The explosion in data volumes, processing power, and Artificial Intelligence, known as the “digital revolution”, has driven our world to a dangerous point. One thing is increasingly clear: We are at a crossroads. We need to make decisions. We must re-invent our future.
After the automation of factories and the creation of self-driving cars, the automation of society is next. But there are two kinds of automation: a centralized top-down control of the world, and a distributed control approach supporting local self-organization. Using the power of today’s information systems, governments and companies like Google seem to engage in the first approach. Will they even try to build a “digital God” who knows everything and controls what we do? In fact, governments would spend billions to predict the future of our world and control its path.
Given that, every year, we produce as much data as in the entire history of humankind, can we now create a better world? The abundance of data certainly makes it possible to establish an entirely new paradigm for running our societies. Could we even build a data-driven “crystal ball” to predict the future and, given that knowledge implies power, also something like a “magic wand” to optimally rule the world? Will the digital revolution empower a “wise king” or “benevolent dictator”, maybe by means of Artificial Intelligence? In fact, we are much closer to this than you might think. But do we really need large-scale surveillance to understand and manage the increasingly complex systems we have created? Or are we running into a totalitarian nightmare?