Will technology empower or frustrate learning and will established powers control individuals or will something new emerge? These were the questions asked during the The Edinburgh Scenarios in 2004. The resulting scenarios were as follows.
Web of Confidence: Technology advances, power shifts to emergent players.
U Choose: Technology frustrates, power shifts to emergent players.
Virtually Vanilla: Technology advances, power retained by established players.
Back to the Future: Technology frustrates, power retained by established players.
A similar question is being asked by the European Union in looking at the future of government. Four scenarios have been put forth.
DIY Democracy: the societal gap increased drastically, governments are not able to provide proper public services and citizens have to look after themselves.
Private Algocracy: the power over data, data analytics and decision making are fully moved to multi-national data companies who is taking over the regulation.
Super Collaborative Government: all the promises of open governance, digital government and public sector innovation come true.
Over-Regulatocracy: the government is engaged for the wellbeing of individuals and economy but processes became so complicated that even public benefits are hard to claim for.
In both cases it is a question whether digital networks will empower people or only those who hold power. These kinds of questions can help us map a way forward. I hope the EU initiative has more impact than the Edinburgh Scenarios did. These exercises may make us feel empowered, but the test will be if those currently in power take action. I think states will continue to try to take control, such as requiring back doors in all crypto-technologies. Large platform companies will continue to harvest data on a global scale and become too-big-to-fail. However, these scenarios might give some impetus to citizens to put pressure on governments and corporations to push for democracy 2.0. Here is my mash-up of these two initiatives.