As it is typical for any realpolitik, citizens are becoming less relevant in digital realpolitik. They are personally targeted in advertising and surveillance efforts by corporations and governments. Individuals per se are getting lost in big numbers. The individual is just one amongst billions of Facebook users, and just one amongst billions of contributors to Google searches. Governments are increasingly speaking about digital sovereignty and less about the empowerment of individuals. Citizens are becoming more and more the object of digital growth and less and less the engine behind it, as it has been since the early days of the Internet. On a promising note, realpolitik provides a more realistic picture of interests and risks as well as winners and losers resulting from Internet developments. It is in this way that realpolitik can contribute to creating the basis for more solid and sustainable Internet development. Governments are likely to continue striking deals with Internet companies in order to recuperate some taxes. The bilateral deals could be the building blocks for a more structured approach to revenues from the digital economy.
For those engaged in advocacy around the social harms of AI systems, a definitional exercise could, however, be a key way to rescue AI from the abstract, and foreground social and material concerns around these systems. Just as glossy data visualizations can obscure the unequal impacts and governance failures of the pandemic, AI as an abstract buzzword can be brandished against complex social problems as if it were a neutral and external'solution' rather than a sociotechnical system 14 designed and developed to make value-laden choices and trade-offs.
The EU is pursuing a digital strategy that builds on our successful history of technology, innovation and ingenuity, vested in European values, and projecting them onto the international stage. The White Paper on Artificial Intelligence (AI) and the European data strategy presented today show that Europe can set global standards on technological development while putting people first. Digital technologies considerably improve our lives, from better access to knowledge and content to how we do business, communicate or buy goods and services. The EU must ensure that the digital transformation works for the benefit of all people, not just a few. Citizens should have the opportunity to flourish, choose freely, engage in society and at the same time feel safe online.
Data-driven advances in artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning are now set to reshape industries and regulatory frameworks around the world. Fusing the physical, digital and biological worlds, the Fourth Industrial Revolution is remaking the very notion of innovation as countries leverage data to compete for military and commercial advantage. As former BlackBerry Chairman and co-CEO Jim Balsillie suggests, this data-driven revolution is not just remaking the terms of global trade, it is transforming the nature and distribution of wealth. In 1976, 16% of the S&P 500 was made up of intangible assets (patents, trademarks and copyrights). Today, it is now 90%.