Decoding Digital Authoritarianism

Digital technologies hold tremendous potential to enhance societal wellbeing, including the
protection and promotion of democracy and human rights. However, citizens, political leaders,
and states are increasingly concerned about the way in which digital technologies can be used to
curtail freedoms and oppress foreign and domestic population groups in liberal democratic and
autocratic states alike. Digital authoritarianism has emerged as a policy-relevant description of
this concern, but suffers from a lack of i) conceptual clarity, ii) relevant stakeholder consensus
on areas of focus, and iii) strategic policy guidance for effective response.

Report Structure
Taking the traditional understanding of digital authoritarianism as a point of departure, this
report tasked 9 experts from a variety of regional focus areas and academic disciplines –
inter alia comparative and international law, political economy, data studies, and media &
communications – with offering their views on what digital authoritarianism means, what
empirical factors drive it, and how we can develop theory around it that allows for a more
global, inclusive conversation to address the various ways it might manifest in societies. This
approach was specifically designed to include novel angles into and/or underrepresented voices
in conversations about digital technology and policy, and so these contributions range from
the Global South implications of AI ‘epistemic authoritarianism’, to the urgent (un)democratic
potential of central bank digital currencies in global finance.

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.