The seeds of the modern conception of Technocracy – as a system of governance in which technically trained experts rule by virtue of their specialized knowledge and position in dominant political and economic institutions – are as old as modernity itself.
But now, having largely fallen out of fashion in recent decades, Technocracy is for various reasons beginning to ‘return’ – both as a subject of scholarly analysis and as an actual and expanding potential system for the globalised, top-down, post-democratic and digitally-powered management of populations, on the basis of full-spectrum surveillance, Big Data, and possibly a controlled shift from a monetary- to a resource-based economic system in the name of ‘sustainable development’.
The focus of the conference, given this, is on a multi-disciplinary exploration of the following contention: that recent developments in digital technology and the consolidation of a global communications infrastructure, in the context of the wealth-and-power concentrating activities of a global ‘superclass’ and corporate sector, are on the verge of making older dreams and visions of an all-encompassing and post-democratic system of Technocracy realisable.
John Rawles once observed that ‘the politician, we say, looks to the next election, the statesman to the next generation, and philosophy to the indefinite future.’ How, then, shall we set the time horizon for a sober scientific debate? We believe that any temporal dimension towards the future might be relevant here: from short-time ‘instrumental’ projections to the further – and bolder – extrapolations of technē/technik in societal milieu. To put it directly: Where are we now? How did we get here? What comes next? What is the endgame?
Since technological innovations cut ‘across the spheres of the biological, the physical and the digital’ we welcome genuinely critical contributions (papers, suggestions for panels, etc.) from scholars working in any discipline relevant to the discussion. Possible topics might include, but are by no means confined to, the following:
- History of Technocracy: From Saint Simon and Comte, via Taylorism and Technocracy Inc., to the Trilateral Commission and technetronics, and more.
- Big Tech, Surveillance Capitalism and ‘Instrumentarian’ Power: Behaviour modification and manipulation of the user at the screen interface; the attempt to ‘automate’ user responses; the effects of this young users in their formative years?
- Social Physics: Big Data paternalism? Herding/hiving the public mind? Non-reflexive, conformist publics?
- Cambridge Analytica and Since: Big Data-based interventions in electoral processes; ‘nudge’ and political persuasion?
- The Rise of Populism: The ‘return of politics’/revolt against technocratic governance?
- Internet of Things/Bodies and Social Credit: The normalisation of continuous full-spectrum surveillance? A Chinese-style social credit system in the Western democracies? Digital authoritarianism and its ramifications.
- Covid-19 and Social Control: Health mandates, ‘vaccine passports’ and ID2020 – a glimpse into the future? The emergence of the bio-security state?
- The ‘Great Reset’ and the World Economic Forum: How are we to understand the ‘Fourth Industrial Revolution’? Bio-tech convergence and transhumanism as social control vectors?
- Eugenics/Population Control in Technocratic Thinking: From the Rockefeller Foundation and H.G. Wells to Prince Charles and Bill Gates.
- Science Fiction Technocracies: in literature and film, from Brave New World to Black Mirror and points between. Prophetic visions? ‘Predictive programming’?
- Education: Expansion of screen- and other tech-based distance learning, gamification, continuous data-mining of pupils and students for Big Data and machine learning?
- Military Technologies for ‘Cognitive Warfare’: Civilian and social applications? Neuroscience and neurotechnologies for defence and national security. Fourth-generation warfare against domestic populations as well as military opponents? Mind-hacking?
- Digital Technocracy and the State: data/algorithmic sovereignty, non-state actors between digital utopianism and digital dystopianism, regulatory regimes and their (un)fulfilled promises: from techno-libertarianism to techno-realism, the ‘Technopolar Moment.’ How technology shapes politics/policies and how politics/policies shape technology?
- Normative/ethical appraisal: technocracy and the judiciary system, digital divide, algorithmic bias, predictive policing, the “black box” problem, algorithmic decision making and the “complexity monster” (space, time, human complexity), a design for ethical technocracy (responsibility/negligence, explainability/transparency, accuracy, security, auditability, fairness, privacy). Relevance of the search engine manipulation effect (SEME)?
The above topics shall lead to publication of a special collection of articles in an edited volume to be published by a top-tier international academic publisher.
- David Lyon (Queen’s University)
- Matthew Crawford (Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture, University of Virginia)
- Martin Libicki (RAND Graduate School in Santa Monica, California)
- Alex Thomson (Commissioning Editor, ukcolumn.org)
Submission deadline: 31 May 2023
For more details and submission guidelines please go to https://digitaltechnocracy.uj.edu.pl.