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Lessons From Isaac Asimov's Multivac - The Atlantic. In his 1955 short story Franchise, Isaac Asimov imagined how American democracy might be radically transformed by the digital age.

Lessons From Isaac Asimov's Multivac - The Atlantic

In the story, set in 2008, Americans’ political will is exercised not by individual citizens who stand in line to vote, but by a massive supercomputer—the Multivac—that processes an ocean of public data with inscrutable algorithms to reliably predict the outcome of this messy, partisan, costly, and all-too-corruptible process. The story works on many levels, but above all it evokes the technocrat’s dream (or dystopian vision, depending on one’s perspective) of using new technology to smooth out the wrinkles in our aging analog democracy. Today, those wrinkles are looking more and more like cracks, while new technologies—from social media and predictive search to digital surveillance—seem to be doing more to destabilize our fragile democratic institutions than to reinforce them. What can we do?


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