Technology and Democracy

Fri, December 1, 2023 at 1281 Anthony Hall

Dr. Moshe Y. Vardi, professor of computer science at Rice University, will present a lecture on Technology and Democracy.

Abstract: U.S. society is in the throes of deep societal polarization that not only leads to political
paralysis, but also threatens the very foundations of democracy. The phrase "The Disunited States
of America" is often mentioned. Other countries are displaying similar polarization. How did we
get here? What went wrong? I this talk I argue that the current state of affairs is the results of the
confluence of two tsunamis that have unfolded over the past 40 years. On one hand, there was
the tsunami of technology -- from the introduction of the IBM PC in 1981 to the current
domination of public discourse by social media. On the other hand, there was a tsunami of
neoliberal economic policies. I will argue that the combination of these two tsunamis led to both
economic polarization and cognitive polarization.

Bio: Moshe Y. Vardi is University Professor and the George Distinguished Service Professor in
Computational Engineering at Rice University. His research focues on the interface of
mathematical logic and computation -- including database theory, hardware/software design and
verification, multi-agent systems, and constraint satisfaction. He is the recipient of numerous
awards, including the ACM SIGACT Goedel Prize, the ACM Kanellakis Award, the ACM SIGMOD
Codd Award, the Knuth Prize, the IEEE Computer Society Goode Award, and the EATCS
Distinguished Achievements Award. He is the author and co-author of over 750 papers, as well as
two books. He is a Guggenheim Fellows as well as fellow of several societies, and a member of
several academies, including the US National Academy of Engineering, National Academy of
Science, and the Royal Society of London. He holds nine honorary titles. He is a Senior Editor of
the Communications of the ACM, the premier publication in computing.