Turning Point Policymaking in the Era of Artificial Intelligence


Book by Darrell M. West and John R. Allen: “Until recently, “artificial intelligence” sounded like something out of science fiction. But the technology of artificial intelligence, AI, is becoming increasingly common, from self-driving cars to e-commerce algorithms that seem to know what you want to buy before you do. Throughout the economy and many aspects of daily life, artificial intelligence has become the transformative technology of our time.

Despite its current and potential benefits, AI is little understood by the larger public and widely feared. The rapid growth of artificial intelligence has given rise to concerns that hidden technology will create a dystopian world of increased income inequality, a total lack of privacy, and perhaps a broad threat to humanity itself.

In their compelling and readable book, two experts at Brookings discuss both the opportunities and risks posed by artificial intelligence—and how near-term policy decisions could determine whether the technology leads to utopia or dystopia.

Drawing on in-depth studies of major uses of AI, the authors detail how the technology actually works. They outline a policy and governance blueprint for gaining the benefits of artificial intelligence while minimizing its potential downsides.

The book offers major recommendations for actions that governments, businesses, and individuals can take to promote trustworthy and responsible artificial intelligence. Their recommendations include: creation of ethical principles, strengthening government oversight, defining corporate culpability, establishment of advisory boards at federal agencies, using third-party audits to reduce biases inherent in algorithms, tightening personal privacy requirements, using insurance to mitigate exposure to AI risks, broadening decision-making about AI uses and procedures, penalizing malicious uses of new technologies, and taking pro-active steps to address how artificial intelligence affects the workforce….(More)”.

Digitising Democracy: On Reinventing Democracy in the Digital Era – A Legal, Political and Psychological Perspective


Book by Volker Boehme-Neßler: “This book argues that in the digital era, a reinvention of democracy is urgently necessary. It discusses the mounting evidence showing that digitalisation is pushing classical parliamentary democracy to its limits, offering examples such as how living in a filter bubble and debating with political bots is profoundly changing democratic communication, making it more emotional, hysterical even, and less rational. It also explores how classical democracy involves long, slow thinking and decision processes, which don’t fit to the ever-increasing speed of the digital world, and examines the technical developments some fear will lead to governance by algorithms.In the digitalised world, democracy no longer functions as it has in the past. This does not mean waving goodbye to democracy –  instead we need to reinvent it. How this could work is the central theme of this book….(More)”.

Data Journeys in the Sciences


Book edited by Sabina Leonelli and Niccolò Tempini: “This groundbreaking, open access volume analyses and compares data practices across several fields through the analysis of specific cases of data journeys. It brings together leading scholars in the philosophy, history and social studies of science to achieve two goals: tracking the travel of data across different spaces, times and domains of research practice; and documenting how such journeys affect the use of data as evidence and the knowledge being produced. 

The volume captures the opportunities, challenges and concerns involved in making data move from the sites in which they are originally produced to sites where they can be integrated with other data, analysed and re-used for a variety of purposes. The in-depth study of data journeys provides the necessary ground to examine disciplinary, geographical and historical differences and similarities in data management, processing and interpretation, thus identifying the key conditions of possibility for the widespread data sharing associated with Big and Open Data. 

The chapters are ordered in sections that broadly correspond to different stages of the journeys of data, from their generation to the legitimisation of their use for specific purposes. Additionally, the preface to the volume provides a variety of alternative “roadmaps” aimed to serve the different interests and entry points of readers; and the introduction provides a substantive overview of what data journeys can teach about the methods and epistemology of research….(More)”.

The Ages of Globalization: Geography, Technology, and Institutions


Book by Jeffrey D. Sachs: “Today’s most urgent problems are fundamentally global. They require nothing less than concerted, planetwide action if we are to secure a long-term future. But humanity’s story has always been on a global scale. In this book, Jeffrey D. Sachs, renowned economist and expert on sustainable development, turns to world history to shed light on how we can meet the challenges and opportunities of the twenty-first century.

