Democracies under threat - CSH

Democracies under threat


Nov 30, 2018

Complexity science can help to understand democracy

 

What makes a democracy stable? Or, on the opposite, what contributes to its decline? A multidisciplinary team, led by CSH External Faculty member Karoline Wiesner and with the participation of CSH researcher David Garcia, explored these questions from a complexity perspective.

 

Missing theory of destabilisation

 

As the latest votes show, democracies all around the world are changing – and not necessarily to the better. Recent developments like the Brexit referendum, the elections of Donald Trump as president of the United States or of Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil are only the tip of the iceberg. Indices measuring democratic values and developments, like the Economist Intelligence Unit or the Freedom House Democracy Index, have been observing a constant decline in many countries since several years.

 

But whereas the problem as such gains attention, “we lack the theory to show us how a democracy destabilises to the point it is not describable as a democracy anymore,” says mathematician and physicist Karoline Wiesner. Early in 2018, Karoline invited mathematicians, economists, psychologists, philosophers, sociologists and political scientists to a workshop at Bristol University to see if complexity science could contribute to such a theory and understanding.

 

Now the workshop participants published a paper about their findings: “Stability of democracies: a complex systems perspective” appeared this week in the European Journal of Physics.

 

Unintended feedback loops

 

The paper discusses several of the many mechanisms resulting in institutional instability, such as social inequality, financial shocks, or the disconnected information flow on social media. Many of these mechanisms are interconnected, some even multiply interconnected, the authors explain. This can lead to unexpected and often unwarranted feedback loops.

 

An example are US media: In the United States, media are much less regulated than in Europe. One effect is, that many of them do not comply with (media) ethical principles, like fact-checking or a balanced presentation of information. These media are highly dependent on their audience’s support: A large audience rises the income through advertising. To keep their audience happy, they tend to present information and perspectives in a way that supports and enhances prejudices and beliefs of their viewers, listeners, or readers. They, in return, see their views confirmed and legitimized. In physics such a mutual reinforcement is called positive feedback (the word “positive” not meaning “desirable”, but “enhancing”).

 

The fall of social media

 

This mechanism works even stronger in social media with their meanwhile well known “echo chambers” and “tailor-made” messages that use and further enhance biased opinions and beliefs without the possibility of a correction.

 

One of the important messages in their paper, says Karoline, “is that a stabilizing feature of a democratic system – opinion exchange – breaks down when the possibility of engagement and debate is destroyed because messages are disseminated in secret, targeting individuals based on their personal vulnerabilities to persuasion, without their knowledge and without the opponent being able to rebut any of those arguments. These impacts of social media on public discourse show how democracies can be vulnerable in ways against which institutional structures and historical traditions offer little protection.”

 

This insight makes it even more important to understand the underlying processes. “[T]he scientific and quantitative analysis of the question of stability of democracy is possible and, indeed, necessary,” says the paper. “It requires a concerted effort across the mathematical, natural and social sciences.” In particular,  the authors conclude, it is complexity science with its new tools and insights that can substantially contribute to an understanding of, well, complex social developments.

 


Talk

“Collective Emotions and Social Resilience in the Digital Traces After a Terrorist Attack”


David Garcia.

Jul 20, 2019 | 10:5012:20

University of Amsterdam

Press

Transformation zur Nachhaltigkeit


Die Presse, Jul 13, 2019

Event

CSH Workshop: “Spatially and time resolved experimental complex systems”


Jul 22, 2019 | 9:3017:00

Complexity Science Hub Vienna

Press

Der Durchblick


Brand Eins, Jul 1, 2019

Visitor

Elisabetta Falivene, Sapienza Univ. of Rome


Jul 15, 2019Jul 19, 2019

Visitor

Pietro Gravino, SONY CSL Paris


Jul 15, 2019Jul 19, 2019

Press

D4Dairy 2018–2022


ZAR–Kuhrier-Forschung Sonderausgabe 1/2019, Jul 2, 2019

Press

Big data, IA et simulations, conseillères du futur pour les responsables politiques


SLATE France, Jul 1, 2019

News

Jun 11, 2019

Predicting success in show biz

News

Jun 5, 2019

13 Reasons Why | watching suicide in TV can be contagious

News

May 29, 2019

D4Dairy annual meeting at the Hub

News

Apr 11, 2019

Shocking Economics!

Talk

“Collective Emotions and Social Resilience in the Digital Traces After a Terrorist Attack”


David Garcia.

