As with any complex problem there will be no magic bullet but there will be approaches with varying degrees of potential.
Our reactions to these threats cannot be to sling back more propaganda since this only increases the divisions. Furthermore we cannot ask our governments to inform us since both fake news and actual government behaviours have further delegitimised government presentations, such as we have seen on both sides of the Atlantic. We need to augment ourselves.
We should not trust AI to do our thinking for us since then we are no longer in charge. This would be no different from giving up our political power to any political party. We must think for ourselves, we cannot delegate our own augmentation.
We should also not try to build some sort of an objective ‘truth’ machine since the problems are not so much about ‘what’ but much more about ‘why’ and that is where truth is less useful than understanding different perspectives. Any time we believe we have found a truth what we have found is a dogma. Truth destroys creativity and the most urgent, pressing problems we have in the world are complex problems lacking in any single, simple truth.
I further do not believe that we should wait for technology to ‘plug’ into our brains directly. This will happen but it’s quite a ways off and we already have incredibly powerful computer-brain interfaces through our eyes and hands. To wait for this is simply to delegate to the future and to give up on our responsibility now.
It is clear however that both organised education and personal-growth education can help provide us with the mental tools we need to assess what we are presented with and to open up new vistas to explore (to references to Microsoft products at the end of that sentence, not intentional).
It is furthermore clear that organised religion can play a positive part in turning us towards a peaceful spiritual co-existence and away from earthly conflicts.
Art, pottery, mediation, discussion groups, international student travel groups and many other endeavours can also be positive moves to unite us in a world increasingly divided by walls (Marshall, 2018).
Doug Engelbart called for an integrated approach where we take into account the full augmentation system framework. This is an approach discussed in detail in the literature on the Engelbart Institute website and which warrants real and serious consideration: http://www.dougengelbart.org/content/view/164/126/
Augmenting Interaction for Deeper Literacy
The proposed approached outlined here however, covers only the individual seated in front of their information display and what tools we can provide them in the privacy of their own thoughts. This is based on my firm belief that the very act of providing more powerful digital tools for thought will empower the dreams of the liberal democracy to survive and thrive. Providing richly interactive tools to empower more freedom of information movement and display will provide the ‘grease’ for greater intellectual movement. The notion is that whenever a mental spark point occurs-whenever the user is curios about something or things something ‘doesn’t look right’, to provide interactivity to light that spark into something bigger, at a mental load below a threshold of noticeable effort.
What is important to consider about democracy is that it is a process, and this process is both a privilege and an obligation. To truly live in a democratic society requires the individual citizen to take ownership this process. The more they do so, the more democratic it will be and the less they do the less democratic. Democracy cannot be offload to someone else.
The question of how we can employ and deploy communications technology to deepen our interactions is a question which goes to the very heart of democracy.
I feel that developing powerful tools can also be an Archimedes Point, a point of leverage which can be distributed widely and effectively to enhance the other efforts to promote a more thoughtful, connected, safe and free world where the feeling of ownership and responsibility is more widely shared.
This is all a bit of an emotional ramble. The next section deals with what building such tools would involve.