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Human Enhancement Technologies and Democratic Citizenship
By Jean-Paul Gagnon Posted in Book Chapter on March 10, 2021 0 Comments 44 min read
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Human Enhancement Technologies and Democratic Citizenship

[Originally published in Steven John Thompson’s Global Issues and Ethical Considerations in Human Enhancement Technologies. I really enjoyed the Isaiah Berlin-inspired fiction method employed for this essay: Steven was open to the prospect of my thinking through what electoral democracy, democratic citizenship, and technology could look like in the future and I ran with it.]

This chapter articulates that scholars write about Human Enhancement Technologies (HET) in two ways. This is not a reflection of a reality in the literature but rather a heuristic designed to contextualize democratic citizenship within contemporary HET discussions. The first way is to write about HET as possible realities far off into the future. The second way is to write about HET that can be realised seemingly as soon as tomorrow. For democratic citizenship, writing in the first case is either utopian or
dystopian. It is either the projection of democracy’s total triumph or its utter collapse caused by the type of rots that lead to democide. But writing in the second case is stimulating and vibrant. There are, for example, numerous calls for HET-led reforms in the literature. These reforms are needed to help answer the crisis of the citizen’s august discontent (the growing and increasingly legitimized political apathy and political abstention observed in, and performed by, the citizenry). The purpose of this chapter is to focus on this second case—this more developed body of literature—and to theorise the interface between democratic citizenship and HET.


As an area of study, citizenship boasts a large and varied body of literature. Key foci include the more traditional concern about an individual’s
relationship with the state, or the fulfilment of public duties, to the more contemporary concern of justifying an individual’s avoidance of public
duties. Despite the breadth of this body of literature, an area remains understudied. And that is the theorisation of citizenship’s futurism. The
former is an aspect to the philosophy of citizenship which questions, among other areas, the future directions of the normative values associated with
citizenship. Scholars (see for example Mossberger, Tolbert & McNeal, 2007; Taylor-Gooby, 2008; Isin & Nielsen, 2008; Rohrer, 2009) have certainly been projecting normative arguments about what it is to be a citizen, and how individuals can be better citizens, but there has not at this point been much focus exclusively on human enhancement technologies (HET) and democratic citizenship. The future of citizenship, one dependant on HET,
is therefore the focus of this chapter. As Isaiah Berlin (1962) might argue, we need to articulate the future directions of our existing institutions, like
citizenship, so that we can push for their improvement in clear and predetermined directions rather than leave institutions to ad hoc organic change. The act of articulating these future directions exposes contemporary political desires. It helps uncover the normative positions of those proposing the future directions. Importantly, visions of the future raise fundamental questions about the directions that institutions might possibly take. Raising questions is a central goal of this chapter.

As I understand it, there are two clear modes of writing about futurism, and, consequently, HET. The first discusses possible paths for humans
in the far off future. Its scope is hundreds if not thousands of years ahead in time. The second discusses possible paths that are nearer in time. Its
scope is days, years, or decades. Both are equally important. The first has seemingly more to do with Jules Verne or Isaac Asimov. It is an articulation
of often extreme and imaginative realities set well into the future. These projections are useful as they help us, as humans, to come to terms with where we might like, or not like to, for example, take our institutions. This theorisation of the deep future of citizenship is, in scholarly literature, typically not the work of prophecy but rather either a dire warning that this future should be avoided or a beacon calling for its realisation. Depending on the subject, such as mind uploading,1 we currently see expressions for both positions (avoid or realise).

For democratic citizenship, we can theorise some possibilities into the far off future. The following is an extreme example designed to stimulate
thinking in this area. Progress in anti-aging research could lead to a group of ‘old’ humans, alive for several hundred years, who would have experienced for example three or four times as many election campaigns as today’s average lifespan human. The potential spin-off effects of this
type of change are many. For example, will this create a class of ‘guardian’ citizens – a new type of elite? The act of dying, of generational change,
can be a key player in political transformations. The argument goes that in some political systems there will be powerful elites with stubbornly
held beliefs, rather than evidence-based rational positions, and thus change can only peacefully happen once these types of elites die. Dead elites
are replaced by living ones who might be more progressive, or moderate, or democratic. So what happens to the pacing of the political change pegged to human life spans when ideologues for example will remain alive – possibly for centuries? In a competitive multi-party electoral democracy it is conceivable that these elites will simply not be re-elected and may, rather, become marginalized for being overly conservative or illogical as human development progresses. Ideologues will be left behind.2 But what about in non-democratic places like North Korea – these closed totalitarian states where dynastic change, and the space for political rupture out of totalitarianism, happens mostly through the death of the great leader? What if Kim Il Sung, for example, were still alive today?

