ABSTRACT: The deepening of the information age will alter the nature of the state so thoroughly that something new emerges: cyberocracy. While it is too early to say precisely what a cyberocracy will look like, the outcomes will include new kinds of democratic, totalitarian, and hybrid governments, along with new kinds of state-society relations. Thus, optimism about the information revolution should be tempered by an anticipation of its potential dark side. This paper reiterates the view of the cyberocracy concept as first stated in 1992, and then offers a postscript for 2008. It speculates that information-age societies will develop new sensory apparatuses, a network-based social sector, new modes of networked governance, and ultimately the cybercratic nexus-state as a successor to the nation-state.
The paper represents, admittedly, an effort on my part to gain new/extra mileage out of the first paper I ever wrote about the information revolution, in 1991/1992. Doing that paper marked my transition out of Latin American research and into research on the information revolution. The paper received only a little notice at the time. But a couple years ago, in 2007, an email arrived from a student I’ve never met at Syracuse U. saying she had come across it and thought it was ahead of its time. This roused me to reread it, have it placed on Rand’s website for open access, and ask a few other people to look at it too. The main themes still looked pretty good, we all thought.
So I decided to generate this new version by trimming the original text and adding a postscript, for attempting a total revision and updating was out of the question at this point. I also went looking for a co-author who would be interested in the paper’s themes and be able to help with the trimming and updating. I especially wanted someone nearby who knew about networks. Fortuitous circumstances put me in contact with Danielle Varda (then at Rand, now at the University of Colorado Denver), and she agreed to work with me. The fact that I was on leave at the time (and now I’m retired) meant that we had to proceed on our own; no formal projects, budgets, or schedules were involved. And instead of a hoped-for six months, it took me over a year of sporadic reading and writing to do what I wanted to do.
The paper is a bit odd, in that the main part is from 1992, and the postscript from 2008. The paper is also quite long for a publishable article. But the themes are still hot, still forward-looking. And we rather like what we’ve done.
The paper reflects both my TIMN and STA concerns. The original paper started me thinking about hierarchies and/versus networks. But it would be another couple years before I realized the equivalent importance of tribes and markets as forms of organization. This paper makes a point, albeit briefly, of distinguishing among government (and governance) by tribe, by hierarchy, by market, and by network. Regarding STA, the postscript has only a couple sentences, but the older text retains a subsection about how the information revolution is restructuring people’s perceptions of social space and time.
There may be implications for the Obama administration. I'm hoping it will move away from the tribalism evident in the Bush administration, move away also from making policy choices sound as though "the government" or "the market" were the only options, and head toward strategies that bring nonprofit and other social-sector actors into the picture, so that "the network" becomes more of a solution. More on this some other time.
[UPDATE: Readers interested in this post should also take a look at a later post here about comments I received regarding the cyberocracy paper. I’d also note that the paper is available not only at the SSRN site mentioned above, but also here at the OpenSIUC site for papers about networks.]