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DEMOCRACY’S TECHNOLOGY DILEMMA

DEMOCRACY’S TECHNOLOGY DILEMMA

With the midterms now over, it shouldn’t take long for partisans on both sides of the aisle to return to what they do best—partisanship. The next two years will be full of important policy debates, from whether America should continue to acceptance migrants to the merits of free trade.


There’s one issue, though, that won’t garner as many headlines, but is more important than any other for determining America’s long-term international position: the struggle between democracy and technology.

The growing challenge for America and other democracies is that the technologies increasingly responsible for driving economic prosperity are simultaneously stoking social divisions, undermining trust in institutions, and concentrating power in the hands of a few select private sector firms. Spurred by recent privacy scandals and the use of social media and internet search to spread disinformation, the US looks likely to pursue some form of digital of privacy reform next year. At the same time, the Washington is pursuing a strategy of confrontation over Beijing’s ambitions in artificial intelligence and other advanced technologies that is pushing the two countries’ tech sectors apart – increasing the risk that they end up locked in a zero-sum, Cold War-like contest for technology dominance.

As a recent story in Wired points out (co-authored, we must point out, by our good friend Ian Bremmer), this presents a dilemma: making the digital revolution safe for democracy could also stifle innovation. The tighter the regulatory vise closes, the greater the risk that firms in Silicon Valley – arguably the most strategically economic engine for the US in the 21st century – end up at a disadvantage to Chinese competitors who are unlikely to face the same constraints on gathering and exploiting huge amounts of data. As Bremmer and Thompson point out in their piece, “there is nothing close to a serious debate about how to address this dilemma.”

How do you think democratic governments can strike the right balance?

Carbon has a bad rep, but did you know it's a building block of life? As atoms evolved, carbon trapped in CO2 was freed, giving way to the creation of complex molecules that use photosynthesis to convert carbon to food. Soon after, plants, herbivores, and carnivores began populating the earth and the cycle of life began.

Learn more about how carbon created life on Earth in the second episode of Eni's Story of CO2 series.

As we enter the homestretch of the US presidential election — which is set to be the most contentious, and possibly contested, in generations — Americans are also voting on 35 seats up for grabs in a battle for the control of the Senate. The 100-member body is currently held 53-47 by the Republican Party, but many individual races are wide open, and the Democrats are confident they can flip the upper chamber of Congress.

Either way, the result will have a profound impact not only on domestic policy, but also on US foreign relations and other issues with global reach. Here are a few areas where what US senators decide reverberates well beyond American shores.

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On September 23, GZERO Media — in partnership with Microsoft and Eurasia Group — gathered global experts to discuss global recovery from the coronavirus pandemic in a livestream panel. Our panel for the discussion Crisis Response & Recovery: Reimagining while Rebuilding, included:

  • Brad Smith, President, Microsoft
  • Ian Bremmer, President and Founder, Eurasia Group & GZERO Media
  • Jeh Johnson, Partner, Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, LLP and former Secretary of Homeland Security.
  • John Frank, Vice President, UN Affairs at Microsoft
  • Susan Glasser, staff writer and Washington columnist, The New Yorker (moderator)

Special appearances by UN Secretary-General António Guterres, European Central Bank chief Christine Lagarde, and comedian/host Trevor Noah.

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Jon Lieber, who leads Eurasia Group's coverage of political and policy developments in Washington, offers insights on the Supreme Court vacancy:

Will Senate Republicans, who stopped a Supreme Court nomination in 2016, because it was too close to an election, pay a political price for the change in tactics this time around?

Not only do I think they won't pay a political price, I think in many cases, they're going to benefit. Changing the balance of power on the Supreme Court has been a career-long quest for many conservatives and many Republicans. And that's why you've seen so many of them fall in line behind the President's nomination before we even know who it is.

At this point, do Senate Democrats have any hope of stopping President Trump from filling the ninth seat on the Supreme Court?

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In a special GZERO Media livestream on global response and recovery amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Eurasia Group & GZERO Media president Ian Bremmer discussed the difference between Europe's unified approach to economic stimulus and the deeply divided and political nature of the current conversation in the US. While initial stimulus support was bipartisan, there is little chance of Democrats and Republicans coming together again ahead of the November 3 presidential election. "It's red state versus blue state. President Trump's saying that coronavirus isn't so bad if you take the blue states out. He's president of the blue states, you can't take the blue states out," Bremmer told moderator Susan Glasser of The New Yorker.

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Panel: How will the world recover from COVID-19?

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