The example given above is just one articulation of the problems HET can cause for democratic politics. But this and other possible problems do
not crowd this hypothetical horizon. There are also boons for democracy to be found in at least this one articulation of its deep future. Progress,
for example, in neuroscience research could lead to an implanted brain-to-computer interface where humans can access the Internet in their
minds (Berger et al., 2008; Tan & Nijholt, 2010; Graimann, Pfurtscheller, & Allison, 2010). If electronic voting were by that point long-standardised,
humans could possibly discharge a flurry of civic duties from anywhere in the world and with little effort. Further, parents could decide to have their
children’s genotype ‘arranged’ to maximize intelligence and the emotional spectrum related to things like caring, love, and peace. Once old enough,
these children could be subject to virtual reality experience-based education – a focus of which could be civics education, or, what it means for
a given society to ‘be’ a good citizen. One might argue that these, still I think alienating ideas today, are positive changes to strive for. But these few
radical positions showing potential negative and positive outcomes are far-off possibilities and, despite still being an important area to think about,
this first type of futuristic writing will not be the one focused on in this chapter.

The second mode of writing tends to be more viable. It has to do with the near-future, as near as tomorrow. Arguments here push for the realisation
of possible HET-related reforms, usually as a means to solving one or more contemporary political problems (Otchere-Darko, 2010). The act of voting is, for example, increasingly considered worthless (see, for example, Lever, 2010; Agu, Okeke, & Idike, 2013; Curato & Niemeyer, 2013) especially by today’s youth in some of the world’s most developed countries.3 Part of the response to this problem is to use HET on Election Day to make voting more convenient and more sophisticated as a means to entice young people to vote (Roberto, 2010; Lariscy, Tinkham, & Sweetser, 2011). This changes the types of HET that can be involved in this chapter because these technologies have to be, more or less, realisable now or in the short term. I follow Coeckelbergh (2010) in arguing that ‘everyday’ computers, as we understand them today, can be considered HET. Given the increasingly
ubiquitous presence of computer devices like laptops, touchscreen tablets and mobile phones in daily life, it is surprising that their presence is
mostly missing at election stations. Some humans do, after all, use HET at typically banal places like grocery stores (self-check-out touchscreen
machines), automated tellers to withdraw money, or at restaurants to order food.

The slow transition from paper to electronic voting is ostensibly caused by a political unwillingness to face the risks involved. An investigation of some of the main problems associated with electronic voting in mostly the United States (see, for example, Appel, 2011; Balzarotti et al., 2010; Weldemariam, Kemmerer, & Villafiorita, 2011) points to the conclusion that it is a lack of
political will that is more responsible for the slow implementation of e-voting. The technical barriers can, in themselves, be construed as political
obstacles. Paper ballots cannot, for example, be hacked. A pencil and paper cannot create software error codes. And, more importantly, cardboard
voting booths, stationary, and non-specialist volunteers are economically cheaper than electronic voting mechanisms and all the baggage that these
systems carry.4 There are also technical impediments to secure online voting as Simons and Jones (2012) point out. Governments need to prove, for example, that online voting or casting a ballot via email can guarantee the secrecy of a citizen’s vote. Nevertheless, after the botched 2000 Florida
election and the 2013 Western Australia election, it seems that the consensus at least in the United States and Australia is for favouring digital over physical forms of voting.

A number of polities have been experimenting with electronic voting – with touchscreens now trending as the medium of choice (Shamos & Yasinsac, 2012; Hale & Brown, 2013; Camargo et al., 2012). Certain states in the United States (Hale & Brown, 2013), Bangladesh (Sarker, 2013), India (Kumar & Walia, 2011), Belgium (Allers & Kooreman, 2009), Italy (Rivest et al., 2009,
p. 593), Argentina (Katz et al., 2011), Estonia (Alvarez, Hall, & Trechsel, 2009), and Australia (Hill & Alport, 2007, p. 4) are a few examples from a longer list. Most electoral commissions in these states can be described as using simplistic machines designed to record confidential votes online, overseas, or at a voting station.

