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The New Ideology of Dataism

“The era of dataism is here,” writes Miroslava Sawiris, a Research Fellow at GLOBSEC Policy Institute.  “[It]  has the potential to replace humanism and its worship of the individual with the ‘information flow’ as the ultimate goal to which all other activities, efforts, and desires will become subservient,” he said. 

Whether or not dataism can replace individuals “at the top of the hierarchy of existence with inorganic AI” is up for debate. Sawiris writes that the EU envisions a different model, in which big data and AI co-exist with liberal democratic values. 

Code of Practice on Disinformation (CoP) and GDPR were the first European attempts to address a lawless digital space, she writes. The author points to the need for policy around the machinelike “influence operations” which millions of people in the EU see online, and which lead to a “degradation of public discourse through online lynching and normalisation of hate speech.” Not only do such psyops threaten the electoral process, writes Sawiris, but they also lead to private data leaks and abuses. 

The “pre-5G” iteration of the internet brings innumerable opportunities and risks. “The question is thus not whether to regulate at all, but how?”

CoP and GDPR “bring online information space in line with principles and values based on liberal democracy by requiring social media platforms, tech giants and online businesses to begin to acknowledge their responsibility in shaping the information space and by redressing power asymmetries between users and service providers.”

In the article, Sawiris addresses the shape the new information superhighway should take.”What functions do we expect it to fulfill and more importantly, who should it work for?”

The European Commission’s Europe-focused strategy consists of three pillars. “Technology for people, competitive economy, and democratic society.” The Commission’s international approach entails promoting the adoption of the European strategy globally.

Namely, ‘the standardisation process of the new generation of technology: blockchain, supercomputing, quantum technologies, algorithms and tools to allow data sharing and data usage,’ writes the Commission.

Sawiris highlights the Commission’s White Paper on AI as a shining example of future digital policy. The paper was published in February 2020. The Commission taps AI for fast deployment in areas such as health care, farming or climate change mitigation. 

The EU’s digital strategy entails working on plans to ‘attract over €20 billion of total investment in the EU per year in AI over the next decade’ to create a Silicon Valley of Europe and help to craft global digital standardization–– “the new battlefield ‘in the geopolitical contest over the cyber and information space‘.”

Chinese companies’ Huawei and ZTE “have been most successful” in an arm’s race in which winners will decide not only ‘whose technology is used but also how it is used’ as Alliance for Securing Democcracy Lindsey Gorman suggests.

The EU faces headwinds, Sawiris argues, as an “enormous and slow bureaucratic machine consisting of interlinked European institutions.” Less ambitious undertakings can work as stopgaps along the path towards standardization, in her mind. They include “clearly defined framework for increased responsibility, transparency and accountability of digital platforms operating in each European market.” 

Sawiris cites the new Voluntary Code of Practice or and the as yet signed Digital Services Act as tools by which to further the standardization of the digital space. 

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