Ian Bremmer’s Essay ‘Democracy In Cyberspace’

In Ian Bremmer’s essay, “Democracy in Cyberspace,” he elaborates on the usage of technology in the modern era and how the internet has progressively impacted the world on a global stage. He states how countries have adopted the internet to further influence their political policies and expend the reach of their ideology and how technology has been used to start rebellions against authoritarian states through the means of social media. Bremmer goes on to state how the statement given by Walter Wriston, the former CEO of what is now Citigroup that, “ information technology has demolished time and distance,” may not comply with the same terms of progression that Wriston had once thought technology to been capable of. (1)

The theme of technology has a more adamant impact in Sherry Turkle’s essay, “Alone Together.” In Turkle’s essay she discusses how, “technologies, in every generation, present opportunities to reflect on our values and direction.”(19) In her essay the topic of discussion is based on the events that revolved around her visit to the Museum of Natural History is New York with her daughter Rebecca. On her trip to the museum she was faced with the dilemma of a real animal versus a robotic substitute from which she responded with questioning her fellow spectators, “do you care that the turtle is alive,” and receiving a response that closely resembles to not really to her mystification.

The theme of substitution of robots with roles humans and things that are real takes precedence in Turkle’s essay in which the engagement of robots in the emotions of love and lust are closely observable. The theme of communication is closely observable in Turkle and Bremmer’s essays where Bremmer describes the role of communication as being important in political change whereas Turkle interprets the role of communication as being a mandatory resource that robots cannot substitute in for the place of human beings.

In Ian Bremmer’s essay, “Democracy in Cyberspace,” he argues that our growing dependence on technology for communication is based off of our need for change. The need of change is seen clearly when observing the differentiating political policies on the internet. The United States having been the birthplace of the internet is one of the countries discussed in terms to political policies from which Bremmer interprets to be the spread of democracy whereas the complete opposite is true when reflecting on the actions the Chinese government has taken in order to filter the spread of ideas, values and policies.

A similar need for communication is transparent in the revolutions that took place from 2001-2009 in response to which Bremmer stated, “there seems to be plenty of evidence to support the idea of democratization of communications.” (1) The revolutions involved the Philippines, Ukraine, Lebanon, Columbia, Myanmar, Zimbabwe and Iran used forms of social media which included Facebook, Twitter, text messaging, picture messaging and emails in order to spread the message for rebellion and share their stories.

From there Bremmer goes back to the words of Wriston which stated, “Information technology is a long-term process, cyberspace is a complex place and technological advances are no substitute for human wisdom,” from which the notion for the basic human social need is evident. (2) In Sherry Turkle’s essay, “Alone Together,” she argues that our growing dependence on technology for communication is based on our inability to attempt communication through means that are more of a human nature. The inability to attempt communication through a human method is seen when Turkle discusses situations involving the emotions of love and lust.

The emotion of love comes up when Turkle presents a situation within which an old woman named Miriam was comforted by a robot pet seal named Paro. Although the robot had no idea of the concept of love or comfort it was able to comfort the old woman solely because the robot did what it was programmed to do, which in this situation was to make the old woman feel like she had someone to spend time with when she was depressed. Although the woman yearns for a social life she according to Turkle is not given one because the robot is unable to understand the emotions the woman is giving, it is only responding to a programmed stimulus.

Thus the idea of communication is not possible through a robot substitute. A similar result is seen when observing situations involving the emotion of lust in Turkle’s essay. Turkle based on the intimacy factor in research of robot-human relationships responds by expressing that, “Tethered to technology, we are shaken when that world “unplugged” does not signify, does not satisfy,” which in terms to the theme of communication references Turkle’s idea that replacing sexual human partners with robots may seem to solve the crisis of lust however the loss of control will be exhibited when taking a look at the empty emotions that take place through the process and how these emotions are never meaningful nor memorable.

In terms to the theme of communication Turkle and Bremmer both acknowledge the benefits of technology but at the same time are quick to acknowledge the problems that surround the dependence we have on technology. Bremmer presses on the issue of technology in the modern era in reference to political powers gaining a dependence on the internet to dominant the network with policies that follow their way of thinking whereas Turkle focuses on the individuals gaining a dependency for communication that cannot be considered communication because as Turkle describes, “technology makes it easy to communicate when we wish to disengage at will,” when in actuality in a situation such as one involving two parties in a skype call are talking but multitasking simultaneously allows for a connection of the two parties to be formed but removes the idea of communication.

Turkle’s argument is ultimately stronger because she is able to illustrate the idea of communication in a variety of situations whereas Bremmer fails to acknowledge the idea of communication towards individuals but rather focuses on the groups at hand. By focusing on groups Bremmer’s strength of his argument is chiseled by the overall idea that the communication and dependency factors are mostly individually based because of the direct relationship formed between them based on their need for each other for the other to be successful. This is true because in a situation like the skype call, the two parties need each other to communicate but the concept of communication is not possible without individuals whereas with a group the notion of communication would be considered a discussion with the opinions of others influencing what you as an individual would say next.

Although Turkle expresses a much more demanding and specific argument than Bremmer does, Bremmer’s argument on the theme of communications opens new instances for discussions. For example with Bremmer’s ideas the theme of communication and the dependence on technology opens the idea of communications in situation involving two very different opinions whereas in situations like the ones regarding a robot and a human in Turkle’s essay has one opinion and one party where there is no place for argument.

Turkle’s essay on the also still has the weaker argument when it comes to the topic of communication variety because despite the fact that in Turkle’s essay the theme of communication is a basic need it does not have specific boundaries it could pursue ; the theme of communication fits very specific areas which include the countries trying to break from their authoritarian leaders and achieving the idea of a democracy and countries like China ignoring, which a form of communication, the policies of the United States on the internet.