There is an ongoing scholarly engagement with electronic voting (see, for example, Stewart, 2011; Elgie & Fauvelle-Aymar, 2012, p. 1600; Moynihan
& Lavertu, 2011) centred on its feasibility, how it might affect voter behaviour, and whether it can secure voter privacy. There are too significant pushes in the literature for realising different articulations of digital citizenship (see Hermes, 2006; de Vreese, 2007; Mancini, 2010). A key
argument includes that it is likely that the transition to HET-integrated citizenship will become a reality first for wealthier open-societies. Another
key argument focuses on the lack of political knowledge in the electorate to which electronic voting is responding. There is currently no viable alternative other than maintaining the status quo which, it should be noted, is failing to meet the political demands of today’s ‘Internet citizens’ or
‘netizens’ which appear to have preferences for voting online and for getting more out of their vote by participating in, for example, interactive
polling (Dutton, Elberse, & Hale, 1999; Alport & Macintyre, 2007). Some examples of the status quo’s weaknesses include the over-simplicity of
casting a paper ballot; the design of paper ballots which, depending on the way they are engineered, can create election outcomes from ‘donkey’ votes5; or having to waste one’s time by travelling to the voting station and sometimes waiting in long lines which could be solved by casting a ballot online.

This chapter will, to situate one way of injecting HET into democratic citizenship, focus on theorising the election station of tomorrow. It will begin with voter registration where a human will interact, in private, with a large touchscreen. Once the human has decided she wants to vote, this chapter will move to looking at the intermediary process between voter registration and voting. In busy electoral districts, voters today have to often wait in line before voting. This is wasted time. Humans could go from registration through to a different large and private touchscreen whose program is designed to promote reflexive and investigative political thought on the part of the voter. A human could, in this intermediary station, use Vote Compass,6 review how they voted in previous elections, access political party manifestos, and balance policy presentation between political parties.
Finally, this chapter will end with the act of voting which, again, will be done through a large touchscreen interface. Here a human can see all
voting-related information produced by political parties like preferencing (for systems that use preferential voting), party lists, parties’ intended
portfolio-holding ministers, or even independent ‘who to vote for’ expert recommendations built around evidence-based policy. These three segments will be looked at in turn.

It is important to theorise the election station of tomorrow because an HET-integrated election day is one of the largest focal points for electoral reform. This is seen in Gibson (2002, p. 572), Herrnson et al. (2008, p. 581), and Alport and Macintyre’s (2007, p. 42) works where online voting, especially designed to accommodate self-identified disabled, single mother, or elderly
citizens, was a main reform recommendation. Tolbert and McNeal (2003), Czernich (2012), and Gronke et al. (2008) each, for example, turn to edemocracy as a direct response to the retreat from formal voting observable in a number of countries (see for example Steiner, 2010, for a longitudinal study of relatively recent voter turnout statistics in established democracies). Despite these works pointing to HET as remedies for current political ills observable in democratic states, we have not yet seen an articulation of fully integrated HET election stations – something that may not be too far off. We require these visualisations to be able to grab onto the first well-defined rung of the HETelection station ladder. The more visualisations we have, the more ladders are on offer, and thus a society can choose how to change its polity by picking from a list of possible futures. This chapter offers one of these ways forward.


Before we progress to this HET-election station visualisation, it is important to describe what I mean by democratic citizenship. Concepts of citizenship have changed considerably over time in the western canon when individuals gradually transformed from vassals of the state to sovereign
individuals that today theoretically rule the state. It should be noted that this transformation is still happening as citizens are transitioning
from theoretical to actual power holders (see, for greater context, Ackerman, 2013; Hyslop-Margison & Sears, 2006; Hadenius, 2001). One
could call this the praxes of sovereign citizenship in democratic countries that view the state as the servant of the citizens. In the late 19th century
and early to mid-twentieth century, citizenship was mostly articulated through a top-down narrative. To be a citizen was to be committed to
your state, or nation, or both. It meant swearing an oath (usually to a religious text or monarch), having relevant cultural and political knowledge, serving the state, conforming to certain normalized
modes of economy and family, and readily fulfilling restricted public duties (such as voting, jury duty, and paying taxes).

