Disclaimer: I received an advance reader's copy (ARC - Uncorrected Manuscript Proof) of this book from the Author in exchange for my honest review. All opinions expressed are my own, and no monetary compensation was received for this review.
"My new app, Plebiscitum (®), will allow anyone to express their opinions anytime, anywhere, and will include geolocalisation systems"
In “Disco Sour” by Giuseppe Porcaro
This novel at first sight provokes in me worry of "assessing someone's democratic ability" and if people don't match to certain criteria, what, no right to vote? I agree Democracy should be a "very important school subject"; moreover, education in general should be about creating inquisitive minds in the young, only then can there be any hope of people becoming able to see through the shortcomings of politicians and the shortcomings of representative democracy. However education at present is exclusively directed (with some notable exceptions) at formatting young people to fit in to a wholly capitalistic society, in other words to become the little soldiers of capital for the benefit of the few. Alas, the 'born to rule' class still exists, this is the caste that needs breaking up, this poison which has insidiously infiltrated the minds of so many. To a point where the electorate will continue shooting themselves in the foot in a sort of perverse admiration saying 'if they can, so can I!' And even if they don't think in this way, others get caught up in a viscous circle of simply surviving. An important aspect of this education should be that policies are more important than personalities, that the choice of a policy is the political will of the electorate; who is, or are, employed to execute this policy is a separate issue. Higher education in Democracy should be freely available. It should be compulsory for everyone who wants to be a councillor or MP, complete with official exams. The general public should be encouraged to do these courses, too. The need for online democracy arrived about 15 years ago. All the referendum results of the last 15 years would have been different, with voting online, and there would be no Brexit either. The problem is political corruption, politicians persuading people that their physical presence is an essential part of representative democracy. If they did not attend once a week (safe seat people sometimes only go a couple of times a year) and it were obvious that they did not, then their pay would be more seriously in doubt than it is already. If referendums, direct democracy procedures are to be used more frequently, somebody will have to decided precisely what kind of decisions are suitable for it. At the moment it is complete chaos. The main purpose of the General Election is to re-establish the authority of representative democracy over direct democracy, which only reinforces the perception that online democracy is a bad thing, that physical presence is essential, and that representative democracy is the only way. Where it exists, Democracy is our most important human progress. It means we all count in the process of deciding who will form our government. However, there are many things wrong with existing democracies. Here I will make suggestions about solving just one problem, the general ill-preparedness of the average voter. Democracy should be a very important school subject, taught from as early as possible and, in time, put into practice within the school context. The history and development of Democracy should be taught, along with descriptions of different democratic systems. Before reaching the age of 18, minors should take exams, the passing of which qualifies them for voting in local, national and, where possible, international elections.
That's why online voting is not a good idea.
Similarly, it's incredibly difficult to hack pieces of paper with pencil marks on them. Unlike electronic voting machines. Self-preservation is the only reason I can see they persist with it when it is so obviously bad for the country and the economy whilst leaving the majority disenfranchised. Nowhere it its inadequacy more apparent than Brexit, where large numbers of pro-votes were drawn from both retired Conservative supporters, and just about managing Labour supporters, neither of which had benefited from EU membership, whilst both parties had signed up to various treaties on their behalf. For some it worked, for others it didn't. Now there is no-one to blame but that which we should have been blaming all along, but which has been as steadfast in refusing to evolve into a genuine democracy as North Korea. Hopefully when Brexit unravels, people will wake up to that which caused it, not because Brexit was impossible, but because FPTP ("First-Past-the-Post") couldn't deliver it, any more than it could deliver our successful position at the forefront of European integration. Due to being incapable of long-term planning, backed by the majority, it's just not up to the job. The majority of people don’t like thinking they’ve been suckers. Even conspiracy theories are maintained because the people promoting them don’t want to accept that they’ve been suckered in. People don’t like admitting to being wrong. Which is not really surprising particularly as there may well not be a right and wrong. Things do just happen. Without any real plan. Facebook started out as a college revenge project and grew into a sort of weird new form of socialising and eventually into a media company. By the time they had to move on from “hot or not” they’d given the game away for free. In those early days could Facebook had simply charged people to access the survey? If they had then they wouldn’t need to harvest as much data. But by the time the IPOs came round the subscription horse had bolted and all they had left was their data. Of course the flip side is that users were only too happy to share their data instead of their money. And so it’s hard to put too much of the blame on Facebook. The issue is not the big revelatory LIE. It’s what we need to do about it if there are more people in the world who are concerned about their data than the number who are not. If people continue to not give a shit then there won’t be much of a change but if we people do then, what are we going to do about it?
