Open Invitation: How can we bring a realistic positive story that accepts that techno-political influence and agency/power is already here?

27/05/2019 - 15:24


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TF2 Entitlements, UCL London, 05 06 2019

"Bert and Tom went off to the barrel. William was having another drink. Then Bilbo plucked up courage and put his  little hand in William's enormous pocket. There was a purse in it, as big as a bag to Bilbo."Ha", he thought, warming to his new work as he lifted it carefully out, " this is a beginning!". It was! Trolls' purses are the mischef, and this was no exception." ' Ere, oo are you" it squeaked, as it left the pocket, and William turned around at once and grabbed Bilbo by the neck, before he could duck behind the tree. (J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit, p.34)

05 June 2019
1:00 pm
3:30 pm
Darwin Building B05, Darwin Building, UCL

Our objective is to brainstorm on how to bring citizens into the scenario of a pragmatic cybernetics that is outlined below. How can we bring a realistic positive story that accepts that techno-political influence and agency/power is already here, and needs to be debated with new terms and concepts? What language, visuals, channels and ‘politics’ is needed?

The big picture

As our mission is to reshape internet governance, our concern directly impacts several major policy areas and DGs. The problem is mainstreamed and not adequately addressed by any single DG: the digitalization of individual identity has vital geostrategic and industrial implications of the foundations and scale of digital identity problems. 

China, India and now Russia have already made this a priority and have taken to centrally coordinate in the design of the future online/offline architecture as will apply to their territory and population. This is not yet the case in the EU.  Despite Digital Identity being a core component of any future policy in areas such as the DSM, Cybersecurity, eGovernment, 5G and IoT infrastructures, Fintech and “Know your Customer” banking rules, Schengen area and Asylum policies (ex: Border automation, biometric Ids and PNR), the EU still lacks a roadmap for the coordination of corresponding industry and investment priorities. `

As part of the EU funded internet projects, a large number of technical (#IOT), financial (blockchain) and semantic (AI) experts see the need to move from fixed identity paradigms to self-driving or fluid frameworks of ‘entitlements’, to allow the formulation of context specific and attribute-based identities.

Together we have co-create a vision focused on a different paradigm from the current “fixed” identity to more fluid frameworks of ‘entitlements’ allowing for the formulation of context specific and attribute-based identities.  Our mission is to reshape the internet of tomorrow. NGI challenges include networked privacy and trust enhancing technologies, electronic identities (to strengthen trustworthiness, but also for discovery and identification, or collective intelligence) and an EU approach to internet access and data governance in the race to AI supremacy.  Without any intrinsic gatekeeper in the internet of people and internet of things, we truly are nearing real-time high-level decision-making capabilities and consequences.

In annex the details on why we propose a concrete three-step process to build a vibrant inclusive democratic internet ecosystem by 2025. The EU’s first step is started: regulating data in GDPR. The second is regulating digital signatures for persons, eIDas is achieved. Future internet services composition could develop in digital signatures for services and architectures (5G). Digital signatures are a tool to complement current actions on procurement and local agency as a kind of SLA, thus it does not matter that the original data sets and analytical platforms are not under your control.  The third step is to embed these signatures for persons, services and architectures into a sustainable framework for access and identity, such as a European passport as a device, eg. a 4G/5G phone.



In our vision NGI is a system of systems, a pragmatic cybernetic, that eventually runs a 500 million European zone as a service. Compared to China we have the advantage of building a productive balance between extreme centralization on infrastructure, spectrum, smart contracts and hardware by EU industry and extreme decentralization on data fully open for direct local democracy and services and apps by EU SMEs; and personal data clouds as envisioned by the GDPR.  Compared to Singapore we have scale and the possibility to sell the system (running your territory-region as a service).  Compared to the US we have relatively intact social systems and fully functional building blocks such as Estonian e-card, Horizon 2020, Digital Single Market focus. One of the key problems for the EU today is the inability of European citizens to feel like “European citizens”! Either they feel they are “nationals” or they are “global”. What is at stake is to find ways to devise a new “European dream” in which, aware of their rich common history and legacy, and driven by a shared purpose, European people will be willing to be engaged, individually and collectively, in a quest for happiness. Our scenario offers investors a real viable European project, strengthening public infrastructure and open business models on the data if they are on EU platforms, Cloud and app-store. The most challenging task will be to develop a common language and vocabulary that puts us on par with machine learning, becoming more like equal partners in a relationship. Next Generation Internet can be defined by the best possible balance between extreme centralization (infrastructure, spectrum, hardware) and extreme decentralization (data, services). We thus envisage the Next Generation Internet as a coherent set of unified  protocols that can be operationalized in a permission-less way; a new conception of the techno-political landscape tuned to the reality of what is happening in every domain of human activity; to be supported, assisted and guided by secure real time data streams of sensor input, to bring big data, AI and dynamic analytics into the heart of decision making and to eventually reform the EU as a platform of services for all. The focus is in creating an ecosystem to fuel a Movement of Digital Transformation; an organizational change to better facilitate and co-create solutions to the needs of citizens, business, and governance, not fronting technological problems solving the problems of technology.