As globalisation gathered pace from the 1940s onwards the demands on citizens have increased. States have, as a response to the ostensible ‘awakening’ of the critical citizen who legitimately abstains from politics, made citizenship more grandiose. To be a citizen means more than voting,
having some cultural and political knowledge, and serving the state. One must now increasingly care for themselves as public services become more
privatized. A citizen needs to upkeep the integrity of their local communities, support others both locally and internationally, but to also simply be better participants in the political arena. Yet what this grandiose and narrow and ever more demanding picture of citizenship does is create a distance between oneself and the ability to ‘be’ a citizen. The reality for most individuals in for example OECD countries or in very poor countries
is that there is not enough time in one’s daily life to fill the performance needs of this grandiose citizenship. The reengagement of the public fails.
Governments continue to under-innovate.

The response to this comes mainly from Esposito (2012). He articulates as others do (Vertovec, 1998; Shachar, 2005) that there are many forms
of citizenship. Thus to be a citizen can happen in any number of ways which includes trying to be the state’s idyllic citizen. An individual can choose from a constellation of citizenship modes how she will articulate herself as a citizen. By for example moving away from a narrow and grand conception foisted by the state onto citizens towards a bottom-up conception that is full of variety and possibility for engagement – we see room for a meaningful return to public life. The distance between the citizen and the self lessens as the self can pick any number of ways to be a citizen – even if that means doing so for but a day. The difficulty of the multiple citizenships articulation is that it puts representative governments under more strain. Those sovereigns (citizens) that have delegated their politics through the act of voting have become more complicated. They are exercising power, and making demands, outside of the institutions of parliament. Their servants, the delegates, must become more attentive to these moves and adjust the way that they have been representing the politics of their rulers.

This bottom-up kind of democratic citizenship, as explained in the paragraphs above, is how I understand the self’s engagement with political
life. This theorisation opens space for change. It allows one’s suggestions for HET-oriented reforms on election day to be realistic because it moves beyond narrowly focused understandings of citizenship.

I follow Berlin (1962, p. 13) in arguing that:

Unless we understand (by an effort of imaginative insight such as novelists usually possess in higher degree than logicians) what notions of man’s nature (or absence of them) are incorporated in…political outlooks, what in each case is the dominant model, we shall not understand our own or any human society (See, also, Spegele, 1971, p. 138).

Spegele supports Berlin’s position in his argument that imaginative writing, or fiction, is a valid methodology to use in scholarly works. Through a demonstrated relationship with an existing literature, a piece of fiction can articulate the possibilities of politics – of “what could happen” (1971, p. 137). This type of fiction unlocks our ability to deliberate about potential futures
and to question the ramifications of our present choices. That is why I decided to use fiction in this chapter. This, methodologically speaking, is
a fruitful way of exploring scholarly topics in the futurism of citizenship.

The fictional articulation, given below, of a voting citizen in the not too distant future is designed to raise more questions than it answers. Part of
its purpose is provocation. For instance, where a voter’s data is collected and stored raises privacy concerns; the mandatory political literacy quiz
could be exclusionary and alienating; the added stages of voting and their software elements raise worries about how this might influence voters
before they cast their ballot; and the physical organization of the voting stages – designed to reduce queues and delays – might not actually work
resulting in a compounding of the time burden already added onto voters who are obliged to go through the three stages process.

Utopias fall on their faces. And this fictional articulation of mine, although tempered to be less Pollyannaish, must suffer the same fate. But it is
precisely here that we see the value of this methodology. Raising questions, provoking thought, and picking up potential risks – each contributing
to the ‘falling utopia’ – are necessary components for evaluating the worth of a proposed future. It brings the idea down to earth which crystallizes
existing political objections.


