A Challenge of Predictive Democracy: Algorithmic Governance and Value of Politics

On 12 March I will be speaking at the conference “Intelligent and Autonomous: Emergent Digital Technologies and the Challenges of Disinformation, Security, and Regulation
Interdisciplinary Online Conference”, organized by Vytautas Magnus University.

Over the last decade we have witnessed a creeping, technological revolution. As a result of developments in the field of machine learning, narrow artificial intelligence tools have become ubiquitous. The promise of powerful algorithms that know us better than we know ourselves means, at least to some people, that one day we could get rid of the flawed, ineffective political process, and replace it with AI-powered decision-making systems that could recognize and satisfy preferences of all citizens.

Such ideas have been labelled as “government by algorithm” or “algorithmic governance”. Approaching these proposals from a perspective of political theory, I would like to introduce a concept of predictive democracy that will serve as an intuition pump, helping us understand possible implications of algorithmic governance for democratic politics. Using that tool, I will argue that ideas of algorithmic governance may be misguided as they are frequently built upon an overly simplistic understanding of politics. Far from being a mere tool of allocating goods in response to existing preferences, politics is a set of practices that are directly related, on the one hand, to citizens’ sense of agency and belonging, and, on the other hand, to the legitimacy of political institutions.