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Redesigning Democracy in the Digital Age | DAVOS 2020

E. Glen Weyl
Founder at RadicalXChange Foundation
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World Economic Forum 2020
January 21, 2020, Davos, Switzerland
World Economic Forum 2020
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About speakers

E. Glen Weyl
Founder at RadicalXChange Foundation
Rana Foroohar
Global Business Columnist and Associate Editor at The Financial Times

2007, undergraduate degree (Hons), Princeton; 2008, PhD in Economics. Former Junior Fellow, Harvard Society of Fellows and Assistant Professor, University of Chicago. Research developed during this time and five years at the New England and New York City Research labs spans and combines economics, law, computer science, philosophy, political science and biology and has been published in leading journals in those fields. Co-Author of “Radical Markets: Uprooting Capitalism and Democracy for a Just Society”; has focused on using new computer and economic technology to create a radically more equal and cooperative society. Recipient of honours and awards, including: named one of Bloomberg Businessweek’s 50 most influential people of 2018 and by WIRED as one of the 25 people shaping the next 25 years of technology. Founder and Chair, RadicalxChange Foundation, which fosters collaboration between scholars, technologists, activists and artists to imagine and create a radically more cooperative society. Currently with Microsoft’s Office of the Chief Technology Officer, Political Economist and Social Technologist (OCTOPEST), advising the company on the future of technology in relationship to political and economic change and managing a research group focused on fostering a vision of technology to support pluralistic collaboration rather than automation.

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Associate Editor and Global Business Columnist, the Financial Times. Global Economic Analyst, CNN. Author, "Makers and Takers," (Crown, 2016) and "Don't Be Evil," (Crown 2019). Former Assistant Managing Editor in charge of economics and business at TIME and Newsweek. Member of the Council on Foreign Relations. Member of the Board, Open Markets Institute. BA, Barnard College, Columbia University, 1992.

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About the talk

From data dignity to quadratic voting, join economist and best-selling author Glen Weyl for an exploration of radical solutions to societal decision-making in the wake of unprecedented technological change.

Speakers: E. Glen Weyl, Rana Foroohar

The World Economic Forum is the International Organization for Public-Private Cooperation. The Forum engages the foremost political, business, cultural and other leaders of society to shape global, regional and industry agendas. We believe that progress happens by bringing together people from all walks of life who have the drive and the influence to make positive change.

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#WorldEconomicForum #Davos

01:35 What is going wrong with economics

05:50 Human rights

10:55 Consensus of two ideas

15:00 Economic institutes

20:00 Basic features

25:50 Limiting the scope

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Good morning, and welcome to the west Des to I guess although I already have a little bit of West fatigue. I have to say how the Grateful Dead are the financial times and I am so pleased to be here doing this one-on-one with a condom is Glenn while he is the author of an amazing book which you must run out and buy mediately. If you don't have it called radical Marcus, he's also the founder of the radical exchange Foundation. He has a day job at Microsoft, but she's not here to talk about essentially a movement in his spare time.

I don't know how you do that. We're going to hear a little bit more about it, but you and I've I've been following your work now for a couple of years and one of the challenges with Glenn is that there is so much and what you do and you've essentially written a book that questions almost every aspect that's how we're running the economy today thinking about how to make the kinds of radical shift. We need to make sure that the digital economy in the transitions that were talking about in Davos. This week are not a zero-sum game. We're going to tease out a lot of your ideas and and look a little

bit the history. But first I want it. I want to go to a comment that you made a couple of days ago. We were speaking you said that you felt the economics profession in general had become corrupted and one of the things that you're trying to do is put it back on track where in Davos this is a place where we talked a lot about the ills of neoliberalism as well as some of the benefits of course, but tell us what you think is going wrong and how does radical change fit into trying to fix that? I really think when I think about this question, I think about a man named Henry George Henry.