2026. It is 15 October, general election day in Brazil. Gustava Kalil arrives at her electoral district’s voting station. It is a local high school and the voting is taking place in its interior gymnasium. Conspicuously, she is not accosted by party loyalists toting ‘how-to-vote’ cards as these were banned in previous years. She walks through the school’s hallways, following directions offered by signs and volunteers, and arrives at a small
line-up in front of the gymnasium doors. Voters are being released into the gymnasium in stages – somewhat like what happens in some museums
to limit crowding. After several more voters lineup behind Gustava, a volunteer counts the voters waiting and pulls a rope from one stanchion to
another to ‘close off’ this group. A different volunteer starts welcoming other voters that arrive behind Gustava’s group and begins the count to
slowly form a second group. The maximum is ten people per group.

Gustava’s volunteer asks to have her group’s attention. The volunteer explains the voting process. To cast a complete ballot, each member of
this group has to go through three stages in the gymnasium. The first stage is registration. Voters, if they wish, can opt out of voting at this or any
other stage and leave. Presently, the volunteer says, there are ten people finishing their registration. These ten people will then move on to a pre-voting section where they can go through some political research activities, fill out important surveys, and generally form a more informed position before casting their ballot. Finally, that group will then move to the final stage where the ballot is cast. The volunteer explains that a voter can take as much or as little time as she pleases to go through each stage. A big green button inside each station is available to press if assistance is required.

The volunteer checks her touchscreen tablet and sees that three stations are free in the first stage. She invites Gustava and the two other voters ahead
of her to proceed. There are three lines composed of ten stations each in the gymnasium. That is, three sections and thirty stations. The entry to each
station, which look like pods, is semi-circular, no touch required, and fully private. The material of the station is noise absorbent. Walking into her
station, Gustava finds that there is a large, slightly contoured, touchscreen console prompting her to begin. She touches the start button. She has to,
question by question, enter her personal details. A finger print scan helps to confirm her identity. For those that prefer it, an iris scan is also available.
This registration application feels easy to use. The programming is intuitive. Before the registration process finishes, Gustava is asked to complete
a survey collecting data on why people come to vote. The touchscreen states that the survey will take approximately five minutes. She is enticed
by the possibility of winning an expensive prize but decides to pass.


After touching the ‘finish and move on’ button, Gustava walks out of the first station. There is a three meter wide corridor between the sections,
or lines of voting stations. A volunteer informs Gustava that the next station in section two is free. She enters the station and begins the intermediary
process. This second station and touchscreen are the same as the first. The application on the touchscreen is, too – except that it appears in a
different colour. As this is the second general election that used the HET-voting system, Gustava can choose to see how she voted in the previous
election and how that matched with the previous overall election result. She is also asked if she wants to complete the Vote Compass survey for this current election. An option is provided to watch a short information video about Vote Compass. Gustava proceeds and, after about 10 minutes,
she finds that she is leaning more to the left than she was in the previous election. Vote Compass recommends that she votes for a different party.

The intermediary process’s main program now begins. It asks Gustava pointed questions about her political interests based on what she indicated
in the Vote Compass survey. An example:

Why do you prefer more investment in public infrastructure?
(Feel free to select more than
one response)
a. Because you are a public transportation
b. Because you are concerned about the
c. Because you are concerned about the
driving death toll;
Other (If other, you will be directed to a comment box where you can answer the question by using the inbuilt keyboard)

The touchscreen explains that completing these questions generates important data for the electoral commission but that it also acts as an important reflective process for voters. After answering these
questions, which takes about 10 minutes, Gustava has the option to read third-party developed reports on policy issues she is most concerned about and the position political parties have in relation to those issues. She can use the touchscreen to select particular political parties and to see their policy track-records: what, for example, was promised by the incumbent party in the last election and was this or how was this achieved? A final question asks if this intermediary process changed her mind for which party to vote for. Gustava notices that there are follow up questions after she gave her answer so she touches the ‘move on’ button to opt out of this series of questions.

The application then asks if Gustava would like to complete a number of surveys – each taking roughly five minutes. Prizes again feature as
enticements. She decides to pass on all surveys except for one which is collecting political information from single mothers. After completing the
survey, she exits the station.


