Digitalization in the understanding of philosophy, law, political science, and economics: an interdisciplinary approach

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This article discusses the influence of digitalization on diverse social activity spheres. The authors analyze the essential notions of digitalization with regard to philosophy, law, political science, and economics. The digital sphere becomes virtual space without understanding and recognizing territorial and hence, nation-state, jurisdiction. Global digitalization for all social spheres becomes a reality.

Nowadays, the digital economy is globalizing, the public administration is digitalizing, electronic technologies in finance are developing, and smart cities are being created. Law lags significantly behind new digitalization challenges and does not always react swiftly with regard to social interaction dynamics. Philosophy conceptualizes human existence in digital society in the new digital era.

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The future of humanity is more or less determined, despite its uncertainty due to the possible aggravation of environmental problems and social upheavals and the depletion of natural resources due to the development of computer technologies. The modern world expects the digitalization of all aspects of society. States and bodies governing interstate relations can transfer to a new system of relations by using high technologies.

The natural science, social, and humanitarian spheres of knowledge, including its philosophical, legal, political, and economic aspects, can be digitalized. The researcher is increasingly familiar with concepts such as digital human rights, digital inequality, digital economy, digital space, electronic voting, and distance education. Many events are gradually using the “online” format, and in connection with the Coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic, such phenomena have become widespread: everything that was possible has transformed into an electronic format: a remote format of work, training in schools and universities, public and other services. The fate of many companies, especially in the service sector, depends on the possibility of translation “online.” Moreover, digitalization has become a matter of survival for citizens.

The article examines the attitude toward digitalization, which is demonstrated in important areas of scientific knowledge, such as philosophy, economics, law, and politics.


From the point of view of philosophy, as an ontological knowledge that studies the influence of a person with his worldview, digitalization acquires the meaning of an individual’s independent lifestyle, which comes with a new culture — an electronic one [1, p. 253]. Given such a culture, everything is simplified, and virtualization occurs: economic, managerial, and social processes become easy for the individual to perceive.

In terms of civilizational development, digitalization allows people to build a special form of man-made civilization. Its characteristic feature is the rapid change of equipment and technologies because of the systematic application of scientific knowledge in the production [2, p. 15]. The pinnacle of man-made civilization, according to V.S. Stepin, is the consumer society, which is gradually becoming a reality all over the world1. At present, no alternative is available.

With the development of man-made civilization for several centuries, the society, values, and traditional distribution of social roles have changed. Such changes also apply to the family institution — the traditional nuclear family (husband, wife, and children), with the classical distribution of roles and functions in the 20th and 21st centuries that is increasingly changing; roles and their modifications can be different. Same-sex families consisting of two men or two women also exist. Sex selection becomes one of the basic somatic human rights, resulting in a new kind of man, that is, a transgender whose social and biological genders do not match.

In production processes and in the service sector, a person, as a working unit or as an employee, no longer has the same value; moreover, artificial intelligence (AI) technologies can easily replace human labor in many professions.

Global changes are taking place at a rapid pace, and in the next two to three decades, humanity will probably experience more changes than in the last thousand years [3, p. 145].

The problem of reducing the importance and necessity of a person in modern civilization is compounded. In a digital society and in some professions, a person is completely displaced.

The person turns into a digital unit or a user performing digital actions. The algorithmization of human existence is also gradually taking place. Virtuality becomes a characteristic feature of the modern technological order [4, p. 398].

A multisided philosophical view allows us to predict, in addition to the “open” phenomenon of digitalization identified by us, its “dark” side, which is currently barely studied, although such attempts are actively being made [5, p. 87]. This side is a system for anonymizing the user, who can use it to access even those resources that are not shared. This condition is a kind of parallel virtual reality, where no laws of national states [24, p. 151–152] or censorship exist. In this system, the real person responsible disappears, and only the image of the user remains.

Therefore, from the point of view of philosophy, a digital society is that in which the degree of responsibility for one’s life is reduced; meanwhile, individuals are asked to simplify the perception of the world around them and their place in it.


Law is an important social regulator along with morality, customs, and traditions. In various forms, law is present in any modern society and state. Today, another one has been added to traditional social regulators, such as morality, religion, and law — the program code [6, p. 8], which puts people in a certain digital framework, fixing their number; collecting information; grouping and storing information about them, objects, phenomena, and processes.