AI, Big Data, IoT, 5G

We are experiencing the last potential zone of transition with humans in full control and planning agency. This implies that patterns of change still follow forms that are set by deeply rooted human fears, hopes and dreams. Change requires radical ideas that are marginalized, turning into messy zones of conversation, ending up in relatively more moments of perceived ‘normality’. Then ‘all of a sudden’ the ideas that were once threatening seem logical and acceptable. This pattern, underlying the Gartner cycles, is the defining moment of the Anthropocene. As machines, machine learning, Big Data, AI are beginning to deliver scenarios on which business decisions are being made in all domains, except for now the political, the window of opportunity to anchor human agency into what is rapidly becoming a blurred connectivity of humans and machines, is… now, real-time. And now means now, today. Not tomorrow. The facts are not negotiable. The next iteration will not follow our pattern of change. This is the most important insight from which consequent planning of a European brain foregrounding models of concrete praxis must develop.


Our work lies in building a middle of realistic optimism, possibilism, between transhumanist embracing of becoming cyborg or hybrids and the fear paradigm that scares citizens into non-adoption of new technologies and isolation (I don’t share, I keep everything private).  According to Gramsci we are living in a ‘time of monsters’. The old has not yet lost its capacity for giving meaning to what is ‘normal’, the new is struggling to articulate itself it such a way that large groups of people accept it as a mental model for giving meaning to everyday activities. In such times we witness all available global political models losing their supporting qualities in order to foreground their core beliefs; the belief in the absolute individual qualities to be successful, in the ability to describe the world in a coherent rational way demanding adherence to its articulation in the law and its accordance with the rules, and fronting and creating the collective through monitoring all levels of production and consumption including everyday activities, it is clear that all first responses to the digital are also failing; the backlash again data driven business models in the fallout of Cambridge Analytica, the ambiguous policy regarding fintech and crypto and lack of internal innovation in China, the tension between GDRP and blockchain, and the lack of real value driven policy models in Europe.
We thus posit that there is a window of opportunity for a Next Generation Internet that neither of the current governing frameworks have been able to formulate yet, namely a human centric approach, informed by three philosophical underlying notions – hegemony, Absolute Feind and natality/plurality, that must be addressed as they inform the next mental models to shape the ‘next normal’.  

Our current conceptual toolbox is no longer fitted to address new challenges: "We grasp reality through concepts. When reality changes too quickly and dramatically, as it is happening nowadays because of ICTs, we are conceptually wrong-footed." We are in a new conceptual space and should co-create notions of solidarity (economics), privacy (self), security (trust), assets (potentials), risks (resilience) and threats (competition), tailored to a reality of today.Hannah Arendt recognizes that plurality can best be experienced at city-level. “The larger the population in any given body politic, the more likely it will be the social rather than the political that constitutes the public realm” (Arendt, 1959 p. 39).  Her notion of natality is scoped in new beginnings, favoring looking forward over looking back. Her notion of plurality embraces diversity as a given, and point of departure, not a position that needs to be obtained. Gramsci’s notion of hegemony means that in between forced consent and active dissent we find passive consent, that cultural change precedes political change, and that changes must connect to an audience that is ready to respond. As Gramsci notes, "the supremacy of a social group manifests itself in two ways, as 'domination' and as 'intellectual and moral leadership'. A social group dominates antagonistic groups, which it tends to 'liquidate', or to subjugate perhaps even by armed force; it leads kindred and allied groups. A social group can, and indeed must, already exercise 'leadership' [hegemony] before winning governmental power (this indeed is one of the principal conditions for the winning of such power); it subsequently becomes dominant when it exercises power, but even if it holds it firmly in its grasp, it must continue to 'lead' as well.. 

The shift in NGI is that it is not cultural, but technological agency that precedes political change.