Another three meter-wide corridor and volunteer are navigated to get to the final station in section three – which is as identical as the last two.
Here Gustava is offered a randomized ballot on the touchscreen. The presidency, Câmara dos Deputados (Chamber of Deputies) and two thirds
of the Senado Federal (Federal Senate) are up for grabs in this electoral round. She has to vote slightly differently for both houses as the lower
chamber uses open-list proportional representation and the upper house, and presidency ballot, use first past the post systems (more specifically,
a two-round ballot system for the presidency). As a means to ensure that Gustava is equipped with the knowledge (Rapeli, 2013) to be able to fully
understand each balloting system, the application prompts Gustava to take a mandatory quiz. She has to pass the quiz with a perfect score with as
many retries as she needs in order to be allowed to cast a ballot. Some examples of the multiple choice questions include:

• What type of open-list proportional representation
does Brazil use to elect its upper
• Why is this type of proportional representation
• What are its drawbacks?
• Choose the correct answer: Brazil’s first
past the post voting system is characterised

Trials before the election demonstrated to the Tribunal Superior Eleitoral (Superior Electoral Court) that the average voter takes 15 minutes to
pass the quiz. This is one of the main reasons for why volunteers are strategically used to provide crowd flow and why Gustava did not encounter much, or any, waiting delays once inside the gymnasium.

Gustava cast her ballots once the hurdle quiz was passed. Before leaving the final station, she was prompted by the application to share her experience through social media – she even had the option to have her photo snapped with a colourful election day background, as voters today are, increasingly, ‘snapchat-ing’, ‘instagram-ing’, ‘facebook-ing’ and ‘tweeting’ at election stations (Aman & Jayroe, 2013; Bekafigo & McBride, 2013; Quintelier & Theocharis, 2012; Alotaibi, 2013). She declined, left the station, and exited the gymnasium roughly 50 minutes after she initially arrived at the high school.


The imaginary scenario of a future voting station in Brazil, given above, promotes the enhancement of humans before the ballot is cast. This is because, as signalled in the introduction, certain articulations of electronic voting are specifically addressing the lack of political knowledge in the electorate. The integration of HET into this aspect of democratic citizenship is then not simply about making the act of voting quicker or less onerous, but also about making the act of voting more sophisticated. Indeed, my example made voting much more involved than it typically is. For some individuals the imaginary scenario presented in this chapter may be positively alienating. This tension is an aspect of democratic citizenship that requires further investigation. The prompts that Gustava encountered on various touchscreens were coming from knowledge-sharing and knowledge-testing programs. They were designed to enhance her knowledge, self-awareness, and critical reflection skills before she went to cast her ballots.

Out of this deliberately constructed intervention comes the idea of a future that forces citizens, who want to vote, to pass a difficult exam testing their political knowledge. In the scenario above I emphasized the citizen’s choice to engage the knowledge-sharing (would you like to know who you voted for in the last election?), knowledge-testing (would you like to complete the pre-vote quiz to see if or how you understand major policies?), and information-gathering programs (would you like to complete this survey?). This was done to emphasize the negative liberty of the citizenry which still seems to be the more ethical approach for how states go about deploying their coercive power. But others may prefer a positivist approach: to be free to vote, and thus to be a fully-capable and free citizen, you must pass a test
to prove you hold sufficient political knowledge before being permitted to cast your ballot. I built a mandatory quiz into the final station (the one
quiz Gustava had to complete) to emphasize this point. If in the future civics education were more robust than what most citizens experience today in compulsory schooling maybe this test would not be alienating. It could fall into the category of a driver’s test or similar. Nevertheless, the mandatory nature of this quiz, and its aim, does point to an increasingly militant position observable in some democratic societies where parts of the electorate are tired of ‘the idiots’. As citizens and governments today continue to experiment with electronic voting, decisions will have to be
made about which conceptions of liberty will be emphasized in their respective polities.

One of the first questions that come to mind in response to the election-station visualisation given above is why to even bother with the physicality
of the election? And why bother with the possibly expensive touchscreens, software programming, and installation? This can all be done online involving less effort and cost. The reason for maintaining physicality is that there is a significant resistance to the abandonment of the public, performative aspects of citizens gathering to cast their ballots. Stromer-Galley (2003), for example, argues that moving away from the agora aspect of in-person voting to the hidden or private aspect of online voting may do more damage than good. There is an argument to be made for keeping the act of voting public and physical although that argument needs greater theorisation.