Could Facebook move away from data harvesting and make money through a paid for subscription service? Would people pay to do whatever it is they do on Facebook? If not, then seems to be the bigger problem. Facebook is counting on its millions of members who are completely oblivious to the manner in which Facebook uses its members as products and have no real interest in finding out. In other words, most of its members don't care and don't want to know about its indiscretions, and just want to be able to communicate with their friends. Such is the rather shallow life of an average Facebooker.
There's only one slight problem:
People not understanding that individuals are not important, have never been important. People get a kick out of this "society doesn't exist" meme. In truth, it's the individual that doesn't. Society is very real and a single entity is so much easier to control than sixty five million or three hundred and forty million people. A copy of "The Unfinished Game" and Snowden's slides should be delivered to all registered voters. Do you think there have been any deaths by keyboards? So we should get rid of keyboards too, the one I’m typing on? Is Facebook merely a space? What data goes into that supposed space? Is it up to the software companies and the personal preference of its online users? Like my brain is space, I can fill it with nonsense arguments or critical means of thinking. Making Facebook the enemy just shows how out of touch politics is with the digital world we live in, and it’s lazy. No, Facebook is an API to a graph of data items. The code behind that API does quite a bit. It is not just a space. You don't need development teams or a company for a space.
USENET was a space.
WAIS was a space.
Facebook collected your phone messages and call logs off your phone without authorization and on some phones you couldn't deinstall. It did this even if you never created an account. I'd hardly call that a space.
Porcaro's attempt at getting to the real root of the problem is quite interesting; he wants to explore the relationship between human psychology and mass media. We are hardwired for selfishness and tribalism. From the first moments of consciousness within the womb, we as individuals are inevitably more real and more important to us than anything or anyone else. Later we extend this beyond 'me' to 'mine': my people, my group. Some of us really take this to heart, really understand that others have the same rights as we do, and really live this way — many, many others do not. Most historical strife comes from the latter group, call them the intolerants, who aggress against and war with either other intolerant groups or with more tolerant ones (the current American situation is both). Many societies have never resolved this and live in perpetual intolerance, with peace only deriving from the temporary domination of one intolerant side over another. More fortunate societies have, over time, gradually and often painfully, built a fragile system based on tolerance, which is always accompanied by certain limitations on what intolerants can say and do, and has always benefited from the limited ability of the many, many intolerants to unite and work together. Good fences, as they say, make good neighbours, i.e., hindrances to mass communication are in some ways beneficial. Consider how the rise of mass media assisted and went hand in hand with the rise of both outright fascism and, later, once the art of more subtle manipulation through TV had been mastered, corporate control. The internet throws off almost all control, enabling not only the union, education, brainwashing and rise of intolerants, but a vast enhancement of corporate fascism — as we are now realising. The internet itself is the problem. It does allow massive interconnection, as Zuckerberg says. What he knows but does not say is that is also massively enhances the reach and effectiveness of corporate — and other — fascism. By its very nature, it feeds the selfish, aggressive, intolerant side of humanity, undoes centuries of social evolution and smashes the painfully achieved and highly fragile model of a workable tolerant society.
Bottom-line: This novel proves that one should pay attention to what is being published outside the familiar trodden paths publishing-wise.