Sachs takes readers through a series of seven distinct waves of technological and institutional change, starting with the original settling of the planet by early modern humans through long-distance migration and ending with reflections on today’s globalization. Along the way, he considers how the interplay of geography, technology, and institutions influenced the Neolithic revolution; the role of the horse in the emergence of empires; the spread of large land-based empires in the classical age; the rise of global empires after the opening of sea routes from Europe to Asia and the Americas; and the industrial age. The dynamics of these past waves, Sachs demonstrates, offer fresh perspective on the ongoing processes taking place in our own time—a globalization based on digital technologies. Sachs emphasizes the need for new methods of international governance and cooperation to prevent conflicts and to achieve economic, social, and environmental objectives aligned with sustainable development. The Ages of Globalization is a vital book for all readers aiming to make sense of our rapidly changing world….(More)”.

Philanthropy and the Future of Science and Technology


Book by Evan Michelson: “An increasingly important and often overlooked issue in science and technology policy is recognizing the role that philanthropies play in setting the direction of research. In an era where public and private resources for science are strained, the practices that foundations adopt to advance basic and applied research needs to be better understood. This first-of-its-kind study provides a detailed assessment of the current state of science philanthropy. This examination is particularly timely, given that science philanthropies will have an increasingly important and outsized role to play in advancing responsible innovation and in shaping how research is conducted.

Philanthropy and the Future of Science and Technology surveys the landscape of contemporary philanthropic involvement in science and technology by combining theoretical insights drawn from the responsible research and innovation (RRI) framework with empirical analysis investigating an array of detailed examples and case studies. Insights from interviews conducted with foundation representatives, scholars, and practitioners from a variety of sectors add real-world perspective. A wide range of philanthropic interventions are explored, focusing on support for individuals, institutions, and networks, with attention paid to the role that science philanthropies play in helping to establish and coordinate multi-sectoral funding partnerships. Novel approaches to science philanthropy are also considered, including the emergence of crowdfunding and the development of new institutional mechanisms to advance scientific research. The discussion concludes with an imaginative look into the future, outlining a series of lessons learned that can guide how new and established science philanthropies operate and envisioning alternative scenarios for the future that can inform how science philanthropy progresses over the coming decades.

This book offers a major contribution to the advancement of philanthropic investment in science and technology. Thus, it will be of considerable interest to researchers and students in public policy, public administration, political science, science and technology studies, sociology of science, and related disciplines….(More)”.

The Decline and Rise of Democracy: A Global History from Antiquity to Today


Book by David Stasavage: “Historical accounts of democracy’s rise tend to focus on ancient Greece and pre-Renaissance Europe. The Decline and Rise of Democracy draws from global evidence to show that the story is much richer—democratic practices were present in many places, at many other times, from the Americas before European conquest, to ancient Mesopotamia, to precolonial Africa. Delving into the prevalence of early democracy throughout the world, David Stasavage makes the case that understanding how and where these democracies flourished—and when and why they declined—can provide crucial information not just about the history of governance, but also about the ways modern democracies work and where they could manifest in the future.

Drawing from examples spanning several millennia, Stasavage first considers why states developed either democratic or autocratic styles of governance and argues that early democracy tended to develop in small places with a weak state and, counterintuitively, simple technologies. When central state institutions (such as a tax bureaucracy) were absent—as in medieval Europe—rulers needed consent from their populace to govern. When central institutions were strong—as in China or the Middle East—consent was less necessary and autocracy more likely. He then explores the transition from early to modern democracy, which first took shape in England and then the United States, illustrating that modern democracy arose as an effort to combine popular control with a strong state over a large territory. Democracy has been an experiment that has unfolded over time and across the world—and its transformation is ongoing.

Amidst rising democratic anxieties, The Decline and Rise of Democracy widens the historical lens on the growth of political institutions and offers surprising lessons for all who care about governance….(More)”.

Community Quality-of-Life Indicators


Book edited by Frank Ridzi, Chantal Stevens and Melanie Davern: “This book offers critical insights into the thriving international field of community indicators, incorporating the experiences of government leaders, philanthropic professionals, community planners and a wide range of academic disciplines. It illuminates the important role of community indicators in diverse settings and the rationale for the development and implementation of these innovative projects.  This book details many of the practical “how to” aspects of the field as well as lessons learned from implementing indicators in practice.

The case studies included here also demonstrate how, using a variety of data applications, leaders of today are monitoring and measuring progress and communities are empowered to make sustainable improvements in their wellbeing. With examples related to the environment, economy, planning, community engagement and health, among others, this book epitomizes the constant innovation, collaborative partnerships and the consummate interdisciplinarity of the community indicators field of today….(More)”.

