Democracy does not work as before. Sweden may end up in a scenario like in Turkey.
Patrik Engellau interviews Per Ödling
View the full length video here or read on for the essentials:
A shortened version with the essentials can be viewed at Fairshare Media World.
A translation and abstract in English follows below.
Per Ödling is professor in telecommunications at Lund’s University, Sweden, former Secretary at the Royal Swedish Academy of Engineering Sciences (IVA), and leads an academic research group for Ericsson.
Per’s message to the world: Democracy does not work as before as we are used to. Examples are Trump and Brexit etc. IT-tools are used to influence elections and even make people not to vote at all.
Cambridge Analytica found that less than 70 “likes” are enough to know who you are! A 100 “likes” make it possible to know a person better than the person’s spouse. Such information were used to feed selected voters in the Swing States with exclusive news, of which some were fake. The idea was to make them not to vote on anyone of the candidates and it obviously worked!
(Editor’s comment: Please also see: https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2017/mar/04/nigel-oakes-cambridge-a...)
It is possible to control democratic elections.
We may believe we have a free will but everything we believe is based on the information we have and get. If we see a news article with 50 000 “likes” shared from a friend we by nature believe it’s true and probably share it further. Then we should know that through easily available Botnets, it’s possible to buy “likes” for about 0.1 cent per “like”! €100 buy you 100,000 “likes”! If anyone controls your Digital Sphere, that person or organization controls your opinions!
Over time people may understand this and become more sceptical, although this is still an assumption. The result may alternatively be an information vacuum and that no one trusts anyone and certainly not media.
What is happening in the world?
We are in the middle of an industrial revolution: First you build something, say for a period of 20 years, then you go into a period of change with another type of logic. In our case (The Digital Revolution) the marginal cost has become zero. E.g. no more jobs are created how much you ever listen to music at Spotify.
Usage of E-mail, Google Search, YouTube etc. are all characterized by zero marginal cost.
Zero or even negative interest rate does not create any new jobs but it accelerates their disappearance.
Imagine a factory with 500 workers. They represent a considerable operational cost. If you borrow the money at zero interest rate to fully automate the production you do away with this cost and 500 workers loose their jobs. Of course you need a few but highly skilled and educated workers to maintain and run the automated factory but your total cost is much lower.
Mainly due to the fact that capital is cheaper than people the productivity in Swedish industry has increased with a factor 4 since 1980 and much fewer people are employed in industrial production now even though we produce much more.
This happens now in every business line and the volume of jobs for less educated people disappear and are replaced with a few jobs for highly educated people. This creates an uneasiness in the society, especially among the middle class.
Life Style Changes
Another thing is the changes in life style, we consume according to very different patterns. Watch YouTube as much as you want and the cost is zero and the environmental cost is almost zero. Earlier you bought gadgets which required production facilities which employed lots of people. Of course we still buy gadgets, but fewer and they are produced by very few people. Possessionless living has become common among youngsters. One iPad replaces a lot of other old fashion gadgets and the consumption is mainly digital.
The labor market changes and the life style changes. This creates the uneasiness. That leads to the question: Why do people vote for extreme parties or leaders? A lot of the research about that points to that people feel an uneasiness. You worry about your job, your competence, your economy, your future. Usually it is the middle class that feels most concern. This is quite rational but it makes simple solutions attractive.
The other factor is changes in life styles. That should not lead to uneasiness but people are not generally comfortable with changes especially if you don’t understand ‘why’. Then you take to the simple solutions and explanations again.
Changes are nothing new but whatever what will create new jobs has not emerged yet. Therefore we feel more uneasiness now than previously. We can also note that changes are per industrial line. Production has already gone through the changes but for other lines we are only in the beginning.
Look e.g. at universities. Are their marginal cost zero? No, not at all. Is it, however, possible to make education more rational and effective? Yes for sure! Through the IT revolution even children can learn to read and spell (on a keyboard) and even get some understanding of a foreign language before they start school.
The generation now growing up is the first generation in the history of humanity that is not limited by access to information! It’s not about “smart children” but children with access to information, who are able to reach their potential. It is more a technology matter than a genetic one. The result is an improved mankind but on the other hand possibly a more stupid mankind because people are easily enclosed in their information bubbles.
Can we trust media?
Many of us tend to distrust everything in media and especially mainstream media. Large parts of the population actually believe in things that are not true and that leads to uneasiness and confidence crisis. There is a tendency in established media to mix serious matters with less serious matters to get “likes”, just like social media. This destroys confidence. Editorials have quality but you should not dilute them with hogwash on other pages because that creates a confidence crisis. Such things reduce the stability of the democracy.
Changes have always happened.
The steam engine revolutionized production, the car changed the transport sector, electricity changed how we live, and now IT affects almost all aspects of life and our possibilities to get and enjoy information and education. Technology is basically a good thing and will save this planet but we are in a transition period and if we cannot handle it correctly it may lead to all sorts of problems.
The models, used by Per, predicted 2 year ago that there should be a fascist and a socialist candidate in the next presidential election in the USA. Per did not believe it then, but the same model used for Sweden now predicts that we have 2 election periods left of liberal democracy in Sweden. That makes Per worried!
If you add a Standard Displacement Analysis to this, you find there is a displacement of what is OK and not OK in the society. The democracy in the form we are used to, may quickly end and we may even end up in a scenario like in Turkey.