Kirill Martynov

Sovereign over the Kremlin becomes pandemic.

The debate about the political meaning of what is happening now basically built around the continuation of those conflicts and trends that existed in Russia before the world was put on pause. In local context this is understandable: our life until the end of March 2020 largely determined Moscow’s nullification of the Constitution, growing censorship and authoritarianism.

But in reality, much greater value can play global changes now coming into effect. They will determine Russia’s political landscape, assuming that it will be able to survive in its current form.

The first factor of these changes is reduced to “creative destruction” that drives the epidemic. The authors of “the Communist Manifesto”, glorified the industrial society, everywhere destroying the old caste and Guild life forms could be fascinated by the present moment of history. For twenty years, humanity has actually created a new culture based on access to huge amounts of information on the one hand, and full transparency of social life on the other.

Smartphones connected to the network, give a completely different type of sociality compared to the XX century. In the sphere of labor is manifested in oversale (the absence of permanent employment, short-term projects) in the area of personal relationships in the success of Tinder and similar platforms in the field of communication and social contacts in social networks (large number of weak social ties, gradually displacing the usual understanding of the friendship, destroying the social hierarchy), in the field of media competition between the traditional hierarchical media newsrooms and horizontal alternative sources of information (where fake, hybrid war, more representation in media and coordination of small groups, the effect of movement meetoo represent different aspects of the democratization of information).

These changes in culture was relatively slow, because they acted in the interiors of the XX century, where a car with a driver-a private trader, which is invoked via a smartphone and one provides you a service called “taxi”, and where people habitually go to work and build a career, as if it were self-evident. The epidemic stopped all social practices except those that were created in the last 20 years in digital culture: in the course of this year mankind will be forced to take all the accumulated changes. Those practices that did not fit with them, will be discarded.

The second factor is even more fundamental, and it can be called algoritmicheskie. Responsible politicians have to make decisions in conditions of uncertainty, suggesting that they should then be accountable to the citizens. The only legitimate way of decision-making are still in the age of Enlightenment, is considered the rational analysis of the situation. To analyze the situation, governments around the world collect all available data. Previously, surveillance of citizens was considered something indecent, but after it was built on the main businesses of the last decade — Google and Facebook — collecting data were normalized. The politicians themselves are not able to build and evaluate statistical models based on big data: they rely on experts. Experts, in turn, take political decisions, but only to build quantitative models that are processed by machines. No country in the world in 2020 can not make significant policy decisions without using algorithms. The complexity of these algorithms is constantly growing as the amount of data available for analysis. Decisions that denied the algorithms will be celebrated in the very early stages: this is well illustrated by the unprecedented in the history of the industrial world’s decision to close the economy for the sake of saving people’s lives.

In algorithmuri real political entity and the sovereign becomes the “collective will of the people” and not the person of the dictator, but the car. Human cognitive powers are de facto found to be insufficient in order to make responsible rational decisions.

In Russia we see a kind of tragedy of the dictatorship, which, assuming that subjectivity is only hers, to issue “transit authority” through vulgar “zero term” and to complete this action a symbolic parade on red square on 9 may. Sovereign over dictatorship is becoming epidemic, with its undeclared emergency. The real emergency was declared, we have January 15, it was still called “unconstitutional coup”, declared the authorities is now a legal procedure emergency, and this nullified their earlier actions.

But similar tragedies survive political regimes around the world: they rule now, not elected parliaments and presidents, and mathematical models based on the data collected from billions of smartphones. The sovereign stands above the epidemic algorithm.

Finally, the third factor in our political future depends on the society in which these changes occur. In a revisionist work, “the Cultivation of the masses. Modern state and Soviet socialism,” historian David Hoffman argues that despite the unprecedented crimes of the Soviet authorities against the person, the nature of their actions were not unique. By 1916, all over Europe there was the Institute of military censorship, centralized supply of the population with products of first necessity, concentration camps for prisoners of war and displaced persons, the prohibition of free movement, mass biopolitical measures to maintain the health of the population through basic education and hygiene measures. Unlike the Soviet state was the fact that after the end of hostilities, all these institutions were not curtailed, but, on the contrary, continued its development in the next 70 years.

In the end, will it be possible to combine the new with the old algorithmisation values of human rights depends on the state of the civil institutions of the late industrial age, which we are now saying goodbye. For comparison, British democracy can be described as a medieval vestige of the Magna Carta. Unfortunately, in Russia there are very poor prospects: the Union kleptocratic authoritarianism with Yandex and universal digitalization meets too little resistance.

Kirill Martynov, “Facebook”