George is actually not very widely known these days, but he was the best selling author in the English language for 30 years of in the Bible and he ran for mayor of New York and actually beat Teddy Roosevelt. We ended up coming in second. So Teddy Roosevelt Third and got beaten by the machine Democrat and the thing that it was remarkable that Henry George is he was one of the great political Economist of you know, the 19th century and at the same time, he was like the founder of the Progressive Movement. He brought the secret ballot to the United States. He was really the first heard

of central left politician to run for office in the United States. So there was a way of being an economist and political Economist really the time it was engaged with the public that was about building movement that I think's really been lost as it's become a very technocratic divorced and inward-looking profession Centerton so much discussion for Sealy since 2008 about how are the economics profession needs to really come out of the Ivory Tower get get on the ground and their parts of it and behavioral economics before going out in the field, but you're actually suggesting much

more radical shift and maybe we can start by talking a little bit about how you came to these ideas with their kind of a lightbulb moment for you or you thought I have to write a book about Economics profession and reinvent democracy. I actually owe a lot to Sumi achaeans who's a reporter at The Economist to really encouraged me to bring all the things that I've been working on, you know for a decade before together into a broad answer but you know really it is roots in my growing up. I was a socialist activist until about the age of 12 is actually on TV at 7 campaigning for

building started at West End lover and teenage Republican organization and went to the bush inauguration in 2000. And I sort of been tried to reconcile those things. Well, let's talk a little bit about politics since we're on that topic. You're one of the one of the future challenges everywhere particularly in the us where we both live is this sort of bifurcation of politics and and the fact that it's become so polarized and also the entire political process makes it difficult to capture Nuance to capture the the multitude of

things that both parties really care about talk about some of the ways, you know, with the real life examples of a politician's you're working with that you think the radical Market ideas could fix this we've been developing idea called quadratic of allowing people to express their preferences. Not just I'm in favor of this or against this but this is really important to me. This is the sacred value to meet this is something I'm willing to compromise on but not just allow Lee politician to do that as they've always done and you know backroom deals, but you allow everyone in the public

can actually Express those things and one of the most inspiring examples of this being applied is in Taiwan. There's a leader there. And Audrey taing who's the digital Minister who's really managed to form consensus in the population and see off a lot of the issues with populism by precisely using these ways to allow citizens to get much more nuanced perspective on what really matters to them and to build consensus using digital Tools in a distributed way like this a little bit because I'm to pull the lens back when the things that I've been reading a lot about is

China and the surveillance economy there the ways in which digital Technologies are being used to increase productivity of Sciences, but also to mine data to serve a low population. This is something that is becoming a major threat of not just economic issue in the sense that there's a capital labor to buy there and I want to come back to that and dig into some of your ideas around this but also human rights issues. So can you talk about how you See the difference between the way Taiwan is using digital Technologies versus the way China is

using them has really built around this human replacement autonomous systems technocratic a lead planning everything with all the data coming into them sort of a vision top-down. Yeah and Taiwan and the things were trying to build really have a opposite perspective where we actually try to build through a variety of different social and information Technologies ways of people sort of determining their own future in Emergen-C pluralistic collectives, including things called Data collisions with maybe we'll talk more about it later wasting people

managing their data from the bottom up but also Democratic participation mechanisms such as quadratic voting such as what are called Wiki surveys which are ways of masses of people having conversations together with each other Guided by AI that help form can sense this. Tell us about how Wiki conversation can capture in a way that is not sort of completely all over the place abroad a variety of use and then funnel it to the politicians in a way that actually helps the demos yet. Actually one of the technologies that we radical

exchange came up with but it's one that we were very enthusiastic about it. The idea is that people on an issue. Let's say like regulating Uber could propose their own positions and then statistical techniques we could call them artificial intelligence are used to Cluster those positions together. And so you didn't get a sense for what are the types of beliefs in the population, but then people can earn rewards for actually finding new positions that attract the most diverse support where diversity is defined by those initial position enter. The notion is that we actually guide the

conversation using a combination of statistics and human direct engagement towards consensus. What's amazing you did Audrey and end the gov zero movement in Taiwan have managed to use this to actually form consensus on a bunch of these really divisive topic together with quadratic voting and other techniques and data Coalition and they gutted participatory governance platform on which 10 million of the 23 million people in Taiwan or actually participating. So, you know, we at we were so worried about all these dystopian thinks there are alternatives there are ways to use

technology to actually be a foundation for building a pluralistic Democratic Society because right now it seems that there's a debate there's a big debate about regulating tack, which there's no it's going to be a lot of Jabez this week about that. The debate is often framed as well. You know, you have to just the cats out of the bag big Tech is what it is surveillance is what it is, you know, we have these giant platforms that are polarizing people and you know, we can go to the margins the week. Really change anything fundamentally what you're saying is

