By Bob Gourley
This is the second installment in our series flowing from recent dialog with Marc Andreessen. The first post reviewed some likely scenarios of the tech enabled environment of 2030 and some foundational considerations regarding converged cyber-physical systems all citizens will have access to (see the first post here). In this post we provide some of Marc’s views around the nature of government services in the near future.
Gourley: In the near future of 2030, do you have thoughts on services that government currently delivers to citizens that will be done better or perhaps rendered obsolete because of new personal computing technologies?
Andreessen: We can assume that by 2030 all government services can be online.
A key area is legislation. Consider that law and code are related- law itself is a form of code, so in the timeframe we are talking about we will very likely see huge parts of the law move online. We are already seeing the use of the Internet as a reference to law, but consider it being delivered in a tailored way to inform. And consider having more online adjudication of both civil and criminal cases online. By 2030 we should expect to have virtual adjudication in many cases.
This is just one domain. Consider the many services that states are already moving online, like driver licenses and car registration. The Internet is changing the DMV and most every other state, federal and local government office.
Interacting with governments for healthcare will be far more refined than today, but more importantly, citizens will be served with healthcare from non government capabilities that will change the need for government interaction. Consider that by 2030 we will all have personal sensors that will have readings of every relevant aspect of our body chemistry and that can be used to better channel healthcare, with or without the government. These are just hints of elements that can help us think through the transformation of government service to an online global world.
For other hints, we can find parallels to how the smartphone enabled youth of today interact with financial services. Many young people today interact with their financial services in ways that will never require them to visit a bank. Extrapolate forward from that. By 2030 every citizen will primarily interact with financial services without visiting a facility. In the context of citizen to government interactions why would that be any different?
There are other categories of services that people will need and want from government. Consider new ways of interacting to shape policy, for example. Key among these is voting. At some point it will go online. Estonia is a pioneer of online voting and the big lessons learned is that it can be done reliably and in ways that satisfy the needs of citizens. There is no reason not to do this. Once the means for online voting is established this same channel can be used to ask other questions of citizens. Polling can be more frequent, as can sentiment assessment.
Citizens are already using the Internet to organize in ways their governments have not realized, now consider the year 2030 when there is far more political organizing happening online. The connected world of this era will have far more online petitions, fundraising, lobbying, grassroots efforts, pressure groups and protests. Internet services that provide those today are growing fast, like Change.org or NationBuilder.com for online campaigns. MoveOn has pioneered the approach and they clearly get it. Facebook and Twitter have been key parts of protests and demonstrations globally. Expect this trend to continue.
All this raises some interesting questions. As citizens become more interactive there can be more referendums and direct democracy. But there are negatives to consider with this approach. There are reasons to have a representative government. It can be very good to have a layer of representatives in between citizens and government.
The point is that society must figure out what levels of direct democracy we want. If government does not embrace it there is a high likelihood that citizens will use the power of the Internet and their applications to better mobilize against government. But if government embraces it too aggressively we can end up with mob rule.
The next posts in this series will dive into ways automation, robotics, and AI can impact government service and the social fabric of interactions between citizens and government. Ensure you are on our newsletter distributions to be alerted when we publish.