We need a Digital Renaissance

We need a Digital Renaissance

Nobody has any doubt that there is something profoundly wrong with the way, we have implemented the vision of a shared Internet and thus a shared world as such. Instead of the tool for freedom and prosperity many assumed it would be, it has become a crime-ridden instrument for government and commercial market control increasingly concentrated in the hands of very few players.

We are not heading for trouble, we are deep in trouble as the destabilization process continues to escalate in many ways already exploding into social unrest, conflicts and crisis even if political institutions try to create illusions to maintain some order and structure.

The events of 2001 and subsequent military actions, the Financial crisis of 2008, the Snowden revelations and the emergent geopolitical conflicts are far from over - they are going to get a lot worse and how we act will have a profound impact on future generations. However we need to look deeper - looking for the casues and misunderstandings that lead to such symptoms of growing failure.

The realization is not that there is something wrong with the vision, but that we have gotten something wrong in the design. Something is missing or not done right in order to achieve the obvious benefits without sacrificing fundamental principles,

This blot is about a Return to Basic - about a search for the fundamental principles that was more or less ignored and finding way to re.-implement and enforce them in the digital sphere and social structures. Not in order to revolutionize but to change the heading for disaster towards a recovery to the vision that most share.

This is a blog of sustainable Innovation, Growth and Security.

Both in the sense that in a digital age, we DESIGN the core processes whether right or wrong. The things we got wrong can be amended if we understand, question and consider carefully.

Innovation is not about invention, but about how society and cultures change and improve over time. We maybe searching for perfection, but we will never achieve it nor assume so. History shows that whatever culture believe to have become superior turns stagnant and enter fast decline.

Growth is not just about consumption of resources but about how we sustainable can use resources available to create better standards of living and innovation about the processes that make this happen.

Security is not about trusting someone to accumulate power through surveillance and profiling, but to design for resilience respecting human nature and the rapidly escalating security problems related to integrating everything. For every value we can achieve by making something interoperable and reachable we need to design to avoid interdependence, lock-in and creating the ticking bombs while claiming progress.

It is - however - in many areas a departure from contemporary thinking, a revolution of thought, a true Digital Renaissance that bears comparison with the science renaissance out of the dark middle-ages. It is a return to many of the principles well-known from the Greeks and Romans, the tolerance and search for truth of the early Arabian cultures as well as the remarkable achievements of old Asian and American cultures far ahead of the rest of the World.

It is about the hard earned lesson that digitalization comes at a cost - and that cost is taking responsibility and paying careful attention to design of the fundamentals across economics, security and legal / institutional frameworks. In a digital network integrating everything all the problems are scaled exponentially and if we do get something from in the basics, it will and is already destabilizing everything.

This is not an economic ideology blog.

Not to say that I donĀ“t have interests, ideological bias nor to say that the issues are not ideological or economic in nature,

But I understand that the distribution of wealth created and economic ownership are areas of serious conflicts of interests increasingly global. It is, however, also an area where nobody, including myself, to date has an optimal answer that stands to reason to justify being implemented into the core fabric of society where they are not susceptible to change and pluralistic co-existence. It is the explicit choice to remain neutral (agnostic) and inclusive to such discussions and trying to embrace interoperable approaches that put no inherent restrictions to such discussions.

I believe in people - in individuals - always wanting to do what is best for them, their family and those close to them. We just need to ensure that - when doing so - it is not at the expense of but benefiting all of society. Humans all have a capacity for greatness and understanding but also a greed that can be surprisingly cynic and selectively blind. The frameworks need to protect us from the greed while enabling it to work for the grater good.

Heading for a future

We have huge challenges in the generations to come. Larger than most have the capacity to even fathom. From a looming resource gab compared to the population, climate problems, Geo-political struggles on a scale never seen before, religious conflicts etc. Many have yet to begin to understand the dangers and questions of how scientists play with nature and genomes as if they are Goods unable to launch terrible mistakes.

The reason I focus on the digital basics is simply that they are society fundamentals controlling everything else - how we design security in basic society processes and power distributions as well as how digital technologies connect represent the very key to how we change and innovate. If we go wrong on these, we likely go wrong everywhere.

As such my focus is not on some end goal, but on getting the enablers rights hoping that humanity will not kill itself in the meantime. I ask fundamental questions such as balances between individual freedom and our shared need to protect us from large-scale fraud and violence, on the linkage between individual choices and society economics, on the balances on business-to-consumer, business-to-business and Government-to-society.

You will in the pages read about profound questions leading to truths that questions contemporary understanding.

When that is said, this blog is just my view on present challenges. I retain not only all rights to question even the most firmly believed truths of others but the obligation to do so. I have many times been encouraged to blog more elaborate about views, I have expressed in discussions. You are welcome to question my thinking and I will be most happy to stand corrected as that would mean that I have learned something and we can both improve.

I remain defaistic optimistic. Meaning that in the short term, I fear that our institutional structures are more a part of the problem and knowing very well from history that each age has a tendency to live up to its most sinister potential. But also that - in the longer term - humanity has a tendency to raise to the occasion when it is most needed - yet often only out of great suffering trying to prevent this from happening again.

We truly need a second Digital Renaissance, mainly in social sciences, so we learn to master and restrict ourselves instead of allowing short-term greed for profit and power at the expense of others. We need to re-empower the individual citizen, The future of humanity and every normative goal depends on it - we have everything to gain and nothing to loose.

Stephan Engberg

Published on Saturday, August 2 2014 by WO5-GANDI