Without a principled vision for the web, our democratic traditions, values, government and society risk falling behind authoritarian states, technopolistic industry giants and autonomous technology in the race to reshape the most important international political, cultural and social space in existence.
At first, it was authoritarian regimes that were wary of the web. Now, the world over, governments are vying for change. The future of the open Internet is in doubt, and no cohesive settlement has been found.
The balances of power between states and corporations, corporations and citizens, and the social contract between states and their citizens is in constant flux online. Powerful technologies – artificial intelligence and trustless technology – presents a fourth pressure, with our lives governed by machine, not man.
This short paper, as part of the Good Web Project, explores proposed settlements on the balance of power and what they mean for the future of the web. It highlights the ways state, corporate, individual and machine power might help or hinder the democratic project, and the balance of powers proposed by competing conceptions of government. The paper demands we reset our vision for liberal democracy in a digital age at this juncture, to win over our publics to a vision of something better, and to secure that vision in collaboration with our friends and partners.