I have been researching the sovereignty of technology. We, as individuals, have lent so much of our self-sovereignty to our technology, that it has, in effect, become sovereign over us.

The technology manifest in our information networks and information systems has become so pervasive and so embedded in our lives that we can no longer exist outside of it. And, as it gets more powerful, more leveraged, and more entrenched, the consequences of something going wrong becomes existentially large.

The current information network has expanded to reach 3.2 billion people, and its information systems have now become a part of every society, market, supply chain, and industry. Designing this network and its systems without governance and ethics in mind has made the Internet an ungovernable and unethical space.

When the next network emerges, it will reach the whole population of the planet, and its information systems will grow from mediating information transactions to mediating value transactions. This combination, which we call Distributed Ledger Technology and Artificial Intelligence, is at the new forefront of ungovernability.

We are building technology faster than our ability to govern it. We should be considering governance, risk, and compliance as part of the design criteria for new systems. Our engineering processes must improve to include the analysis of systemic risks, the consideration of governance at the design phase, and the exercise of control in operation.

John Merrells,
January 2019.