Democratic self-government and the algocratic shortcut: the democratic harms in algorithmic governance of society

Paper by Nardine Alnemr: “Algorithms are used to calculate and govern varying aspects of public life for efficient use of the vast data available about citizens. Assuming that algorithms are neutral and efficient in data-based decision making, algorithms are used in areas such as criminal justice and welfare. This has ramifications on the ideal of democratic self-government as algorithmic decisions are made without democratic deliberation, scrutiny or justification. In the book Democracy without Shortcuts, Cristina Lafont argued against “shortcutting” democratic self-government. Lafont’s critique of shortcuts turns to problematise taken-for-granted practices in democracies that bypass citizen inclusion and equality in authoring decisions governing public life. In this article, I extend Lafont’s argument to another shortcut: the algocratic shortcut. The democratic harms attributable to the algocratic shortcut include diminishing the role of voice in politics and reducing opportunities for civic engagement. In this article, I define the algocratic shortcut and discuss the democratic harms of this shortcut, its relation to other shortcuts to democracy and the limitations of using shortcuts to remedy algocratic harms. Finally, I reflect on remedy through “aspirational deliberation”…(More)”.

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