We can't agree on a lot of things. Two statements that might get a lot of support are "We need to fix technology" and "We need to fix democracy."
The risks of rapid technology development include state and private surveillance, widespread labor automation, ascending monopoly and oligopoly power, stagnant productivity growth, and algorithmic discrimination. In my opinion, the loss of potential advances that lack short-term or market-legible benefits is more important than any other topic. Vaccine development for emerging diseases and open source platforms for digital affordances are included.
As democracies fail in the face of complex global challenges, citizens are losing trust in democratic processes and are being swayed by authoritarian alternatives. Lack of accountability to the popular will, inefficiency, and inability to keep up with emerging technologies are some of the problems nation-state democracies face. Smaller-scale democratic experiments are not enough to handle consequential governance decisions at scale.
We are in a dilemma. One of the greatest challenges of our time is directing the development of technology towards collective human flourishing. It doesn't seem like existing democracy is up to the task. This is what rings hollow in many calls to "democratize technology", given the plethora of complaints, why subject one seemingly broken system to governance by another.
We need ways to collectively negotiate value trade-offs with global consequences and ways to share in their benefits as we deal with everything from surveillance to space travel. It seems like a job for democracy. How can we update democracy in a way that will allow us to navigate toward positive outcomes?
To answer these questions, we need to realize that our current forms of democracy are only early and highly imperfect manifestations of collective intelligence, and that we need to make better decisions for the collective.
Humans aren't the only ones who have collective intelligence. Mycelia can enable networks of trees to send out distress signals when there is an insect attack or when there is a shortage of water. The intelligence of bees and ants is manifest through complex processes of selection, deliberation, and consensus. Humans are not the only animal that votes. African wild dogs, when deciding whether to move locations, will engage in a bout of sneezing to determine whether quorum has been reached, with the tipping point determined by context. The buffaloes, baboons, and meerkats have flexible rules for making decisions.
Humans don't have to depend on the pathways to CI that our biology has hard-coded into us or wait until the slow, invisible hand of evolution changes our processes. Progress and participation don't have to be sacrificed in order to do better. The Collective Intelligence Project is based on this thesis.
The modern world has been shaped by stepwise innovations in CI systems. We can do more. Collective intelligence is only a crude version of the structures we can build to make better decisions.