Somerset House Studios

Future(s) of Power #3: Algorithmic Power

with Indra Adnan, Professor Jun Wang & Dr Stephanie Mathieson

Tue 26 Jun 2018
18.45 - 20.30
Pay What You Can

The work of our artists is valuable and our events cost money to produce, but we also want them to be as accessible as possible. Therefore, we offer you the opportunity to pay what you can for this event.

River Rooms
New Wing

The third event in Superflux’s Future(s) of Power series investigates the growing influence of algorithmic power on freedom, governance and democracy.

The recent Cambridge Analytica scandal revealed that Facebook user information was used to build psychological and political profiles and target messages to Brexit and U.S voters. The connection between algorithmic transparency and the future of democracy is more relevant than ever.

Of course, information manipulation is nothing new. Propaganda has shaped international opinion and disrupted narratives during the Cold War, World War I and II.  In recent years, non-linear warfare and techniques of confusion and misinformation have been used for political and economic gains by “democracies” across the world. Power has long been held by those who control information and communication networks. But with new technologies, new problems emerge.

Today, a new elite have unprecedented digital access to personal information and attention. This vectoral class controls the tools of software and machine learning, and the channels of dissemination which influence what we think and believe. Fake news has left us unsure whether we can believe what we read online. But the digital manipulation of video, which is nearly upon us, means that soon we won’t be able to believe what we see online, either. All of this can be used by those in power to confuse and control. Where does power (information) lie, and how does this affect, what we might consider our citizenship, our democracy?

Superflux is holding a discussion to collaboratively explore how we might rise to new challenges to freedom and democracy as we know it. We invite you to submit an application to participate in this event using the link below. We intend to create a space for fair and engaged participation with a small group of around 30 people, so applications will be selected using the principle of sortition. Sortition is a form of random selection used in Ancient Greek democracy for populating assemblies with a representative sample of people, to help make decisions which are informed, fair and deliberate. Guest experts will be on hand to contribute knowledge and advice, but won’t be involved in decision making.

Everyone is invited to apply and applications from people of all ages; non-binary individuals; women; BAME individuals; and those who consider themselves disabled are specifically encouraged to ensure fair representation. We hope to actively represent a microcosm of society so  this event is as representative as possible. As applications are selected based on random selection, not everyone who applies will be able to attend the event, but we hope to accommodate as many people as possible.

Please send us 50-100 words telling us about yourself, and why you would like to come along to explore the future of algorithmic power. Applications will need to include some personal demographic information, which will be kept strictly confidential and in line with the May 2018 General Data Protection Regulations.
Apply by 15 June 2018.

Indra Adnan

Indra is a Co-Founder of the Alternative UK; a political platform focused on transforming the language and practice of politics in Britain for “a friendly revolution”. The platform aims to cultivate a way of being citizens which taps into our creativity, our fellow-feeling and the power of the networks at our fingertips. Indra also founded the Soft Power Network, which advocates for soft power; making things happen through attraction, relationship and influence. She has written about Soft Power for the Guardian, Huffington Post and beyond.

Professor Jun Wang
Jun is Professor of Computer Science at UCL’s Centre for Artificial Intelligence and part of UCL’s Media Futures. His primary research interests are in the areas of AI and intelligent systems and their diverse applications ranging from bot planning, computational advertising, to smart cities and recommender systems and personalization. Jun is also Co-Founder and Chief Scientist at MediaGamma Ltd, a UCL start-up focusing on AI for intelligent audience decision making.

Dr Stephanie Mathieson
Steph is Campaigns and Policy Officer at Sense about Science, an independent charity that challenges misrepresentation of science and evidence in public life. Steph works on transparency about evidence in policy and decision-making, including assessing the UK government’s performance on that front. She submits evidence to parliamentary inquiries and coordinates Sense about Science’s continuing role in the Libel Reform Campaign. In February 2017, Steph persuaded the House of Commons science and technology committee to launch an inquiry into the use of algorithms in decision-making.


Watch Future(s) of Power #2