Renewing Democracy in the Digital Age

July 21, 2020

8am Virtual

The Berggruen Institute’s Future of Democracy program offers comprehensive analysis and actionable solutions to the declines in democratic legitimacy and governance capacity exhibited in multiple advanced democracies. Based on in-depth conversations with leaders, experts, and citizens in numerous countries and communities, and combining quantitative and qualitative data, the Renewing Democracy in the Digital Age report is the culmination of a three-year long effort. In addition to a strategic overview of challenges and opportunities in current democratic governance, the report also offers detailed recommendations to strengthen social cohesion, the digital pubic square, and institutional capacity in democratic societies. The underlying trends diagnosed in the report have only been accelerated by the COVID-19 crisis, as has the need for strengthened democratic reform. Join German Marshall Fund and Berggruen Institute experts for a discussion on the path ahead for democracy.


Helle Thorning-Schmidt
Former Prime Minister of Denmark
Co-Chair, Berggruen Institute Future of Democracy Project

Mary Scudder
Assistant Professor, Purdue University

Nathan Gardels
Editor-in-Chief, Noema Magazine
Co-Founder and Senior Advisor, Berggruen Institute

Dawn Nakagawa
Co-Director, Future of Democracy Project
Executive Vice President, Berggruen Institute

Karen Kornbluh
Director, GMF Digital

Panelist Bios:

Helle Thorning-Schmidt is the former Prime Minister of Denmark, where she led a coalition government from 2011 until 2015, successfully steering Denmark through a difficult period of transition after the global financial crisis. Prior to her time as Prime Minister, Helle was member of Danish Parliament and the Leader of the Social Democratic Party for 10 years. She was a member of the European Parliament from 1999 to 2004, and previously worked as an international adviser to the Confederation of Trade Unions.  From 2015-2019, Helle served as the Chief Executive Officer of Save the Children International, where she oversees humanitarian and development programs that reach 55 million children in around 120 countries. Save the Children has 25,000 staff, working in some of the most difficult and challenging contexts in the world, and an annual budget of over USD $2 billion. She currently serves as Board Member for Facebook’s Oversight Board. She is the co-chair of the Berggruen Institute’s Future of Democracy project.

Mary F. (Molly) Scudder is an assistant professor of political science, specializing in political theory at Purdue University. She is the author of Beyond Empathy and Inclusion: The Challenge of Listening in Democratic Deliberation (Oxford University Press, September 2020) which examines how to achieve democratic rule in large pluralistic societies where citizens are deeply divided. She argues that listening is key. The book offers a systematic theory of listening acts to explain the democratic force of listening. Modeled after speech act theory, Scudder’s listening act theory shows how we do something in listening, independent of the outcomes of listening. In listening to our fellow citizens, we recognize their moral equality of voice. Scudder holds a PhD from the University of Virginia. She is an associate of the Centre for Deliberative Democracy and Global Governance at the University of Canberra, Australia.

Nathan Gardels is the editor-in-chief of Noema Magazine, co-founder and a senior adviser to the Berggruen Institute. He has been editor of New Perspectives Quarterly since it began publishing in 1985. He has served as editor of Global Viewpoint and Nobel Laureates Plus (services of the Los Angeles Times Syndicate/Tribune Media) since 1989. These services have a worldwide readership of 35 million in 15 languages. Nathan has written widely for The Wall Street Journal, the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Harper’s Magazine, U.S. News & World Report, and The New York Review of Books. Gardels is co-author with Nicolas Berggruen of Renovating Democracy: Governing in the Age of Globalization and Digital Capitalism (University of California Press) and Intelligent Governance for the 21st Century, a Financial Times Book of the Year. Nathan holds degrees in Theory and Comparative Politics and in Architecture and Urban Planning from UCLA. He lives in Los Angeles with his wife, Lilly, and two sons, Carlos and Alexander.

Dawn Nakagawa is the Executive Vice President of the Berggruen Institute, which was launched in 2010 with Dawn as its first employee. In this position, she develops strategy, develops and launches projects, oversees management of finances and operations, and builds the team. The mission of the organization is to deepen our understanding of the great transformations of our time and develop social and political institutions adapted to them. The key projects of the institute include the Future of Democracy, Transformations of the Human, Globalization and the New Multilateralism, and Economic Transformations. Special initiatives include the Berggruen Prize and Noema Magazine.

Karen Kornbluh joined GMF as Senior Fellow and Director of the Digital Innovation and Democracy Initiative from the Council on Foreign Relations where she was Senior Fellow for Digital Policy. A leading voice for modernizing policies to address changes in technology, the workforce, and the family, Kornbluh was Ambassador to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development and Policy Director to then-Senator Barack Obama.  She has served in senior positions at both the Treasury Department and Federal Communications Commission. In the private sector, Kornbluh was Executive Vice President at Nielsen after starting her career as an economic forecaster and management consultant. Kornbluh founded the New America Foundation’s Work and Family Program and she has written and spoken widely on both technology and family policies. She serves as a member of the Broadcasting Board of Governors, and is a Mozilla Fellow and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.






composed by Arswain
machine learning consultation by Anna Tskhovrebov
commissioned by the Berggruen Institute
premiered at the Bradbury Building
downtown Los Angeles
april 22, 2022

Human perception of what sounds “beautiful” is necessarily biased and exclusive. If we are to truly expand our hearing apparatus, and thus our notion of beauty, we must not only shed preconceived sonic associations but also invite creative participation from beings non-human and non-living. We must also begin to cede creative control away from ourselves and toward such beings by encouraging them to exercise their own standards of beauty and collaborate with each other.

Movement I: Alarm Call
‘Alarm Call’ is a long-form composition and sound collage that juxtaposes, combines, and manipulates alarm calls from various human, non-human, and non-living beings. Evolutionary biologists understand the alarm call to be an altruistic behavior between species, who, by warning others of danger, place themselves by instinct in a broader system of belonging. The piece poses the question: how might we hear better to broaden and enhance our sense of belonging in the universe? Might we behave more altruistically if we better heed the calls of – and call out to – non-human beings?

Using granular synthesis, biofeedback, and algorithmic modulation, I fold the human alarm call – the siren – into non-human alarm calls, generating novel “inter-being” sonic collaborations with increasing sophistication and complexity. 

Movement II: A.I.-Truism
A synthesizer piece co-written with an AI in the style of Vangelis’s Blade Runner score, to pay homage to the space of the Bradbury Building.

Movement III: Alarmism
A machine learning model “learns” A.I.Truism and recreates Alarm Call, generating an original fusion of the two.

Movement IV: A.I. Call
A machine learning model “learns” Alarm Call and recreates A.I.Truism, generating an original fusion of the two.