The vision of a equally balanced world belongs to us all, the people who are at the moment either frustrated in certain contexts by not having enough of something (anything: rights, visibility, power), and/or in power positions in other contexts thus being the object of envy of frustration to others.
But what if in the future, thanks to the digitalization of life, a new, enhanced human being will not think along the axis of today? Extremes will thus disappear, and equality will not be anymore confused with power. The access all people will achieve to education, culture and other people's networks will support equality, because only by having all those exchanges and knowing much more, will we be able to empathise more and see how mimimal our differences are compared with our commonalities.
The most compelling thing about Digital Equality in 2050 is our evolution toward singularity with technology and human "self-evolution," and the lack of clarity this creates. What is equality then? Equality for whom? Where the work done by/for women and under-represented segments of the population today is laying the groundwork for how we will deal with equality challenges of the future. But isn't the battle for equal rights simply a struggle between the haves and the have-nots, after all, irrespective of to whom we are referring? With increased digitisation it will become more difficult to define "who" (what?) deserves equal treatment, along with all the persistent challenges of power-balance that the struggle for equality entails. And, no, those challenges are not going away. They are going to become even more complex, rendered thus by digitisation itself.
Of course, digitisation is also the consummate equaliser. Women and under-represented interests have a greater voice in a digitised world, in theory, due to digital media disturbing, democratising and distributing the power balance. There are hundreds of examples of the Internet, including through the "long-tail" phenomenon, creating lower barriers to entry for some activities, shifting power and bargaining positions, and democratising the means of production, distribution and communication. The Internet represents a more democratised, horizontal -- dare we say "feminine"? -- power structure, where all these means have become increasingly pluralised. The Internet and our digitised world will only remain democratic with good, sound and forward-looking governance that protects this global, digital democratising force, and in so doing, protects our society's weakest members, regardless how we define them.
Instrumental to any vision of equality is the ultra-connectivity that characterises human society by 2050. This has the potential to trigger greater empathy between social groups and to facilitate much higher levels of debate across dividing lines of locality, gender, class and nationality. The role of professional politicians is less significant than today as everyone is a politician. The most difficult aspects en route are the transformation of democracy and the role of the state itself. By 2050, citizens have a much better sense of the public interest and are able to distinguish it from the clientelism that currently charaterises democracy in the West. Much of the impetus comes from the demos of networked communities that make up civil society. People reach into themselves as much as they expect "solidarity" from other groups, no longer anonymous, as they are now. "The rich" are always someone else today, never ourselves.
By 2050, redistribution is targeted at achieving equality in a more focused way, rather than being manipulated in the interests of the electoral cycle. Improved policy-making through big data means that the success and failure of policies is much better known and publicised than today. The capture of the means of the provision of public goods such as health and education by producerist lobbies on the one hand and their over-provision or inefficient provision by politicians trapped in an electoral cycle gradually becomes less of a factor. Well-meaning, well-mediated policy outputs are no longer a substitute achieving impact.
Moving through the final stages of representative democracy - characterised by fragmented populism until the end of the 2020s - is the most challenging and messy stage. The existing system is slow to recognise the wish of the people to be heard and to move towards a more delegate-based model of democracy. Ultimately, greater certainty about the impact of policy interventions means a the fading of the left/right split on the meaning of equality. By 2050, political scientists are analysing the increased level of legitimacy the new system provides compared with the early part of the 20th century.
Trends and Weak Signals
The results of all brainstormings undergone at the "Ground-breaking Policies for Future Societies" workshop, including this very vision, can be found here.