Carl Schmitt defined the ‘Absolute Feind’ as ‘die eigene Frage als Gestalt’. Our absolute enemy then is the very situation we try to achieve: a cybernetic Matrix. We know that we cannot continue decision making as we do in a connected world, yet to keep a structural view on society we cannot but pursue a course that will leave us exposed as humans (privacy) and as political systems (security). Carl Schmitt then defines the Wirkliche Feind as the actual issues that we can concretely tackle. We must remember that solving them or not makes no real difference as we always solve the concrete instantiations of the old (current) system, thus any action is ineffective. But these actions must be seen to be carried out as stakeholders in society – citizens, industry, politicians, actually believe that solving these is what constitutes potential success in transitioning. These three conceptual drivers lead to reciprocity is the core principle that defines our actions in NGI. The lack of reciprocity in tcp/ip (pass on the packet) and html/www (pass on the link) has created its ubiquitous success, but at the same time it has fueled the need for a Next Generation Internet, one in which security is a service by default, data-lakes are under multi-stakeholder control, algorithmic transparency is realized and self-healing qualities of networks are matched with local repairability in order to make them sustainable. Considering the international synergies and efforts needed to establish such a network, we feel we only have one chance, after which we can only do updates of the system that will emerge as the new standard.

The hegemony that used to enable authorities to facilitate the continuity of peace in Europe is at breaking point. Political populism, lack of digital agency (vs Google, Amazon, China gov+industry (Industrial Internet of Things, IIoT), lack of aligning techno-reality in any kind of domain and service with its full absence on the most important decision-making level: the political model of voting representatives once every four years organized in the format of ‘parties’ (paid to be an organizational form by the same state structures), lack of long term visions on jobs vs robots, lack of education on generational issues of having grown up in commercial connectivity, the erosion of trust in the current financial toolsets vs strong moves towards and adoption of central authority-less crypto-currencies, further regionalization (Brexit, Catalunia, Poland, Hungaria..) it all points to immanent breakdown of the current economic, social and political toolsets. One must not forget that the only reason for actually having an Estonian example is the Wall coming down. It was thus relatively easy to build something new, fresh, radical, on top of…nothing. Our vision is to create a human-centric internet that is at the service of people, stimulates business opportunities in a European frame and competes on the global sphere: we aim to build the ecosystem for a broad Movement that sees NGI as a solution to the current economic (jobs), social (digital divide), technical (security, privacy, lack of data lakes, data integrity) and political (populism and anti-EU feelings) problems.  It is in all actors’ interest to invest mental, creative, financial and scientific forces towards more integration and further incentivize legal, procurement, funding and strategic decisions aimed at a further harmonization towards the EU as a service and infrastructural set of platforms.

Specific Objectives
- to own and regulate the drivers of the Digital Transition instead of just the repercussions
- to build the governance model for the duality of the “real” and the “virtual”, thus creating a “hybrid”
- to gain and sustain leadership for the EU in governance models
- to harness the potential of such leadership to address Circular Economy, Climate Change and other global challenges
The current role for institutional actors towards the digital is to regulate and fine.  These tools have run their course. The implementation of penalties and fines is not real time, biased by party politics, and hinders innovation and risk- taking especially by small actors at fringes.
We propose a concrete three-step process to build a vibrant inclusive democratic internet ecosystem by 2025.

The first step is started: regulating data in GDPR.

The second is regulating digital signatures for persons, eIDas is achieved. Future internet services composition will develop in digital signatures to be achieved in Taskforce Services (TS), and resilient architectures to be achieved in digital signatures in Taskforce Infrastructures (TI). 

Digital Signatures for services (banking, payment, energy, education, care, mobility, connectivity…)  and Digital Signatures for architectures (virtual and analogue enablers of connectivity) are a tool to complement current actions on procurement and local agency as in this kind of SLA it does not matter that the original data sets and analytical platforms are not under your control. In this manner local stakeholders are a priority part of building the next layer of value, naming the new entities that are formed when AI inspired intelligence starts to see patterns unrecognizable before.

The third step is to embed these signatures for persons, services and architectures into a sustainable
framework for access and identity.  This could be brokered by
• substituting the passport for a device (running Estonian e-card) talking to friendly servers, platforms and Clouds running public algorithms and ethical AI, enabling direct democracy through local referenda and embedding contributions from taxpayers in a rich value layer fostering innovative public and private services in a comprehensive sovereign framework
• adding security, framework and architectural checks for any device when it receives a electrical appliance label
• regulating the router market, in, IP and 5G and adding security, framework and architectural checks for any router
• and…

The purpose of brokering a collective roadmap along these lines can be done within the workplan of the CSA NGI Forward, Strategy CSA of Next Generation Internet.