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Democratopia by Lina Dovydenaite: A speculative future of Data-Driven AI-Supported Direct Democracy

“It is not possible to “predict” THE future, it is possible to forecast alternative futures, and then to envision, design and move towards preferred futures.”

——Joseph N. Pelton

The movie "Democratopia. A speculative future scenario of Data-Driven AI-Supported Direct Democracy", Lina Dovydenaite, 2020

Democratopia by Lina Dovydenaite - somewhere between dystopia and utopia, the concept of data-driven direct democracy in virtual spaces of futuristic city scales. Artist Lina thinks beyond the given context of society and speculates on a future alternative reality that is neither right nor wrong. Within one of the futuristic cities where data-driven democracy prevails, Lina speculates on future public virtual spaces where people meet to shape how their city/city architecture is developing. Using AI architecture agents and other technologies. She is not trying to predict the future or propose a future scenario, but speculating WHAT IF a society where everyone is politically active and where people have full influence in decision-making.

In this film, the model of the new society is a society where all citizens are equal, are able to express themselves fully and without limits through technologies, and where A.I. is put at the service of the community in order to transform citizens' needs or aspirations into concrete solutions and even into architectural solution in the virtual as well as in the real world.

Lina has gone into detail about how people might take advantage of social decision-making and open boundaries. While some of the example cities seem dystopian, she explicitly states that people are (and must be) free to leave. (This suggests that KEPO, for example, has a very small male population, and probably has some sort of “underground railroad” to get males out of the city as swiftly as possible.)

Lina solves problems as well as invents new ones: The initial design spec for the system is clearly meant to prevent corruption and problematic behavior by political elites. Human error can also result in big system-level problems. Also, AI relies on the data that someone decided was worth collecting, which was weighted in a certain manner, etc. It is a representation of the world, and the process of building such representation is in itself deeply political. It is unclear if we can ever escape this through participative processes, transparency, etc. If not, how do we compel those who are not willing to comply with the law? AI can be used for better self-knowledge and improvement, but who will develop the content and knowledge taught by AI as the best and most appropriate? Who decides when an AI system has sufficiently minimized bias so that it can be safely released for use? What happens when the system works within its rules but does not provide for some of its citizens? What happens when the system is insufficient?

Short summary of the research process of "Democratopia", Lina Dovydenaite, 2020

The film itself can be a good seed for the collective imagination of alternative narratives. Also one of Lina's intentions was to create a vehicle for public debate. Too much of today's political discourse is focused on small changes to what is, and we seem to be running short on the grand visions.

The video work encourages viewers to envision the future which can help us to make sure we are going in the right direction. It is meant to stimulate people to discuss and create their own vision for a sustainable community, society, culture, and civilization. The film encourages not to be restricted by what may be perceived right now as insurmountable obstacles to achieving that vision. It suggests being idealistic, creative, poetic, aesthetic, ethical, intuitive, and imaginative. Also, it suggests that rational reasoning from a particular perspective should not restrict the integrative and participatory process of creating the initial vision.


About Lina Dovydenaite

Lina Dovydenaitė is a speculative artist and architect, born in 1991 in Lithuania. Currently living and working in Oslo, Norway. Lina Dovydenaitė moves between different disciplines such as architecture, video art, and speculative design. Her video works are unique in that they research political and future technology issues, often imagining speculative future scenarios on urban themes. This makes her artwork a great base for public discourse.


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