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

“Classification of Generalized Entropies and Applications to Complex Systems”


Jan Korbel.

Oct 15, 2019Oct 16, 2019

the Mathematical Institute of the Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts

Talk

“Analyzing Long-Term Patient Health Trajectories Observed From Population-Wide Longitudinal Hospital Claims Data”


Nils Haug.

Oct 01, 2019 | 12:0012:30

NTU Singapore / The Arc LHN

Event

CSH Workshop: “Modeling Neolithic Crises”


Oct 17, 2019 | 9:30Oct 18, 2019 | 17:00

Complexity Science Hub Vienna

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CSH Talk by Jenny Reddish: “Introduction to Seshat Global History Databank”


Nov 08, 2019 | 15:0016:00

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“Classification of Generalized Entropies and Applications to Complex Systems”


Jan Korbel.

Oct 15, 2019Oct 16, 2019

the Mathematical Institute of the Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts

Talk

“Analyzing Long-Term Patient Health Trajectories Observed From Population-Wide Longitudinal Hospital Claims Data”


Nils Haug.

Oct 01, 2019 | 12:0012:30

NTU Singapore / The Arc LHN

Event

CSH Workshop: “Modeling Neolithic Crises”


Oct 17, 2019 | 9:30Oct 18, 2019 | 17:00

Complexity Science Hub Vienna

Event

CSH Talk by Jenny Reddish: “Introduction to Seshat Global History Databank”


Nov 08, 2019 | 15:0016:00

Complexity Science Hub Vienna

Press

Cómo engañar al algoritmo y evitar que Facebook sepa a quién conoces [Spanish]


El País, Sep 18, 2019

Press

Historische Netzwerke


omega tau podcast, Sep 16, 2019

Press

Damit Daten auf ein Date gehen können


Die Presse, Sep 13, 2019

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Terremotos, huracanes y otros desastres naturales obedecen los mismos patrones matemáticos


DiCyt.com, Aug 8, 2019

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Jun 5, 2019

13 Reasons Why | watching suicide in TV can be contagious

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D4Dairy annual meeting at the Hub

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Talk

“Classification of Generalized Entropies and Applications to Complex Systems”


Jan Korbel.

Oct 15, 2019Oct 16, 2019

the Mathematical Institute of the Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts

Talk

“Analyzing Long-Term Patient Health Trajectories Observed From Population-Wide Longitudinal Hospital Claims Data”


Nils Haug.

Oct 01, 2019 | 12:0012:30

NTU Singapore / The Arc LHN

Event

CSH Workshop: “Modeling Neolithic Crises”


Oct 17, 2019 | 9:30Oct 18, 2019 | 17:00

Complexity Science Hub Vienna

Event

CSH Talk by Jenny Reddish: “Introduction to Seshat Global History Databank”


Nov 08, 2019 | 15:0016:00

Complexity Science Hub Vienna

Event

CSH Talk by William Schueller “Active control of complexity growth in a multi-agent model”


Oct 17, 2019 | 15:0016:00

Visitor

Andrea Rapisarda, Univ. Catania


Nov 25, 2019Nov 26, 2019

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Giovanni Petri, ISI Foundation


Nov 25, 2019Nov 26, 2019

Visitor

Matjaz Perc, Univ. Maribor


Nov 25, 2019Nov 26, 2019

Visitor

Matteo Marsili, ICTP Trieste


Nov 25, 2019Nov 26, 2019

Visitor

Christian Kühn, TU München


Nov 25, 2019Nov 26, 2019

Visitor

G. Reza Jafari, Central European University


Nov 25, 2019Nov 26, 2019

Visitor

Marija Mitrovic Dankulov, Institute of Physics Belgrade


Nov 25, 2019Nov 26, 2019

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Historische Netzwerke


omega tau podcast, Sep 16, 2019

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Damit Daten auf ein Date gehen können


Die Presse, Sep 13, 2019

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DiCyt.com, Aug 8, 2019

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