Jul 20, 2019 | 10:5012:20

University of Amsterdam

Press

Transformation zur Nachhaltigkeit


Die Presse, Jul 13, 2019

Event

CSH Workshop: “Spatially and time resolved experimental complex systems”


Jul 22, 2019 | 9:3017:00

Complexity Science Hub Vienna

Press

Der Durchblick


Brand Eins, Jul 1, 2019

Visitor

Elisabetta Falivene, Sapienza Univ. of Rome


Jul 15, 2019Jul 19, 2019

Visitor

Pietro Gravino, SONY CSL Paris


Jul 15, 2019Jul 19, 2019

Press

D4Dairy 2018–2022


ZAR–Kuhrier-Forschung Sonderausgabe 1/2019, Jul 2, 2019

Press

Big data, IA et simulations, conseillères du futur pour les responsables politiques


SLATE France, Jul 1, 2019

News

Jun 11, 2019

Predicting success in show biz

News

Jun 5, 2019

13 Reasons Why | watching suicide in TV can be contagious

News

May 29, 2019

D4Dairy annual meeting at the Hub

News

Apr 11, 2019

Shocking Economics!

News

Jun 11, 2019

Predicting success in show biz

News

Jun 5, 2019

13 Reasons Why | watching suicide in TV can be contagious

News

May 29, 2019

D4Dairy annual meeting at the Hub

News

Apr 11, 2019

Shocking Economics!

News

Apr 3, 2019

In need of ‘complexity economics’

News

Mar 20, 2019

Complex societies gave birth to big gods

News

Feb 6, 2019

New music styles: how the challenger calls the tune

News

Jan 30, 2019

Garcia, Bail, Rahwan, Couzin: Check out the videos!

News

Jan 1, 2019

Our new “Visions for Complexity”

News

Dec 4, 2018

A sad day for science: CEU forced out of Hungary

News

Nov 30, 2018

Democracies under threat

News

Oct 25, 2018

We have a new member!

Talk

“Collective Emotions and Social Resilience in the Digital Traces After a Terrorist Attack”


David Garcia.

Jul 20, 2019 | 10:5012:20

University of Amsterdam

Event

CSH Workshop: “Spatially and time resolved experimental complex systems”


Jul 22, 2019 | 9:3017:00

Complexity Science Hub Vienna

Visitor

Elisabetta Falivene, Sapienza Univ. of Rome


Jul 15, 2019Jul 19, 2019

Visitor

Pietro Gravino, SONY CSL Paris


Jul 15, 2019Jul 19, 2019

Event

CSH Workshop: “How can we reduce cyberhate?”


Aug 05, 2019Aug 07, 2019

Complexity Science Hub Vienna

Visitor

Izabela Zych, University of Cordoba


Aug 05, 2019Aug 07, 2019

Visitor

Atte Oksanen, University of Turku


Aug 05, 2019Aug 07, 2019

Event

CSH Colloquium: “Sustainability—a complex challenge”


Sep 11, 2019 | 14:0016:00

Complexity Science Hub Vienna

Visitor

Geoffrey West, SFI


Aug 26, 2019Aug 30, 2019

Visitor

Manfred Klaffenböck, TU Vienna


Jul 22, 2019

Visitor

Jaroslaw Jacak, FH Oberösterreich


Jul 22, 2019

Visitor

Michael Fischer, Donau-Universität Krems


Jul 22, 2019

Press

Transformation zur Nachhaltigkeit


Die Presse, Jul 13, 2019

Press

Der Durchblick


Brand Eins, Jul 1, 2019

Press

D4Dairy 2018–2022


ZAR–Kuhrier-Forschung Sonderausgabe 1/2019, Jul 2, 2019

Press

Big data, IA et simulations, conseillères du futur pour les responsables politiques


SLATE France, Jul 1, 2019

Press

Hadžikadić koristi vještačku inteligenciju u rješavanju političkih problema u BiH [Bosnian]


Radio Sarajevo, Jul 1, 2019

Press

A new party wants to break Bosnia’s political deadlock using computer science


Quartz, Jun 28, 2019

Press

AI is ‘biggest change for society since printing revolution’, top expert says


Euractiv, Jun 27, 2019

Press

David Garcia: “Die Privatsphäre sollte kollektiv reguliert werden”


Der Standard, Jun 6, 2019

Press

Komplexitätsforscher: Mit Schauspielkarrieren geht es meistens abwärts


Der Standard, Jun 4, 2019

Press

Karrieren im Film: Teils vorhersehbar, meist sehr kurz


Stol.it, Jun 4, 2019

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Karrieren von Filmschauspielern: Teils vorhersehbar, meist sehr kurz


APA Science, Jun 4, 2019

Press

Науковці – це люди, які вміють літати, не маючи крил [Ukrainian]


iprosvita, May 25, 2019