needs that local people experience. However, though the internet makes sharing and collaborating between people easier, offline maps are still valuable, as shown in some of our examples.

The similarity between the different maps that we explored is that they are social digital tools. They are social because they are related to projects that are seeking to solve social needs; and they are digital because they are based on digital platforms that permit them to be alive, spread, shared and used. These characteristics also refer to their function and design.

A tool can be defined as a device or implement, especially one held in the hand, used to carry out a particular function. So when we speak of a tool there are four things involved: an actor, an object, a function and a purpose. Just as a hammer is a tool that a carpenter (actor) use to hammer nails (function) and thus build something (purpose) we understand that social tools are used by one or more people for taking actions where the final objective is to meet a social need…(More)”.

Crowded Out: The True Costs of Crowdfunding Healthcare

Book by Nora Kenworthy: “Over the past decade, charitable crowdfunding has exploded in popularity across the globe. Sites such as GoFundMe, which now boasts a “global community of over 100 million” users, have transformed the ways we seek and offer help. When faced with crises—especially medical ones—Americans are turning to online platforms that promise to connect them to the charity of the crowd. What does this new phenomenon reveal about the changing ways we seek and provide healthcare? In Crowded Out, Nora Kenworthy examines how charitable crowdfunding so quickly overtook public life, where it is taking us, and who gets left behind by this new platformed economy.

Although crowdfunding has become ubiquitous in our lives, it is often misunderstood: rather than a friendly free market “powered by the kindness” of strangers, crowdfunding is powerfully reinforcing inequalities and changing the way Americans think about and access healthcare. Drawing on extensive research and rich storytelling, Crowded Out demonstrates how crowdfunding for health is fueled by—and further reinforces—financial and moral “toxicities” in market-based healthcare systems. It offers a unique and distressing look beneath the surface of some of the most popular charitable platforms and helps to foster thoughtful discussions of how we can better respond to healthcare crises both small and large…(More)”.

Technological Citizenship in Times of Digitization: An Integrative Framework

Article by Anne Marte Gardenier, Rinie van Est & Lambèr Royakkers: “This article introduces an integrative framework for technological citizenship, examining the impact of digitization and the active roles of citizens in shaping this impact across the private, social, and public sphere. It outlines the dual nature of digitization, offering opportunities for enhanced connectivity and efficiency while posing challenges to privacy, security, and democratic integrity. Technological citizenship is explored through the lenses of liberal, communitarian, and republican theories, highlighting the active roles of citizens in navigating the opportunities and risks presented by digital technologies across all life spheres. By operationalizing technological citizenship, the article aims to address the gap in existing literature on the active roles of citizens in the governance of digitization. The framework emphasizes empowerment and resilience as crucial capacities for citizens to actively engage with and govern digital technologies. It illuminates citizens’ active participation in shaping the digital landscape, advocating for policies that support their engagement in safeguarding private, social, and public values in the digital age. The study calls for further research into technological citizenship, emphasizing its significance in fostering a more inclusive and equitable digital society…(More)”.

Disfactory Project: How to Detect Illegal Factories by Open Source Technology and Crowdsourcing

Article by Peii Lai: “…building illegal factories on farmlands is still a profitable business, because the factory owners thus obtain the means of production at a lower price and can easily get away with penalties by simply ignoring their legal responsibility. Such conduct simply shifts the cost of production onto the environment in an irresponsible way. As we can imagine, such violations has been increasing year by year. On average, Taiwan loses 1,500 hectares of farmland each year due to illegal use, which demonstrates that illegal factories are an ongoing and escalating problem that people cannot ignore.

It’s clearly that the problem of illegal factories are caused by dysfunction of the previous land management regulations. In response to that, Citizens of Earth Taiwan (CET) started seeking solutions to tackle the illegal factories. CET soon realized that the biggest obstacle they faced was that no one saw the violations as a big deal. Local governments avoided standing on the opposite side of the illegal factories. For local governments, imposing penalties is an arduous and thankless task…

Through the collaboration of CET and g0v-zero, the Disfactory project combines the knowledge they have accumulated through advocacy and the diverse techniques brought by the passionate civic contributors. In 2020, the Disfactory project team delivered its first product: They built a website with geographic information that whistle blowers can operate on the ground by themselves. Through a few simple steps: identifying the location of the target illegal factory, taking a picture of it, uploading the photos, any citizen can easily register the information on Disfactory’s website….(More)”

The Battle for Attention

Article by Nathan Heller: “…For years, we have heard a litany of reasons why our capacity to pay attention is disturbingly on the wane. Technology—the buzzing, blinking pageant on our screens and in our pockets—hounds us. Modern life, forever quicker and more scattered, drives concentration away. For just as long, concerns of this variety could be put aside. Television was described as a force against attention even in the nineteen-forties. A lot of focussed, worthwhile work has taken place since then.

But alarms of late have grown more urgent. Last year, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development reported a huge ten-year decline in reading, math, and science performance among fifteen-year-olds globally, a third of whom cited digital distraction as an issue. Clinical presentations of attention problems have climbed (a recent study of data from the medical-software company Epic found an over-all tripling of A.D.H.D. diagnoses between 2010 and 2022, with the steepest uptick among elementary-school-age children), and college students increasingly struggle to get through books, according to their teachers, many of whom confess to feeling the same way. Film pacing has accelerated, with the average length of a shot decreasing; in music, the mean length of top-performing pop songs declined by more than a minute between 1990 and 2020. A study conducted in 2004 by the psychologist Gloria Mark found that participants kept their attention on a single screen for an average of two and a half minutes before turning it elsewhere. These days, she writes, people can pay attention to one screen for an average of only forty-seven seconds.

“Attention as a category isn’t that salient for younger folks,” Jac Mullen, a writer and a high-school teacher in New Haven, told me recently. “It takes a lot to show that how you pay attention affects the outcome—that if you focus your attention on one thing, rather than dispersing it across many things, the one thing you think is hard will become easier—but that’s a level of instruction I often find myself giving.” It’s not the students’ fault, he thinks; multitasking and its euphemism, “time management,” have become goals across the pedagogic field. The SAT was redesigned this spring to be forty-five minutes shorter, with many reading-comprehension passages trimmed to two or three sentences. Some Ivy League professors report being counselled to switch up what they’re doing every ten minutes or so to avoid falling behind their students’ churn. What appears at first to be a crisis of attention may be a narrowing of the way we interpret its value: an emergency about where—and with what goal—we look.

“In many ways, it’s the oldest question in advertising: how to get attention,” an executive named Joanne Leong told me one afternoon, in a conference room on the thirteenth floor of the midtown office of the Dentsu agency. We were speaking about a new attention market. Slides were projected on the wall, and bits of conversation rattled like half-melted ice cubes in the corridor outside. For decades, what was going on between an advertisement and its viewers was unclear: there was no consensus about what attention was or how to quantify it. “The difference now is that there’s better tech to measure it,” Leong said…(More)”.

People with Lived Experience and Expertise of Homelessness and Data Decision-Making

Toolkit by HUD Exchange: “People with lived experience and expertise of homelessness (PLEE) are essential partners for Continuums of Care (CoCs). Creating community models that acknowledge and practice inclusivity, while also valuing the agency of PLEE is essential. CoCs should work together with PLEE to engage in collection, review, analyzation, and use of data to make collaborative decisions impacting their local community.

This toolkit offers suggestions on how PLEE, community partners, and CoCs can partner on data projects and additional local data decision-making efforts. It includes resources on partnership practices, compensation, and training…(More)”