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Is there only an upside to your life, your job, your community in a digital economy?

Posted By Administration, Friday, February 8, 2019
Updated: Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Paul Tero a member of our Emerging Fellows program proceeds with his marvelous journey to the land of digital economy in his second blog post. The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of the APF or its other members. 


Those in their retirement years today have witnessed so much change since their teenage years. As will today’s teenagers when they reach their autumn years and help to raise teenage grandchildren.

For those currently in the latter seasons of life, what have they witnessed over the course of their adult years?Among them, consider geopolitical tensions pushing history to unfold in uncertain directions (the Cuban missile crisis); consider scientific developments ushering in both hope (penicillin) and despair (nuclear fission); and consider popular music performers swaying the life choices of fans across the globe (Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix).

We now know how all of these unfolded, for it is today’s lived reality. Looking back over these decades we view this historical path as the “business as usual” path. The scenario that happened and that we now experience, study and use as reference points for what may happen in the decades ahead.

But what of other possibilities, of other scenarios, of other ways that things could have worked out. Just like our current reality could have turned out differently, what paths could history take for today’s teenagers? Specifically, what could unfold in our context of focus – the digital economy.

It is relatively easy to imagine one scenario – the business as usual path. Based on what we now know, it is conceivable that in 50 years consumer purchases to be all cashless and to involve automated delivery technology. It is easy to imagine company-wide artificial intelligence algorithms driving block-chain-based goods and services production.

But what about other scenarios? Will the history of the digital economy only unfold as a positive for your life, your job and your community? A utopia where machines undertake the work we don’t want to do and facilitate the richness of human potential? What about other possibilities? Perhaps a scenario where everything is restricted, or one where anarchy rules.

First, contemplate the likelihood of the restriction scenario. Today we live with our social media feed being individually unique. No one else on the planet has exactly the social media friends and followers as I. Similarly, with my shopping history. What is recorded on my loyalty cards is unique to me, as are the offers I receive. Why not then, in the time ahead, only seeing on my screens the things I am interested in? Only being shown political messages that will resonate with me, only being offered membership to social groups aligned with my past experiences and interests. A scenario where the lives we live have boundaries that can not be altered. Where a superficial peace is the dominant mood.

Second, the anarchy scenario. Today there are forces that seek to upend the order that liberal democracy has brought across our globe. What if they succeed? What if the internet is technically re-architected into ideologically walled gardens, that the Global Currency – the US Dollar – is replaced by the Chinese Renminbi, the German Neu Mark and the Brazilian Real, and that the bounds of ordinary life are limited to self-contained urban zones each with different digital capabilities and intents. A scenario where social and business life is quite dissimilar across the many enclaves, in which tension is a common theme.

Therefore, with business as usual, liferetains its complexity; with restriction it is hollow; with anarchy it is wearying. For the easily conceivable scenario, an AI-rich digital economy that supports quality of life is a likely outcome. For the restriction scenario boundaries are implied: consumer experience is limited to a uniquely tailored set of goods and services; business success is bounded by this unique tailoring. Where prospects for innovation are limited by the scope of these personalising algorithms.

Finally, the dystopian scenario. Some enclaves may well have the resources to realise a business as usual outcome, but most are likely to be unrecognisable societies by today’s standards. For these, through resource scarcity, lack of trust, and the application of digital capabilities built up over decades, local oligopolies may well reign supreme. Where societies become marked by deep surveillance and intense social stratification.

Understand that the future is not set. History indeed can unfold along one of these three paths. To our question at the start, the answer then is no. We are not assured of beneficial outcomes for our life, our jobs, our community in a digital economy.

© Paul Tero 2019

Tags:  economics  job  life 

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Civic Engagement Futures

Posted By Administration, Sunday, November 4, 2018
Updated: Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Monica Porteanu, a member of our Emerging Fellows program scans the horizons of citizenship and residency in this blog post. The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of the APF or its other members.

