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The Political Tragedy of Data-Driven-Determinism

Short thesis

Polls and predictions could not foresee the wide appeal of voting for Brexit, for Trump, against the predictions, against the future that was set in the numbers. As worrisome as these phenomenons may be, we can see some hope in this turn against data-driven-determinism. How could we seize this call to action to reignite our political imagination and reclaim the future?

Description

The Oracle of Delphi predicted that King Laius’ son would murder his father and marry his mother. In the Greek tragedy, as much as both King Laius and his son Oedipus tried to fight the prophecy, to avoid their fate, there was no escape from this tragic future.

The Oracles of London predicted that Brits will come to their senses and vote against Brexit. And the Oracles of New York and Washington predicted that Americans will vote for Hillary Clinton ("because it is her turn") rather than go for a man with no political experience, and no personal integrity. And yet, tragically maybe, the political dramas we've recently witnessed have not panned out exactly like a Greek tragedy.

But is this wide public decent against things as they are so uncalled for? Are these protest votes against the political status quo and the predictable future really a tragedy? Of course, one can rightfully claim that voting for unknown futures is irresponsible and even childish. But if the alternative is this patronizing political determinism, deprived of any real possibility for change, should we really be surprised?

Today we are surrounded by Oracles, mainly algorithmic ones, predicting and dictating our every move, crippling our political imagination. In that framework, what are the prospects for autonomy, creativity and leadership? Can we maintain this political freedom and still addressing the prophecies we cannot run away from? Most prominently climate change. How can we learn from art, poetry, science fiction? What is our role in this play? And does it really have to be so tragic?