Epistocracy on Seasteads?

Cathrine Holst writes about the phenomenon of seasteads, and the possibility of making expert arrangements in seasteads that are both democratically authorized and accountable, and likely to contribute to increased quality in decision- and policy-making in her contribution to the volume Seasteads. Opportunities and Challenges for Small New Societies.

Contemporary governance relies extensively and increasingly on academic expertise. This expertise dependency is intimately related to the technological and regulatory complexity and level of specialization of modern society.  Expertization is also spurred by elites’ social and political interests and the force of Enlightenment arguments for knowledge-based policy-making. Existing diagnoses of a rising epistocracy – a rule of experts – present it as either a tragedy for democracy or embrace it as a way of ensuring rational decisions and policies. A more balanced assessment should recognize that the normative legitimacy of any political rule – a rule in which the knowledgeable are given considerable scope and privileges included – depends on both procedures and outcomes. The chapter takes as its point of departure the phenomenon of seasteads, and the possibility of making expert arrangements in seasteads that are both democratically authorized and accountable, and likely to contribute to increased quality in decision- and policy-making. Among the wider universe of epistemic criteria, this discussion focuses on the prerequisites in seasteads for institutionalizing an investigatory ethos, cognitive pluralism, and epistemic modesty. The chapter concludes that seasteads offer quite some promise given a genuine interest in developing and experimenting with epistocratic, but legitimate, forms of governance. Yet, a set of demanding cognitive, motivational and institutional conditions must be in place, or seasteads’ expert arrangements stand the chance of scoring lower on both democratic and epistemic parameters than mainland arrangements.

About the book

Seasteads – artificial settlements on the open sea – represent a near-future chance for multiple societal restarts. Where nation states suffer from ineffectiveness and inefficiency, both politically and economically, and cannot be changed due to path-dependency and rigidity, the open sea is a clean slate. Here, we can test new ways of doing things differently.

This book discusses the opportunities and challenges of seasteads. Its focus is on socio-philosophical, political, economic, and legal aspects of founding new small societies of pro-active and productive individuals and groups. An explorative exercise, this book presents paradigmatic ideas and suggestions for partial aspects of seasteads.

Full info

Cathrine Holst
Epistocracy on Seasteads?

In: Seasteads. Opportunities and Challenges for Small New Societies
Victor Tiberius (ed.)

vdf Hochschulverlag AG, 2017
ISBN: 9783728138217

Published Aug. 9, 2017 2:38 PM - Last modified Aug. 9, 2017 2:38 PM