A question haunting democratic politics everywhere is whether elected governments can control the cyclone of technological change sweeping through their societies. Democracy comes under threat if technological disruption means that public policy no longer has any leverage on job creation. Democracy is also in danger if digital technologies give states powers of total surveillance.
If, in the words of Google chairman Eric Schmidt, there is a “race between people and computers” even he suspects people may not win, democrats everywhere should be worried. In the same vein, Lawrence Summers, former Treasury secretary, recently noted that new technology could be liberating but that the government needed to soften its negative effects and make sure the benefits were distributed fairly. The problem, he went on, was that “we don’t yet have the Gladstone, the Teddy Roosevelt or the Bismarck of the technology era”. Continue reading »