Alexander Kurz

Technological progress in Software Engineering, Distributed Systems and AI is accelerating social, political and economic change at an unprecedented pace. In addition to my theoretical research on the mathematical foundations of computer science (logic, category theory) I am also interested in the impact that software engineering has on society.

One of the many important question that our civilization faces (which include climate change and biodiversity loss) is the interplay of technology and democracy. Much is being written about democratic decline and how it is related to changing technology.

My current working titles for this topic are (most recent last) Democratic Governance, Macrofoundations of Software Engineering, Technology and Culture, Designing Algorithms for Cooperation, Cooperative Systems Science, Cooperative Decision Theory (now we circled back to Democratic Governance). I recently summed up some questions in a lecture Challenges in Software Engineering.

With the rise of generative AI, all of this also has an AI angle. Here are three questions:

In the following, I list some books that help me to understand the issues. The principles that guide my search for solutions can be summarized by three well-known slogans: Jevons paradox which tells us not be blinded by economic promises of growth and technological promises of higher efficiency, Gall’s law1 which emphasizes the importance of choosing the right direction rather than to hope for revolutionary change, and Goodhart’s law which implies that markets alone do not solve problems and that any solution must build on democracy, diversity and inclusion.

Currently Reading

(I got most of the below as audiobooks, preferably from

US History

The United States have run an amazing experiment in democratic governance. How did it come about and can we make it work in the future?

The Alignment Problem (Technology/Society/Ethics)

How does technology drive societal change? How can we align technology (and the economy) to human values?


Collapse and Flourishing

What can the collapse of former civilizations tell us about today? How fragile is our current economic system? How close are our societies (and the natural ecosystems in which they are embedded) to tipping points? In the long run, how do we conceive of a flourishing humanity that lives in balance with the natural ecosystems on which our life depends?



Are our societies able to take global warming seriously as long as corporate interests dominate politics? Is rising inequality an inevitable consequence of our current economic system? Are capitalism and democracy compatible in the long run?


Why did humans evolve to cooperate? Why did humans evolve the ability to reason? In which societies and institutional frameworks does cooperation flourish? How do culture and psychology and economics influence each other?

Democracy, Oligarchy, Political Science

Why is democracy declining and authoritarianism on the rise? What conditions make democracy work? Can we employ modern technology to strengthen democracy?


In the wake of the murder of George Floyd there has been a fierce debate about systemic racism and how it manifests itself in the economy, in education, the military, police, etc. But what even is the system? In a first approximation, I would say the system is the law.

Philosophy and Ethics

The paradox of market economies (epitomized by the slogan “Greed is Good”) is that markets work best if they serve intrinsic values. But what are intrinsic values and how can we agree on them? Even seemingly technical questions (how to account for externalities, which economic activities to include in the GDP, etc) ultimately are ethical questions. There is a widespread feeling that utilitarian ethics is not sufficient, but what are the alternatives?


History studies how societies change, a topic that was never more important than today.

  1. On page 52 of Gall’s book Systemantics. Btw, the book is an interesting mix of satire and valuable enigineering insights.