IAS-Research Seminar by Xabier Barandiaran: “Artificial Democratic Life: re-engineering the autonomy of the social”

Date and time: January 23, Tuesday, 11:15 a.m.

Location: Carlos Santamaría Building, Room B14.

Speaker: Xabier Barandiaran (UPV/EHU)

Title: Artificial Democratic Life: re-engineering the autonomy of the social

Abstract: New constraints and opportunities often give rise to the
emergence of new forms of life or their radical transformation. Such
is the case of administrative institutions, the emergence and
autonomization of economic life with capitalism or the emergence of
spread of academic life through peer-review journals, conferences and,
ultimately, the internet. This last infrastructure, the internet, has
made possible a profound transformation of many human and societal
forms of life. And Democracy is waiting its turn. In the era of
Artificial Intelligence and Algorithmic Governance, the combination of
corporate controlled social networks, big data analytics and political
cyberwar, the issue of how to build public infrastructures for
peacefull, deliverative and privacy-aware democratic life becomes
essential. Barcelona City Council is leading the project Decidim: an
online platform for participatory democracy, with thousands of users.
The platform is rapidly extending to other cities in Europe (Spain,
Italy, Sweden, France, etc.). Its sucess depends partly on the
capacity of the development team to include algorithms that maximize
democratic rights, minimize lobby-influence and favors
self-organization and social autonomy. Instead of applying AI
techniques (deep learning, machine learning) to user profiling and
other standard (ab)uses of corporate dominated social networks, the
challenge ahead lies on defining Artificial Life models that boost
Democratic Life. The goal of this talk is to review such posibilities
and explore the way in which Artificial Life can help improve our
democracies in an era of maximal inequality on digital power. With the
lessons learned during the rise of networked multitudinous identities
during the 15M we currently face the challenge of designing the
interaction dynamics within Decidim.Barcelona (the participatory
democracry platform of Barcelona City Council) so as to make possible
the emergence of both city-scale and social autonomous identities.
Regarding city-scale identity, and inspired on the way in which cells
become autonomous (after all it is in greek cities where autonomy was
born as a concept), Decidim makes possible the interaction between
bottom-up and top-down dynamics on the constitution of global
contraints (such as Municipal Action Plan or city wide regulations).
We see institutions as channeling collective energy and matter (human,
urban and economic) to produce meso and macroscopic constraints for
the production and reproduction of city life. Citizen interactions on
the other hand are equivalent to molecular interactions. When it comes
to political decision making, planing and policy making, Decidim is
designed to generate a dialectic between bottom-up (proposal
production and voting) and top-down (selection and result
construction) dynamics. The PAM (Pla d’Actuació Municipal, Municipal
Action Plan, 4 yearly strategic planning for the city) is a good
example of city-scale “identity” production through bottom-up and
top-down interaction dynamics. The second aspect of autonomous
identity generation mechanism we want to foster will soon be available
through citizen initiatives and enhanced horizontal communication
channels within Decidim.Barcelona. The newly aproved participatory
regulation makes possible for citizens to organize and create
different king of large scale interventions that can finally end up on
a public consultation. We consider that the perceived oportunity for
citizen initiatives to be institucionally channeled will create a kind
of energy gradient (like those found at the roots of physical
self-organized processes, such as Benard cells). Decidim.Barcelona is
currently been designed to facilitate social interaction on the
creation of citizen proposal for initiatives, their interaction
through social media, and the self-organization of public discussion
and coordination of communicative action to boost the emergence of
political collective identities. How can we foster a better democratic
life making use of the tools and principles of Artificial Life?