Those who articulated this [point] often made
basic statements, such as this: “Personally, I
like voting booths,” without further elaboration
of why they prefer to cast a ballot at a traditional
balloting station rather than through the Internet.
Voting at a voting booth has value in its own right,
although it’s not clear what exactly that value is.
Others made statements such as this: “There’s
something good about the very act of going to
the [polls].” But what that something is, they did
not say. The most frequent response was about
the importance of exerting effort to cast a ballot.
Some people simply said that they would not like
to make voting too easy. One person explained
that “Getting to the polls takes an effort. Those
are the thoughtful voters.” The reason they are
the thoughtful voters is that if they voted online,
as this next person explained, then “People would
vote without knowing what they’re voting for.”
Others stated their sentiments more simply, such
as: “Get off your —- and vote.” (Stromer-Galley,
2003, p. 730)

The reason I kept the physicality of voting is that there is something to be said about individual human beings meeting before and after casting
their ballots. Election days are performative and require intentionally constructed sacralisation. Election days need to be imbued with republican
or democratic virtues (Justman, 1993). Although voting in private on the Internet or through a postal vote is more convenient for avoiding strangers at election stations or making the effort to get out to vote, it does not make the vote profane. It does not devalue the vote by rationalizing it through
new technologies. What it does do, however, is privilege the private over the public – and this is problematic.

Taylor (2007), Justman (1993), and Chou (2013a) help to make the argument that the turn of citizens towards selfish individuality and the private over building a sense of community and acting, as an individual, in the public is partially detrimental to democratic citizenship. Particularly important to explaining this is Taylor’s (2007, p.148) concept of “neo-Durkeimian political identities.” The coercive act of forcing individuals to get out into the public, to be in lines or physically engaging processes with other individuals is an
intentional strengthening of the democratic idea. To borrow from Taylor once more, the act of having to go to the polls helps to build a culture of
democracy. This is what we risk losing if we allow the continued retreat of democratic citizenship into the private and impersonal Internet. And this is
why I stressed the physicality in one example of a possible future election day.


The dialectic of HET and democratic citizenship offers space for theorisation. This chapter builds its argument around one possible future election station. The focus is on readily available touchscreen computers – that which allows human enhancement to happen – and the near future. Humans, as democratic citizens, can be performing at an enhanced level when it comes to voting if HET are actively employed at election stations. And, as pointed to in the introduction, there are numerous potential avenues to realizing these possibilities for citizen enhancement.

Unresolved questions to consider include how expensive HET-election stations might be; whether voting should maintain a public, in person, physical requirement; whether citizens should have to complete a mandatory knowledge-testing quiz before being able to vote; how or if privacy issues can be resolved; and what other alternative visions
exist in regards to HET and election days. There is, however, one certainty. And that is that everything I have proposed in this chapter can be, if only for one election station, technically possible as soon as next month – or tomorrow, if all the software programming were already complete. The main obstacle to realising this near future is, as argued earlier in this chapter, more political than technical.

What we require then is, as democratic citizens that are willing to work with HET, the active advocacy of the types of near futures that I propose in
this chapter. Or other ones in complete contradiction to the imaginary scenario this chapter presents. The key is to be talking about this issue – to bring it into more mainstream discussions and to flag it with the hegemons of our times.


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Democratic Citizenship: A mode of living where an individual cultivates the relationship between the ‘Self’ and being ‘citizen’. As citizenship
can manifest in many ways, and a number of selves are looking for more meaningful political engagement, integrating HETs into election stations
(see Election Station) is one way of supporting democratic citizenship.

Electronic Voting: A method of casting a ballot using computers. This might be done in person by using touchscreens or simple machines
or online through email or a website.

Election Station: A place where citizens, or otherwise those with the right to vote, go to cast their ballot in person. It is today typically characterized
by fully or semi-private desks, sometimes made of cardboard or plastic, where citizens complete their ballots in writing.

Futurism: An ontology that guides the theorisations of objects or subjects in the future. It essentially means the act of thinking, in all seriousness and intellectual curiosity, about the future of something. Examples of key questions include: How will voting likely happen in 100 years? Why is ‘Scholar X’ articulating these changes to citizenship in the coming decades?
What will democracy look like 300 years from now? And so on.

