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A short Q&A with Victoria Alsina

Are you seeing any bright ideas coming from out the last five years?  

Technology moves extremely quickly. Practical augmented reality, real-time language translation; artificial intelligence in mobile apps, deep learning-based predictive analytics, 3D-printed things, cryptocurrencies. All these ideas are bright and created a new universe of possibilities. However, it is necessary to move from bright ideas to right ideas. To apply them to generate as much social good as possible. It is a new social responsibility.

What’s the most interesting topic you’re thinking about this week?

How artificial intelligence (AI) and collective intelligence (CI) can complement one to each other. AI makes it possible for machines to learn from experience, adjust to new inputs and perform human-like tasks. From chess-playing computers to self-driving cars. Direct democracy may have seemed nearly impossible for a variety of reasons. But some tech innovation labs start to suggest that suggests countries could use predictive algorithms to learn individuals’ patterns of behavior and vote on their behalf, thereby creating legislation through direct democracy. The speakers and voice assistants like Alexa could soon intervene crucial city services like animal control and garbage disposal, but also to reduce bureaucracy and give citizens a way to voice opinions. CI is a shared or group intelligence that emerges from the collaboration of many individuals. CI is the capacity of groups of people to understand things and make correct decisions together. Open all law and policymaking process to CI, well designed, can improve the quality of the resulting laws and policies. AI is powerful but CI is even more powerful. Thus, CI and AI may work together in order to produce better and more legitimate results.

Will the advancement of blockchain technology disrupt and strengthen democracy in the future? And how?

Blockchain offers the opportunity to securely record transfers of any type of asset and this has a lot of possible applications that can strengthen democracy. For example, it allows us to capture securely and permanently fundamental assets for democracy like identity or votes. It also allows us to build trust through mass collaboration leaving aside powerful intermediaries like governments and banks. However, technology is a powerful resource but it cannot achieve alone the change we need. Like Don Tapscott said, “The future is not something to be predicted, it’s something to be achieved.” We need to reinvent the way we govern for a new era of trust, legitimacy and efficiency.

Dr. Alsina is a Democracy Fellow at the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation at the Harvard Kennedy School. At Reworks Agora 2018, she will speak to us about how new technology offers the opportunity for public institutions to learn from our collective wisdom, reviewing good practices from around the world: from e-consultation platforms and open innovation initiatives to cryptocurrencies. Redesigning our governing practices to solve the complex policy challenges of the 21st century (and to repair the social contract!) urgently demands creating a two-way conversation between government and the governed. Let’s talk about it!

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