Monday, July 9, 2012

Extraterrestrial Contact: Where We’re Headed

Where goes democracy on planet Earth? It’s no small question for us humans, as we struggle to find the best political systems to serve us in ever-changing social environments. So, this week we take a political side street of sorts to examine where we might be headed as technology exerts increasing influence on the nature of our society. Why does this matter for extraterrestrial contact? Who we are and who we are becoming will have a huge impact on our relationship with extraterrestrials if First Contact ever occurs. And perhaps, just perhaps, such developments might cause watching extraterrestrials to finally decide we’re worth conversing with.
Let’s talk about the German Pirate Party. You may have heard of them, as they have recently become more than a novelty- an actual political force to be taken seriously. The Pirate Party won a number of seats in the German legislature back in May. They have one of the loosest platforms you can imagine. The primary foundation of the group lies in freedom of the Internet. It’s essential to what party backers see as our transition to an information society. They call for political transparency. This would come in the form of open architecture content and data sharing to allow citizens to keep better track of government activities. LiquidFeedback is a specific type of software advocated by Pirate Party supporters. It allows people to share opinions and ideas. Most importantly it allows for everyone to suggest changes or new initiatives, and then allows the group to vote on those proposals. This, of course, would be quite messy if used on a widespread basis while it’s being fine-tuned. There has already been quite a bit of debate about personal privacy with such a system. Still, it’s a new way of viewing democracy- one in which the public does much more than merely elect leaders and hope that they act the way they expect. It allows for a level of citizen interaction and involvement far beyond any political system on Earth.
Technology enhanced democracy has a big downside. Right now it would leave all sorts of folks disenfranchised. Such a system may sound fine to those of us who regularly use the Internet and social media. For the poor and under-educated it would prove a daunting obstacle to overcome. Democracy for the rich and well-educated is not democracy at all. The digital divide would become a chasm.
However, it does offer an exciting glimpse into the future of humankind. Perhaps we are headed into an information age that transforms our day to day lives? It’s much more than iPhone apps that allow you to easily complain about dinner. It’s a level of human interaction beyond what we can currently understand. Perhaps it’s the movement of the individual human to a greater web mind of sorts? I know that sounds scary. One would imagine such a development would take many generations to develop.
Is this something aliens would understand? Is it a form of societal development that they have already achieved? Would this glimpse of technological possibility help us better understand extraterrestrial civilizations? Perhaps. In the meantime the Pirate Party makes for an interesting story. Let’s see if they can hold onto, and develop, such radical technological ideas when faced with the reality of government responsibility. Great ideas are only great if you can make them work.
What do you think of the Pirate Party? Will democracy be transformed by technology? Speak out on the Alien First Contact Facebook page.


John Carl Penn said...

The Pirate Party Germany was started in reaction to calls for increased internet censorship and because many “digital natives” felt unrepresented and misunderstood by the traditional political parties.

However in the last two years or so the party has grown enormously and attracted many followers who don't really fall into this demographic. The main reason why people join or vote for the Pirate Party seem to be the promise of more possibilities to participate in policy making for the ordinary citizen and most importantly a new style of politics, which is perceived as more honest.

In today's Germany there is huge general distrust of established parties and their politicians, which many people believe have only their own agenda in mind and do not implement the wishes of the general population.

In my opinion this view is too simple. Of course there are power-hungry politicians in every party who don't care about political topics but only about their own careers, but having been very active in one of Germany's political parties, I know that they are only a minority. I believe most people who hold to the views mentioned above have unrealistic ideas about the possibilities an individual person can have in a democratic society. Politics in general is a careful balancing of different interests and this may make it look inefficient to many, but I don't think technology will make the difference, because the people will stay the same.

Now that the Pirate Party has won seats in several German state parliaments, you already begin to see the process of realizing that what sounded good in theory is not alway practicable in parliamentary work. I'm curious to see, what the fate of the Pirate Party will be, if they perish because of this dissonance or if they manage to become the next member of the established political parties. But no matter what their fate will be, due to its success it has already had quite an influence on the behaviour and the agendas of other political parties and on the public debate in general.

Eric said...

John: do you think the technology the Pirate Party is using will eventually become part of the normal political process? It seems to have some possibilities...if it can be implemented on a wide-scale basis.