Normativity: The declaration of the ‘ought’ about something. It raises questions about what an object or subject should be doing. Normativity is
often informed or guided by an ethical framework.

Political Apathy: The act of a citizen being apathetic to his or her own political system or toward the cultivation of a life of politics (i.e.
negative or neutral orientations towards modes of political living). HETs are looked to by some scholars as a tool to try to re-engage citizens in politics.

Public Duties: The typically normative aspect of being a citizen as espoused by the state. It is what citizens should, or must, be capable of doing with great competency. The majority of OECD states, for example, expect their citizens to be active and well-informed participants in the political process.

Political Will: The enthusiasm or determination by political actors (usually elected politicians) to champion a cause. “The pedestrian mall was created last year. Despite tremendous opposition from drivers and some business owners the by-law was passed by the sheer political will of the city’s
councilors and citizen assemblies.”

1 Mind uploading is the theorised act of having one’s mind (presumably: consciousness, personality, or self) uploaded to the Internet. This is at times referred to as digital immortality (Bainbridge, 2003, p. 268; Harris, 2005: pp. 116, 125; Bimber, 2008). Debates exist in scholarly literature on two fronts. The first depends on whether mind uploading is actually possible (Choe, Kwon, & Chung, 2012; Sotala, 2012). If it is possible, the second debate looks to the many problems this poses (Agar, 2012) to things like responsibility, totally digital personal relationships, and effectively having to deal
with consciousnesses that are alive forever (see, for example, Goertzel, 2012; Swan & Howard, 2012; Hauskeller, 2012).

2 There is a proviso. For ideologues to be passed by, citizens will have to have figured out a way to circumvent or remove the currently observable capture of politics by mass media (Keane, 2013), giant political parties
(Pakulski 2013), and big business interests (Barkan, 2013).

3 See, for example, a recent Lowy Institute poll (Oliver, 2013; Chou, 2013b) which demonstrated that a significant number (51%) of young Australians (18 to 29 years of age) are open to alternatives to democracy.

4 This point is conditional on which electronic voting machine or method is being discussed. Some systems, for example email voting, may be economically cheaper than paper ballots over the longer term.

5 A ‘donkey’ vote is the act of ticking the first available box in polities that use ‘above the line’ preferential voting, party list voting (sometimes found in certain proportional representation systems), or ‘tick one’ first past the post voting. The types of ballot papers that allow for ‘donkey’ votes are criticized because they often bring individuals to power through a much less considered act of voting by voters who want to get ‘in and out’. Randomized ballot papers, or circular ballot papers, are promoted as possible solutions. It would, for example, be possible to randomize the order in which candidates or political party lists appear in an electronic
voting system.

6 Vote Compass is a recently built institution, and software programme, that through a survey allows voters to gain a sense of where they ‘sit’ on their respective polity’s economic and political spectra (for example, liberal v conservative and left v right). See for more.

Articulations of democracy Boundaries of democracy Breeds of democracy Characterizations of democracy Classifications of democracy Collections of democracy Conceptions of democracy Concepts of democracy Conceptualisations of democracy Conceptualizations of democracy Constructions of democracy Contours of democracy definitions of democracy Delineations of democracy Demarcations of democracy democracy democrat democratic Democratic design Democratic innovation Democratic innovations Democratic Theories democratic theory Democratical democratization descriptions of democracy Designs of democracy Details of democracy Determinations of democracy Divisions of democracy Elucidations of democracy Exemplifications of democracy Explanations of democracy Explications of democracy Expositions of democracy Families of democracy Figures of democracy Formalisations of democracy Formalizations of democracy forms of democracy Frames of democracy Groups of democracy Ideals of democracy Ideas of democracy Ideations of democracy Interpretations of democracy kinds of democracy meanings of democracy Models of democracy Modes of democracy Molds of democracy Moulds of democracy Number of democracy Numbers of democracy Orders of democracy Outlines of democracy Patterns of democracy Profiles of democracy Representations of democracy Schemes of democracy Sets of democracy Sorts of democracy Species of democracy Structures of democracy Styles of democracy theories of democracy types of democracy varieties of democracy Words of democracy

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