The Algorithm

A Portrait of European Life

In my book The Dawn of Eurasia I argue that European political life is almost completely algorithmic:

“The European Union is not meant to make political decisions. What it tries to do is develop a system of rules to be applied more or less autonomously to a highly complex political and social reality. Once in place, these rules can be left to operate without human intervention. Of course, the system will need regular and periodic maintenance, much like a robot needs repair, but the point is to create a system of rules that can work on their own. We have entered the end of history in the sense that the repetitive and routine application of a system of rules will have replaced human decision.”

I wonder if this exact framework can be applied to explain the course of Covid in Europe. At some fundamental level the pandemic has exposed to what extent politics has disappeared from the Old Continent. Politicians know better than to try to take charge of challenging and unpredictable events. Tough decisions are systematically postponed. And experts have acquired undue influence and power.

And yet what we see across Europe is not the rule of experts. I would call it the rule of the algorithm: once the pandemic reaches a certain level, measured by objective metrics, a number of consequences is triggered more or less automatically. Until then, nothing is done, even when the future is easy to predict. After all, algorithms cannot see into the future. But after the right metrics have been met, consequences follow with the rigid blindness of an automaton.