The Economist is asking this question of us all currently in a debate series, and I felt compelled to write on the topic, after a rather passionate set of questions posed to me in Chicago following a speech I gave on Integrationalism and human kind’s technological potential.
Of course everyone is aware of my thoughts on the internet as a space and as a technology from earlier posts and speech rebuttals during 2010, but the ideal that it is inherently a force for democracy needs some further exploration (I think). Of course the philosophical community would have many problems with the use of language in the posed stance This house believes that the internet is not inherently a force for democracy... but i think we all get it, that the internet provides some inherent democratic utility to those of us who have the ability and who choose to engage it.
Democracy per doctionary.com is a state of society characterized by formal equality of rights and privileges, this definition is exclusive of the many political and national specific definitions of democracy that we all may know. The notion that equality can actually exist is an ambitious one, by the democracy as a philosophy, most would coin it as utopian and unrealistic, and if it weren’t for the internet I would agree. The reality of the day is that we are gradually possessing the potential to give everyone immediate access to the very economic and political indicators that leaders make decisions with. Through the engagement of the internet and only some space similar could there ever exist a potential for real equality.
Of course, as we bear witness, the internet has some downfalls as business and advertising (and like) incentives aim to control the potential of individuals engaging the internet in a useful way. Also, when the web of data sharing started between scientists in the middle of the last century, we have no reason to believe that they were planing on creating a phenomena that could be inherently democratic, but the technology is taking us to new heights. As a technological determinist I can accept how the technologies that we’ve inherited create an exponential growth and allow us to engage each other in higher volumes and high quality to force the understanding of our human need to communicate well.
Regarding the economist.com debate, I am voting that I disagree.