Accountability in the Age of the Artificial


2019 Solomon Lecture by Fiona McLeod: “Our aspiration for open and accountable government faces innumerable challenges, not least the natural reluctance of all governments to expose themselves to criticism and accept responsibility for failure.

Time and again, corporate and political goals take priority over just outcomes, and the human rights of individuals and communities are undervalued and ignored.

Numerous examples of bad behaviour shock us for a while, some even receiving the focused attention of high quality investigative journalism and Royal Commissions, but we are left unsatisfied, cynical and disengaged, more jaded than before, accepting the inevitability of existential threats, the comfort of algorithmic news feeds and vague promises to ‘drain the swamp’.

In this context, are big data and artificial intelligence the enemies of the people, the ultimate tools of the oligarch, or the vital tools needed to eliminate bias, improve scrutiny and just outcomes for the visionary?  Is there a future in which humanity evolves alongside an enhanced hive-mind in time to avert global catastrophe and create a new vision for humanity?…(More)”

What if government was a game?


TedX Talk by Gianluca Sgueo: “How does gaming link people in today society? In business, companies use gamification as a marketing tool to attract customer; while government and non-governmental organizations deploy it to connect citizens and public powers. Gianluca Sgueo, a global professor major in public law and policy analyst, tells us how a gamified government facilitates and engages the citizens in the policy-making process; as well as its inconspicuous but important impacts brought to our lives. Gianluca Sgueo is Global Media Professor at New York University in Florence, Visiting Professor at HEC Paris and Research Associate at the Center of Social Studies of the University of Coimbra. His area of expertise is the public sector, to which he provides professional services. His academic work focuses on participatory democracy, lobbying and globalization and he is author of a recent work about Games, Powers & Democracies….(More)

Data to the rescue


Podcast by Kenneth Cukier: “Access to the right data can be as valuable in humanitarian crises as water or medical care, but it can also be dangerous. Misused or in the wrong hands, the same information can put already vulnerable people at further risk. Kenneth Cukier hosts this special edition of Babbage examining how humanitarian organisations use data and what they can learn from the profit-making tech industry. This episode was recorded live from Wilton Park, in collaboration with the United Nations OCHA Centre for Humanitarian Data…(More)”.

The ‘Gateway Drug to Democracy’


Video by Jay Arthur Sterrenberg at The Atlantic: “The fastest way to reveal a nation’s priorities is to take a look at its budget. Where money is allocated, improvements and expansions are made; where costs are cut, institutions and policies wither. In America and other similar democracies, political candidates campaign on budget promises, but it can be difficult to maintain transparency—and enforce accountability—once elected into office.

“Budgets are the essence of what government does,” says a woman at a community meeting in Jay Arthur Sterrenberg’s short documentary, Public Money. “We’re cutting out the rhetoric about budgeting and allowing community members to make direct decisions about money in our community.”

She’s talking about participatory budgeting, an innovative democratic process that has been under way in New York City since 2011. Once a year, citizens in participating council districts across the city propose and vote on how to spend $1 million in their neighborhood.

“It results in better budget decisions,” the New York city council’s website reads, “because who better knows the needs of our community than the people who live there?”

Participatory budgeting was first introduced on a large scale in Porto Alegre, Brazil. “For over 25 years, there have been all kinds of massive improvements in city infrastructure, and especially improved conditions in poorer neighborhoods,” Sterrenberg told The Atlantic. Today, there are more than 1,500 participatory budgets around the world.

Public Money, from Meerkat Media Collective, follows one cycle of the participatory-budget process in Sunset Park, Brooklyn. Residents are tasked with proposing project ideas, such as building a community center in the local library, installing security cameras in the park, and fixing potholes in the streets. Committees workshop, debate, and ultimately vote for their favorite projects, which—once deemed viable by the city government—go to the ballot. A public vote is held, and winning projects are funded.

The film takes an observational approach to what Sterrenberg describes as a “hard-to-explain process that has such potential to overhaul our politics.”…(More)”