IEEE Technology and Society Magazine - March 2022 - 6

Editorial
equivalence of " more than half " with " democracy "
providing a fa├žade for authoritarian rule.
The argument for epistemic diversity as a precondition
for democratic governance has many justifications.
For some, like Hayek [5], epistemic diversity
is foremost a preexisting condition: solutions to economic
problems of society, such as the allocation of
resources, depend on the application of knowledge
and expertise that is not possessed by any one individual
in its entirety, nor is it dispersed uniformly, nor is
it necessarily noncontradictory. Hayek argues that it is
a mistake to try to solve an economic problem by first
trying to solve the knowledge distribution problem by
creating an all-knowing, centralized authority: indeed,
the complexity of information processing by a human
collectivity as a " distributed information processing
unit " in a dynamic environment is so demanding that
any command or planned economy is likely to be
both inefficient and ineffective. Moreover, information
loss as it passes up a hierarchy is complemented by
context gain as central decisions pass down the hierarchy,
and may make such decisions removed from and
incompatible with local environmental conditions
(cf., [6]). In addition to Ober's argument [7], that epistemic
diversity is crucial to the processes of knowledge
alignment for a distributed information processing
unit to more often than not make the " correct " decision,
Foucault identified a power-knowledge relationship
and argued that traditional (and violent) forms
of exerting power have been superseded by a " subtle,
calculated technology of subjection " [8, p.221] which
some 50 years later has been enabled and accelerated
through subjection by technology [9], [10].
Civic education is linked to epistemic diversity
and is a requirement for democratic governance of
any collectivty to outlast the lifespan of its individual
citizens. Classical Athenian democracy lasted nearly
200 years [7], and the tradition of liberal democracy,
with its emphasis on human rights, equity and justice
(beyond the values of security, prosperity, and
tyranny avoidance of Basic Democracy), has lasted
so far about 300 years (and may yet survive its present-day
crisis [11]-[13]). Ostrom has pointed out
that self-governing institutions for sustainable common-pool
resource management have survived over
many generations [6], whereby successor generations
perpetuate the institutional rules of the predecessors
even though they were not party to the original determination
of those rules. According to Dewey [14],
it is education that facilitates the transition from
6
uninitiated to initiated that is key to this process.
Ober [1] also argues that education should include
the value of civic participation and the reasons for an
equitable sharing of the burdens of self-governance.
However, a key qualifier of education is accessibility:
from public schools (in their original conception) to
public libraries, from museums to universities, a fundamental
property of the educational system should
be universal open access to the general public.
Legitimate consent is, in fact, a precondition for
any functional form of governance: note that in different
personae people often comfortably and largely
unquestioningly subject themselves to different forms
of governance within different organisational structures
and management procedures, not all of which
are " democratic. " Universities, in particular, are both
hierarchical and elitist (and often elitist when they
should be egalitarian, e.g., with respect to access, as
discussed above), but can also offer considerable
scope for individual and collective choice (i.e., the
emphasis on " college " and the self-determination of
academic freedom). However, the essential quality
here is consent, and the legitimacy of that consent,
which depends on it being informed, meaningful and
revocable. Being informed, as we have seen, is a function
of both civic dignity and civic education. Being
meaningful implies that Churchill's often quoted
" least tribute " to democracy as " the little man with
the little pencil " voting once every four or five years
does have some validity; but it is also a gross misrepresentation
and reductive underestimation if that is all
it means. Democracy means nothing if people don't
participate: but of all the hard-won human rights, to
not exercise a right to vote is to deny that historic legacy
and (literally) demean democracy. But quality
and quantity count as well: meaningful civic participation
implies active engagement in pursuit of those
confluent values at many levels, creating conceptual
resources through social construction [15] rooted in
human collectivities [16]. Crucially, though, this consent
must be revocable: one aspect of revocation is
the right to criticise, dissent and protest when there
is a discrepancy between procedures and values [1];
another aspect is that leaving the collectivity should
be an option at any point [7]. Furthermore, consent,
once revoked, should be nonrepudiable.
Principles of Cyber-Anarcho-Socialism
Having established the five preconditions for functional
democratic governance, it is noticeable that, in
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