that you can actually flip this whole model in some ways on its head and quadratic voting is such an interesting example of that. Maybe you could in a very real world way breakdown how that's working in Taiwan and also some of the examples elsewhere in the u.s. Taiwan in Colorado the Democrats who are the majority in the state legislature use this technique of quadratic voting to prioritize their budget this year on the way that that work. Is it every legislator received a

certain number of tokens or credits that they were able to put on the issues that were most important to them and if they really care about one issue they can put more credits on that and fewer on others, but it becomes increasingly expensive to put weight on a particular issue. So the first vote cost one credit II. Okaasan additional 3 credits the third and additional 5 so that everyone has an incentive to allocate things in proportion to how important the issue is to them and this ended up being a huge success in Colorado. They're going to be doing it again this year.

They ended up actually just passing last week the budget that came out of this in the top priority was actually legislation to help equalize paper women in the public sector and what's the political makeup in that area men with this the case in which red and blue could could really come together example of a state we are really the governor has helped form a lot of consensus between Democrats and Republicans in this state and we're working almost equally with the center right as we are with the centre-left soap one of our closest collaborators. Probably

our closest collaborators actually a very popular conservative politician from Calgary in Canada, and we're also working The Christian Democratic Union in Germany. So we believe both of these ideas directly can be ways of forming consensus but also that because they touch on both the concern with markets which are very important to us and the concern with democracy, which is very important to the left. We think that these can also be a way of talking about things that can bring together the best of both sides and and unify people and talk to

politicians around the world. How do you start the conversation or or is it a pole? I mean, do you find the people are reaching out to you or really depends on the context? I think one thing that I found this remarkable to see if you actually get down to a concrete issue the solutions were proposing are not ideological. They're really just improvement from the existing Technologies we have and it's very easy for many politicians to see that wants to get down to a specific issue now so much as you noted in our political debate is polarized in a way that everyone wants to just

categorize Things on one side or another especially when they're very bold ideas. But if you really get down to the mechanics of it on things like campaign Finance, which we have a solution for ways of voting, you know, which we haven't approached two ways of governing data. I think that is just pretty clear that there aren't these other Solutions really aren't working. We're going around in circles and when you really have a concrete design it pretty clearly addresses many of the key values of both sides and that's how we've been able to make progress before we move on to Market sensitive

data governance date is labor, which is something that is a really fascinating idea talk a little bit about campaign Finance reform. And what would be your solution there. I become a little bit obsessed about this issue actually because there's another kind of assignment you may know Thomas philippon who's going to work looking at how the the the the lack of money and pot or the fact that there is less money in politics in Europe has actually made markets in some ways Freer and more efficient and that the money in What states is what's driving a lot of the problems that we're saying? So what is

this really great example of this is Canada Canada is there money in politics is there not it's complicated because actually the state gives a lot of money but it doesn't give it in a direct Grant faced way instead. It uses it as a matching front and this is also happening in the sidh in New York city. So in New York, you get a 641 match up to $100 if the candidate that you're giving to as already received 999 other supporters. So that's a basic principle that I think many of these matching systems which were some of the more successful campaign Finance systems have is the

match more small contributions to popular candidate, but then you could say 6 for $100 all these are arbitrary number. So the question is is there a principled basis that we can come up with for matching individual contributions to encourage that sort of citizen participation that actually The bases in economic theory that turns up. There is a rule that you can drive from economically Theory and I didn't have paper with vitalik buterin who founded aetherium and fabulous young Economist. He's actually also one of them were renowned poets

in the world. So he hits egg people who come from different perspectives believe that there I mean, they're artists their politicians their Economist there. Is there Anthropologist. It's a it's a really diverse group and it's interesting because in some ways it's hard as a journalist to write about and capture because there is it's very decentralized tell me it's not one thing. It's multiple people have different perspectives wanting to try to write on Marvel comic Universe meets The Communist Manifesto.