Citizenship: The Great Extinguisher of Hope


Book by Dimitry Kochenov: “Citizenship is a very unlikely concept to glorify: Its only purpose is to divide the world and appear unquestionable and “natural” in the face of the most obvious criticism. Its distribution around the world is entirely random and totalitarian: One is a citizen purely on the strength of having been assigned to a particular citizenship by an authority — an authority that brooks no dissent, should you claim to not belong. Your agreement is not necessary and your protests are of no avail, yet everything about you — from life expectancy to your income and basic freedoms inside and outside the assigning state the world over — is in direct correlation with this congenital assignment, in which you can neither participate nor refuse in the majority of cases.

The assignment of citizenship is entirely beyond our control and glorified as logical and “natural,” yet citizenship is not a force of nature: It is designed with certain groups and people in mind, making sure that those who are disliked or regarded as of little use by the relevant authority at any given moment and for whatever reason will surely be kept down at the time of the initial assignment or later. No protests are expected or tolerated: What is “natural” must be accepted.

This article is adapted from Dimitry Kochenov’s book “Citizenship.”

Given the radical differences in quality between different citizenships around the world — some bringing amazing rights, others merely poisonous liabilities — the randomized totalitarian assignment endows citizenship with its core function: the preservation of global inequality.

Distributed like prizes in a lottery where four-fifths of the world’s population loses, citizenship is clothed in the language of self-determination and freedom, elevating hypocrisy as one of the status’s core features. Even considering the truly minuscule proportion of the world’s population that ever changes its citizenship, the grip of citizenship on our lives is close to absolute, even if it is at times unnoticed. Citizenship’s connection to “freedom” and “self-determination” usually stops making any sense at the boundaries of the most affluent Western states. Citizenship, for most of the world’s population, is thus an empty rhetorical shell deployed to perpetuate abuse, dispossession, and exclusion. It is a means of directing former colonials to their unenviable place, spiced with a delightfully attractive hint of nationalism….(More)”.

The Behavioral Economics Guide 2020


Book edited by Alain Samson. Introduction by Colin Camerer: “The goal of science is to accumulate knowledge, full stop. In my opinion, there is a lot of leakage in how we currently do this. The reproducibility “upgrade” (a term I prefer to “crisis”) going on in many areas of science is an example of trying to minimize leakage. Solid accumulation depends on not getting led too far or frequently astray by false positives which do not reproduce. A good infrastructure for rapidly evaluating and cumulating results is of special use for “hurry-up” social science. For example, as I write this there are probably hundreds of social science studies being done about COVID-19. It is essentially impossible for all those scientists to know what the other scientists are doing. There will be duplication and poorly designed
studies. (It is often said in design that everyone wants cheap, fast, and good. But you can only have two.)

When studies are written and circulated in preprints, a lot of null effects won’t be written up. Which studies will get the most attention? It will be a scrum of social media, presenting at seminars, slow and fast reviewing paces. The one thing that would undoubtedly be most useful—a giant dashboard summarizing weekly progress on each of those hundreds of studies—does not exist. This is a failure of good informatics.


Behavioral economics is accumulating knowledge about how different kinds of nudges influence behavior at a rapid pace. The challenge is that carefully assessing what an entire body of knowledge is telling us is actually quite difficult and is under-rewarded (by academic incentives). A lot of academic publishing, and similar career concerns within government or NGOs, depend on creativity and doing something new. This creates an incentive to exaggerate the novelty of one’s contribution compared to what is known from past studies….(More)”.

Behavioral Public Performance: How People Make Sense of Government Metrics


Book by Oliver James, Asmus Leth Olsen, Donald Moynihan, and Gregg G. Van Ryzin: “A revolution in the measurement and reporting of government performance through the use of published metrics, rankings and reports has swept the globe at all levels of government. Performance metrics now inform important decisions by politicians, public managers and citizens.

However, this performance movement has neglected a second revolution in behavioral science that has revealed cognitive limitations and biases in people’s identification, perception, understanding and use of information. This Element introduces a new approach – behavioral public performance – that connects these two revolutions. Drawing especially on evidence from experiments, this approach examines the influence of characteristics of numbers, subtle framing of information, choice of benchmarks or comparisons, human motivation and information sources. These factors combine with the characteristics of information users and the political context to shape perceptions, judgment and decisions. Behavioral public performance suggests lessons to improve design and use of performance metrics in public management and democratic accountability….(More)”.