New Internet tech, equality and justice: a possible event in the fall?

My friend Fabrizio Barca has a rare combination of characteristics: a first-rate intellect, an impressive network in policy making circles, and a keen interest in justice. He has lately become intrigued by inequalities: what they are, how they are changing, what we can do about it. So, he started a group called the Forum on inequalities and diversities. The Forum recently released a report called 15 proposals for justice (Italian only), which is making waves. The report gives prominence to the consequences of technical innovation on inequalities and justice.

So, here is the idea. @nadia and I would like to organize a small meeting to look in more depth at the issue of how equality and justice are encoded in technological choices. Specifically, it would be interesting to look at the main technologies being developed in the NGI debate (blockchain folks, decentralists, the fintech crowd etc.), and see how each impact on indicators of equality and justice. Putting in the same room technologists, economists and social scientists should allow for a more holistic perspective. For me, the interesting question is: are some technologies more likely to lead to an outcome of increased justice than other technologies? If there are, we might consider

Hopefully, we can provide some material to the people in charge of the next round of NGI Open Calls, and whoever is looking to fund new technologies that are human-centric, trust-enhancing and so on.

We are talking Brussels, October 2019. What do people think? @teirdes, would you be interested? What about @zelf? Others?

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@inge @hugi @fsimonov @johncoate @MariaEuler another one to invite people in the IOH and broader Edgeryders community to help develop and promote.

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Great idea. Gets to the real heart of the matter.

It depends on the exact definition of justice, perhaps. The computerization/mechanisation of the public sector has largely been driven by the hope that logical government (deterministic decisions, given certain input deterministic output) will make society more “just” and “equal” (i.e. a computer does not have the social sensitivity to discriminate, for instance, and even when it does - for instance through statistical short-comings - we can normally measure and assess the discrimination that occurs). But we are now half a century in to computerization - has it worked?

I think “lasagna-style” technologies, which are vertically separated as a matter of technology, are more likely to lead to an outcome of increased “justice”. Because I think of justice as something which guarantees to individuals freedom to act - commercially and socially - and this freedom can only be obtained if market entry barriers are low, or if technologies lend themselves to a multitude of entities cooperating on different levels. I’d prefer, for this reason, WiMAX and Wi-Fi over LTE systems and cellular networks, and I am for this reason cautious about 5G.

With my rudimentary understanding of Italian, the 15 proposals for justice would impact technology development - would they be advanced by technology development? I think governments across Europe - certainly in Sweden - are still very much stuck in the 1960s vision of computers-as-the-saviour-of-government-through-imposing-cold-hard-logic. I.e. the “fairness” our governments strive for is either being able to use technology against the governments’ own citizens (to find “cheaters”) or to have a “government machine” that is not able to distinguish the unique life-stories of either subjects (citizens) or staff (civil servants).

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Could you describe more what you mean by lasagna technologies? I have not seen that term before.


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I think @luciascopelliti @zoescope and Gunnar Camner might be interesested in this. Lucia is at the execution end of policy in practice. Also @max_valentin.

Zoe has a significant body of work weaving through manufacturing, tech and social justice.

Gunnar’s doing interesting work in fintech/ mobile money that touches on exclusion from access to banking services outside Europe while Max Valentin has interesting experience from working with Romani buskers in Sweden. And before this Max set up a crowdfunding platform for culture with the twist that public funding would co-finance the projects that succeeded to get enough financial backing from the general public.

@hugi you and Max really should meet

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Hi @alberto, this is an interesting issue.

P2P traffic had peaked to be 69% of total internet traffic in Germany in 2007 ( & )… in 2019 however, it fell to the neighbourhood of 5% ( ). Similarly to make another example, despite promising radical decentralisation and the substitution of trust by algorithm-driven verification of claims, blockchains have all started meddling with mechanisms of centralised control, roughly since the 2016 DAO attack and consequent Ethereum fork, and today one sees permissioned solutions ( ), editable (!!) chains ( and ), and various experiments in quorum systems ( and )… all to adapt to external requirements and to fit within existing financial and regulatory models (and they were already radically less pirate and anarchic than the previous at least 2 waves of decentralised tech on internet!!), rather than because of inherent technical reflections, or visions of future societies… a clash that homoeopathically dilutes the long-term vision on the reasons of short term success?
It all seems to me to relate to how policies get informed by unknowns and believes, often transversal to the topic that is being deliberated about (e.g. P2P and the mistaken belief that sharing subtracts value to the creative industry -> )

…this could be a good paper to read ahead of any effort to produce evidences for NGI ->

Are you calling Julia Reda on this?

