Algorithmic Sovereignty beyond the Leviathan and the Wicker Man
The metaphors of the Leviathan and Wicker Man introduced the idea of a modern state as an artificial and mechanical rather than spiritual unity. They viewed sovereignty as an effect of the artificial and technical apparatus described as a social contract limiting the personal agency of the citizens or even sacrificing it to serve the new collective identity. The discussions of these metaphors of sovereignty and body politic offer an important context for understanding the present issues with smart contracts and algorithmic governance as the embodiments of the Leviathan (Reijers, O'Brolcháin, and Haynes 2016) or Wicker Man. The new forms of automation deprive the citizens of personal and social agency and limit their abilities to decide, regulate or envision the future but in different, less transparent way than the social contract. While under the original social contract citizens willingly limit their agency to create an artificial but collective unity, the new algorithmic »smart contract« reduces sovereignty to code that someone can design, own and even patent. To support the engagement of citizens in the design and regulation of the new governance infrastructures, we need to rethink the concept of algorithmic sovereignty beyond the metaphors of the Leviathan and Wicker Man. It is essential to provide an environment and process, in which agency of the citizens is sacrificed to code under clear objectives and reasons and in transparent manner. Citizens have to test the connections between the emerging technology and their personal and social agency, infrastructure and regulation, to design the right algorithmic Leviathans. The testing environment that we propose is inspired by the existing regulatory sandboxes in the FinTech and emerging technologies domains (Gromova and Ivanc 2020) , which are testing environments connecting various stakeholders responsible for the code and regulations to make decision about the future platforms and services. The sandbox that we created supports prototyping, experiencing, and regulating future infrastructure based on smart contracts and blockchain automation as near future examples of algorithmic governance.