Society 5: our democratic digital future

Society 5: our democratic digital future

Summary: With two billion people now online, we should probably start thinking about the kind of world we want to create. Enter the Society 5 project.


With two billion people now online, we should probably start thinking about the kind of world we want to create. Enter the Society 5 project.

"This is a collaborative discussion. We believe the future of our society should be discussed and decided upon democratically," write the project's founders.

Society 5 plans to explore the past, present and potential futures of our society, initially as a blog at, and then as a book and beyond.

The founders are two Australians. Pia Waugh is well known for her advocacy of open-source software and government 2.0 issues, and, until very recently, worked as an advisor to Labor Senator Kate Lundy. Will Grant is a political sociologist and science communicator based at the Australian National Centre for the Public Awareness of Science at the Australian National University (ANU) in Canberra.

On this week's Patch Monday podcast, Grant explains that any future society we build must be based on the society we have today, in a politically achievable way — just as computer operating systems are rarely built from scratch; the basic layers of family and community — or the basic layers of program code — are retained, and extra layers of abstraction are built on top.

As the new online society evolves, players with competing interests will come into conflict — as we saw last week in Optus' Federal Court win over the National Rugby League (NRL) and the Australian Football League (AFL).

Grant also explains how the replacement of mass media with social media and now personalised search could lead to "filter bubbles", where we only hear about viewpoints that are already similar to our own.

To leave an audio comment on the program, Skype to stilgherrian, or phone Sydney 02 8011 3733.

Running time: 27 minutes, 30 seconds

Topics: Government, Government AU, Privacy, Security, Social Enterprise


Stilgherrian is a freelance journalist, commentator and podcaster interested in big-picture internet issues, especially security, cybercrime and hoovering up bulldust.

He studied computing science and linguistics before a wide-ranging media career and a stint at running an IT business. He can write iptables firewall rules, set a rabbit trap, clear a jam in an IBM model 026 card punch and mix a mean whiskey sour.

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  • Macquarie University Accessibility Services (MQAS) has been reverse engineering inaccessible learning materials for students with learning and sensory disabilities since 2004. The "New World" needs to ensure that all information and knowledge is formatted in such a way that people reliant on assistive technologies are not excluded, (i.e. Universal Design). In Australia it is estimated that 20% of the population for reasons associated with disability cannot read text.( ) Access to information and knowledge in a major equity issue that we must address. @mqskerr