Thing is it wouldn't just be one thing. That's the whole point is that's the amazing thing about the Marvel comic universe is all these different movies all these different characters. It's all these different entry points. And I think that's what we need. If we won't have a pluralistic political movement is not one document like radical markets or whatever, but I'll plurality of different ways of approaching the same goals or thought about that. We did this some paper and this shows that there's a particular formula that is actually an

optimal way to do this thing of matching more smaller contributions more popular candidate. It's got a wonky formula, which is did the candidate should receive the square of the sum of the square roots contributed to it, but actually the it's just a matter of elegant way of getting at exactly what these other things are driving at and it's something that has been hugely successful for finding open source software is now been almost two million dollars given to open source software using this. We're also working to use this to find media. So rather than just giving all the money

to a national broadcaster. You could use this as a way to encourage majority communities to build their own media and it's natural for campaign financing as well. Do it to form any of these areas. I think we can come up with model that really go beyond this capitalist socialist divided rather than have the government allocate things or this very unfair process of just, you know, the rich dominating everything we can have ways of using public funds to make markets work better. So it's wonderful that you're bringing such creativity this let me talk a little bit about the

market element in your in your book something I've learned a lot about is is the fact that as we shift to a digital economy a lot of the research shows that unless we get some some creative thinking some of the Frameworks right. Shift from kind of tangible to intangible could put on steroids the pro. Sublime of capital being so far above labor that we've seen last 40 years, which is one of the reasons we have the politics we do which is one of the reasons you're doing the work that you are. So talk a little bit about how you think about that problem and some of the solutions that

you're bringing. I mean, I think that was the perfect place to talk about. This was always have the time for cyst on stakeholder approach is to capitalism and I think that that's going to become increasingly important because these increasing returns Network effect type Industries 10 to create firms that on the one hand are very efficient. But on the other hand have huge amounts of power over their consumers their suppliers their workers in the journalist that feed into them the authors that feed into them and I think fundamentally what we need to do is we need to build a new model of

approaching antitrust and regulation which is based neither on the state regulating things Noir on Breaking up processes which are much more efficient if they cross borders with include all these people but instead forcing the company's to formally represent the stakeholders that they have power over either by giving those stakeholders countervailing power to form, you know cooperatives against them War by including them in the board or other mechanisms like that sent. This is the foundation of some of the ideas we have about data governance, but I

think it applies much more broadly because digital Technologies are spreading throughout the economy. They're creating these huge concentrations of power and the right solution that is not breaking things up, you know, the idea behind antitrust was to deal with the problem of corporate monarchy, but we didn't deal with monarchies at least most productive Lie by chopping off of the rulers wheat we dealt with it by force entry to the people that they ruled right and so did that I think has to be the best

approach going forward before I go. I want to ask people to take questions in this session or weight. Do we have Mike's around? Yes, we do. Okay. I wanted just I've got a number of questions, but I want to open it up and look at 11 minutes left and just give folks a chance if you want it to raise your hand and ask one question or if you're still thinking think about your question hold it and I'll give you a chance again in just a moment. We have one here. How do you deal with the impact of the digital divide?

You mean the the lack of availability of very much that's a great question. I think critical path towards implementing. A lot of these things has to be to find ways for them to fit for example into Mobile not smartphones, but you know basic feature phone technology. I don't think we've made great progress on that. I think it's a really important really important question. We're doing a lot of work in places like Uganda and and so forth and and and that's a major challenge that we're going to face their I don't have an immediate answer to that question. However, I

think it's really important. question back here I'm just wondering how you deal with people's the availability of time and how that buys his towards different things because we supposed to manage your pages, etc. Etc. And it seems that the demands on our time and that will be using these forms when I think one of the main goals of something like quadratic voting and and really data collisions and Collective organizations is to allow within the sphere of

politics some of the sort of division of labor that we have within the market. So allowing people to focus on the things that are most important to them that their most knowledgeable about this lot of research and political science showing them within sight of any class or demographic group. There's a certain part of the population within that group which has a much clearer sense of the interests of that group, but it's hard for them to express that to focus on that area and Quadratic voting and you know these Collective organizations around data

allow for that sort of self-selection of leadership button in the egalitarian way not in the way that sort of top-down and allegedly meritocratic but not actually representative that that's kind of the the approach. Yeah, thank you. Thank you very much. Very interesting presentation. Thank you for that. My question is about example of voting in Colorado. So have you made the assessment how different The Outfield full thing of us by using your methodology in comparison what it food could have been

using a normal procedure existing procedure a few of technology or you're a deer to the real outcome of the voting on the process in Colorado about the Colorado process itself is also a bunch of quite interesting academic research about using quadratic voting for polling as opposed to the usual method method of like strongly agree strongly disagree etcetera. What these tend to indicate is that you get a lot more nuanced and people's opinions and a lot more consensus-building out of allowing. People in this sort of subtle way to show exactly what they seem more than what they don't in in a

