Once upon a time (around 500 years before the alleged birth of Jesus of Nazareth), a Greek lawmaker by the name of Cleisthenes outlined a system for the governance of the city of Athens. His idea was based on the principle that the people themselves should be in charge of their collective destiny and legislation.
At the very foundation of this ideal were a number of important rights, including freedom of speech and assembly, equality and inclusiveness, minority rights, the right to life and the right to vote.
Sounds lovely, doesn’t it? Women were not recognised as citizens, neither were children or slaves at that time.
How so ever, the basic principals of democracy as a form of governance have been the mainstay of modern Western life ever since. It all sounds wonderfully egalitarian, doesn’t it?
So what went wrong? At what point did democracy shift from the power of the people to the power of vested interests, of corporations and the elite?
Some believe it was in the post WWII era, when US President Dwight D Eisenhower took as shot at the burgeoning power of the military industrial complex.
Others believe it goes back even further as discussed in this interesting TEDx talk.
Regardless of whether your flavour of politics reflects a centrist, leftist or right-wing stance, you will most likely agree that democracy as it was envisioned, much like socialism, communism, liberalism, conservatism and fascism, has never existed in reality. The nature of humankind does not allow it.
The progress we have seen in the past centuries is not a result of any political system – it is a result of individuals striving for power, money, control and social standing.
When you look at political systems in the West today you will see the huge influence of the lobbyists, who, by simply appealing to the vanity of elected representatives, run roughshod over our right to be heard and represented accordingly.
The very nature of the political class demands its abolition.
The unacceptable gerrymandering, back-handers and the revolving doors between the political and corporate worlds are prime examples of how democracy is failing us.
We could separate the business world from the state and ban the lobbyists. We could limit representatives to one term in office (with no lifetime pension afterwards). We could even democratise democracy with the help of technology that asks us our opinions in real-time.
Or how about letting artificial intelligence run the show? It would not do a worse job than our political class…
To allow AI to propose and implement changes to our laws, our regulations and our methods for organising society might have some benefits, once there is no one person in charge of the algorithms upon which it operates.
Taking human nature from the decision-making and governance process might allow for a more balanced, resource-aware, environmental and science-based approach to living.
If people can’t adversely affect the system they will accept it. China is a case in point. As too is Russia, to a lesser extent.
But instead of an autocratic ruling party or quasi-dictator, how about our own version of HAL 9000, that understands what we want to achieve as a species, as a part of this planet’s rich abundance, and uses the available resources and rule of law to make it happen?
Corporations are already hading over a large part of their decision-making to AI. It will only increase over time.
By removing the human from politics we may have a chance of making politics something that protects humanity.
Perhaps we are our own worst enemy.