Society is an instinctive human structure. Society established the concepts of nation and state to organize itself. It developed the political, economic, and social systems to govern itself. It created the notions of citizenship and residency to engage its people.
 
Citizenship establishes rights and responsibilities linked to a country, its democratic and governance systems, and borders. The status can be acquired either at birth, based on the parent’s citizenship and/or the territory of birth, or later, through naturalization in a foreign land. Residency refers to the physical location where a person lives. It provides a framework to exercise rights and responsibilities related to daily life, such as earning a living or education. Citizenship seems linked to the concept of nation and democratic participation in politics, whereas residency connects with economics and social matters, and the notion of state.

Citizenship dates to ancient Greece. A citizen was someone who was born and lived in a city, having rights and responsibilities linked to both the organization and governance of that city. As such, at that time, citizenship and residency overlapped. Similarly, following the Peace of Westphalia, when an individual was very likely to be a member of one nation living within the borders of one state, the citizenship and residency coincided.

Nowadays, world citizens traveling, working, and living in jurisdictions different than those of their place of birth, embrace multiple citizenships. At the other end of the scale are those who have either lost all privilege or renounced their citizenship in protest of losing trust in the system. Civic engagement allows an individual to have from one to multiple residencies and from none to many citizenships.

Citizenship has become virtually borderless in the European Union (EU), which is an international body of collaboration. In this context, citizenship now represents mostly an individual’s national origin, together with their participation in the democratic process in their country of origin. Residency links individual’s rights and responsibilities with the territory in which they earn money and access systems that support their daily life.

The concept of residency is then kicked up a notch by one of EU’s members, Estonia. In its quest for competitive advantage, the country has become a leader in digital governance. Estonia has branded itself as the “new digital nation for global citizens” through its e-residency program. Estonian e-residency is an online platform that enables anyone in the world to register a business and manage its money. For example, it provides access to a network of financial and other professional services. An applicant becomes an Estonian e-resident and receives a government-issued digital identification, based on government identification from their country of origin. In this context, e-residency raises questions about how the digital government manages one’s foreign credentials, and how the entrepreneur governs its business legally across borders.

Concurrently, e-residency seems to be a flavour of investor citizenship, offered by many other countries that aim to attract capital, for which, in turn, they provide an expedited path to citizenship. In the process, the concept of citizenship has shifted even more towards economics, losing its flair for political debate and democracy.

The Chinese social credit score has piloted another alternative to civic engagement. The program aggregates an individual’s political, economic, and social data. A high score gives priority access to higher flexibility and living standards such as career advancement, housing, or mobility. The system takes the Western versions of the marketplace and social media aggregation to a new level of profiling, social value, and societal stratification. The social credit score seems to considerably amplify the social and economic aspects while keeping an eye on political activities. Such a paradigm raises significant ethical and moral questions, questioning one’s ability to exercise civic rights and responsibilities regardless of the score.
 
Such emerging types of civic engagement seem to play at the intersection of several dimensions: (1) links to the physical place(s) of birth, work, or living; (2) the omnipresence of daily life; and (3) levels of trust in the societal organization, governance, and engagement.

At the same time, the concepts of citizenship and residency do not overlap as they once did. In the process, civic engagement seems to struggle with who and where one can vote so that they can have a say in the democratic process. For example, some migrants can still vote in their country of birth. Although they have lived abroad for a long time, losing touch with the realities of that state, their civic engagement influences decisions for the daily life of those who remained. Is it fair to those who stayed? Concurrently, migrants cannot vote in the country of their residency, where they are not yet citizens, although they contribute to the economic and social system. Is it fair to these newcomers?

As society continues its fluid advancement, should it consider transferring citizenship rights and responsibilities to the concept of residency related to the territory surrounding our everyday life, rather than the place of birth?


© Monica Porteanu 2018

Tags:  citizen  life  residency 

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