lot of standard methods either you're on the winning side or the losing side. Where is here? Sort of everyone is able to be kind of on the winning side for the things most important to them and a little bit supportive of other things that win and it gives like a I think a much richer sense of ownership to the participants in what eventually emerges then processes. Were you sort of winter you lose if I can add on to that because I actually had the chance to speak to a couple of the politicians who worked with you the thing that struck me one of them told me that in a typical budgetary

process, they would start with maybe forty six different items that they would then have to Duke it out over through using this process. They very quickly went down to sort of 12 and then came up with 3, and then it was just the ability to quickly get to consensus and sort of, you know, get in surgically to what people could real. I agree on that was something that really struck and I think you know the goal of all these types of Technology isn't as we go forward. I think that they'll continue to get better and we're working on that is really, you know, if you think about our

informal social relations what we have with people under what's called our Dunbar number that's like a hundred and forty people that you can maintain really strong relationships with we use all sorts of Rich signaling communication etcetera to form social meaning priorities in those contacts, but that's very slow and complicated. We can't sustain with large number of people but we're really trying to do is in the same way that like, you know, the telephone with better than the telegraph at conveying in person communication across long distances. We're trying to make it

possible across the social distance to have more of the richness that we have in our you know, it's more intimate relationship conveyed in our political and economic life. Here and then we'll make a couple final point. So I wanted to ask how much you what's with all the way you see the place of citizens assemblies and ends with offline prices in the side strikes me that some of the questions that been tossed about time so that the Canadian does a Canadian proposal to have a

certain number. Yes. I got jury service representative sample is Heath hussar feed and spicy wings prices going to break break. That kind of the Log Jam on an abortion legislation is a complimentary to do you have do you think that week that what do you see that? I like I like the spirit of those types of conversations. I am concerned about the issue of time that the other question are asked about in particular. I think a problem with sortition like randomly choosing people to participate in these things is that it

limits the scope for the people who Really have focused a lot of attention or thought a lot about issues to select into leadership on those issues, which I think it's actually desirable feature in a lot of people eat a while. That's just special interest and it can become that way if you don't have rules in place that's her to balance. The power is a quadratic voting tries to do but I tend to think that there are better ways than pure Randomness that we can find for selecting people to participate in those types of deliberations Hannah Arendt talks a lot about this notion of a

citizen self selection process and I think if we can structure that in the right way, it's probably even better than random random twice. So just in the few minutes we have left. I want to ask you a couple of other things you are an economist, but you came out of the tech sector and you're one of them call myself an economist anymore. I'm not sure if stand social technology. Does my Microsoft account? Okay. Alright. I like that. I mean you're either you want to be essentially activist that that is coming out of Industry now and this is becoming a thing that workers themselves

in the technology ended in the tech space are actually in some ways agitating and creating more change than maybe even then Regulators. Where is that going to think? What what what's what's that process going to look like in three to five years will I mean in some ways it's surprising and another ways. It's like exactly what always happens in these things. You think of John Maynard Keynes and you know, it was like the essence of the establishment right and yet he was crucial to the process of Reform. So I think it's incredibly important that we have the pressure from outside

because none of the things that were saying could be heard if we didn't have that pressure on the other hand. I think some of the people who are serve in that milia end up playing a lot of rolls and trying to navigate a way to actually deal with those competing in Austin. Incoherent demands that we got from the outside because it actually requires Innovations to try to reconcile them and often people, you know, sort of with some exposure to those things are well placed to help generate those Innovations. I think that there's a good shot that if we continue to build relationships

with a variety of different social sectors, as you mentioned that will have a lot of really making a lot of these things pretty widespread. Let me ask you in the final minute and a half or so that we have your big disruptor. How is your disruptive David if you could how would you apply radical markets to to what we're doing here? I was just thinking about this actually yesterday. I mean, I think my feeling is probably we need to do needs to be thinking given how Central this has become is a convening place more about how we actually becomes accountable to the stakeholders that

is meant to represent and how the governance Just doing some science represent a global Democratic experiment it could then if it did that right, maybe show the way for how companies could do the same thing? Got off on the agenda and thank you for sharing your ideas. Everybody should buy this book. It's a great read read it on the plane home. Thanks for being here.

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