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Well, hello @markomanka! :slight_smile:

Delighted to get your input – if we go ahead with this, I’ll make sure you get a proper invitation. Your exact same point was made to me by @teirdes: Europe used to have a world leadership on P2P tech (Kazaa, Pirate Bay, early Skype…), but then it regulated its own tech bleeding edge out of existence. This issue deserves its own thread, but it does advocate taking a hard look at industrial tech policy in the EU… what do you think?

I am not sure what Julia is up to these days. I heard she did not run for a second mandate, which I interpret as being fed up with the whole dance. Perhaps you have other information?

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I agree we need to get deep into the industrial tech policies, and overall competitive strategy design process (an awful lot of ill informed “me too” rages in EU since a decade or two) inevitably including the issue of lobbying… and I agree this investigation would be a dignified activity on its own… In reason of Paul KT & Haddad C 2019 (the last link in my previous post) however, I am not sure we can disentangle the two analyses too easily, since also your original enquiry was meant to inform future policy making… up for conversation about how to arrange the coordination of the efforts.

Concerning Julia, no… I have the same news as you, I guess… but my understanding is that she is fed up with the political side and EU parliament… not with the entire topic… and once anyone is as deep in it as she is, I cannot bring myself to believe she can simply turn away… it’s in her :slight_smile:
Anyway a message would not hurt, if we were to go through with this… :angel:

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@markomanka indeed!

We will organise a one-day event in Brussels at End of November, 2019.

Day session: focuses on Ai as tech. Key audience is MEPS, parliamentary assistants and key people at EC. Location is Near European Parliament. Exact format t.b.d. In partnership with: …feel free to add your own suggestions here (I am discussing with FEPS).

Evening session: focuses on tech & socialecological sustainability. Key audience is the tech/hacker scene. Details T.b.d with @rmdes re: a collaboration with Digityser.

I will be in the driving seat to make it happen together with our outreach teams as this is a topic that touches on both the Internet of Humans and Wellbeing in Europe initiatives. And it makes sense to have it as a focal point if we want this work we are doing to have some kind of political impact right now - i can explain during our next call.

To prepare and drive engagement towards this event, we want to have a focused campaign to surface experiences, people, projects, places and collective insights that will feed into this event

Ping @inge @fsimonov @hugi @natalia_skoczylas @johncoate @Jirka_Kocian @Richard @MariaEuler @marina , This is one of the campaigns we will discuss during our first call on content curation & communication - we are just waiting for @noemi to fill in the doodle so we can set the day and time for the weekly calls.

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@nadia can we pinpoint a date already? Tuesday 19th November, for example? (the final week of November there is a session in Strasbourg, I think:

Pinpointing a date eliminates the need for another round of confirmations and makes logistics simpler.

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Ok @rmdes ping.

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Let me see what is happening that day on our side…

I also need to know :

How much people is projected to come?
What format? (panel? , speakers + presentation slide?, interactions layer for the public?)

If we brainstorm this well we can organize something unique & really good for the community!

Let me know what you need!

OK now I see the idea… This is really cool! I definitely want this event to happen!

Can we organise the next IOH community call around co-designing this event and the process leading up to it? What do you think @johncoate and @MariaEuler ?

Sure, maybe scheduling it for next month? Or what type of timeline did you have in mind @nadia?

I put it here as a reply

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Apparently I have imported a Swedishicism:

The idea is, as Alberto alludes to, that you have technologies which are layered in the sense that each layer can stand on its own two feet, takes care of its own security problems, etc. For networked technologies this is a main departure from old-style telecommunications networks which were assumed to be deployed and operated by the same entity.

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