Some scientists believe that AI can completely replace law as a regulator, replacing it with algorithms [7, p. 58]. In the future, foreign researchers will allow the creation of new subjects of law endowed with AI, which will become full owners of rights and obligations [8, p. 167]. Gadzhiev, who suggests the possibility of recognizing a robot agent as a “person” in law, argues that civil legislation is elastic; therefore, if the challenges of the future require the inclusion of AI in the Civil Code as a person, then the probability of such legal registration is extremely high [9, p. 25].

The law is being modified and complicated, and the number of normative legal acts is growing. At the same time, many processes, with their transition to electronic format, are significantly simplified. Digitalization allows the development and implementation of some template schemes for the convenience of law enforcement officers (e.g., standard forms of contracts, constituent documents, and standard tasks for lawyers are translated into the electronic format with the possibility of finding a ready-made solution for many issues on the web). With the beginning of the mass use of digital signatures, the personal presence of counterparties becomes optional. The digital format of communication blurs the boundaries among cities, states, and continents.

The digital sphere becomes a virtual space that neither has nor recognize state borders. Accordingly, the jurisdiction of national states does not apply here.

In legal sciences, a new generation of human and civil rights is actively discussed. Digital rights, which are becoming an objective reality all over the world, are legislated by many countries at the level of constitutions and laws of human rights in the digital age (Cyprus, Estonia, Portugal, Germany, France, Montenegro, Turkey, and many other states) [10, p. 43]. In the Russian Federation, digital rights are also gradually becoming a legal reality, but they differ significantly in constitutional and civil laws.

The Chairman of the Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation, V. D. Zorkin. refers to digital rights in constitutional law as the rights to access, use, create, and publish digital works; to access and use computers and other electronic devices, including communication networks, especially the Internet; the right to freely communicate and express opinions on the web; and the right to the inviolability of the private information sphere, including the right to confidentiality and the anonymity (secrecy) of already digitized personal information2.

The definition of digital rights is reflected in civil legislation3 in the form of binding and other rights, the content, conditions, and implementation of which are determined in accordance with the rules of the information system. Implementation and disposal, including the transfer, pledge, and encumbrance of the digital right by other means or restriction of the digital right disposal, are possible only in the information system without contacting a third party.

In general, the digital sphere is regulated in Russian legislation superficially; although many times at the highest level, special attention is paid to the need to create an advanced legislative framework, remove all barriers to the development and widespread use of robotics, AI, unmanned transport, e-commerce, and big data processing technologies4. The regulatory framework, according to the President of the Russian Federation, should be constantly updated on the basis of a flexible approach to each area and technology and must be accessible to law enforcement agencies.

The development of digital technologies requires the creation of conditions for ensuring their timely legal regulations. Its general principles are currently determined by the norms of information law. According to prominent representatives of the industry doctrine Bachilo I.L. and Fedotov M.A., the subject of its legal regulations, in addition to information, also includes information technology (IT), which is a set of information processing tools5.

Thus, in the Russian Federation, the necessary legal framework for considering the changing digital reality has mainly developed (Articles 1261 and 1262 of the Civil Code of the Russian Federation and the provisions of Federal Law No. 149-FZ of 27.07.2006 “On Information, Information Technologies and Information Protection”6 and others). However, with the development of individual technologies, features, and machine learning methods for remote storage and processing (cloud services, online storage, and programming block chain systems), intense legal regulations are required to solve new problems that are already arising.

These problems include the following:

  • The assessment of the legal consequences of AI technology use in managerial decision making if serious mistakes and miscalculations are made;
  • The creation of a special software to assist in the implementation of judicial activities, which allow the judge to recommend the most “legal” resolution of a legal situation, may lead to the self-removal of the judge from the obligation to independently come to an internal conviction regarding the assessment of circumstances that are essential for the resolution of the case on the merits7;
  • At the legislative level, establishing special requirements for the safety of the technologies used, which exclude the “gray” use of digitalization for obtaining super profits, is advisable8;
  • In the case of the active introduction of new computer technologies in production activities, when a threat of mass displacement of human labor by the activity of robots exists, revising the terms of collective labor agreements is necessary. This circumstance also makes it necessary to work out the legal mechanisms of the subsidiary material liability of an employer by paying the monetary compensation and unemployment benefits to the dismissed.

Such issues are increasingly becoming the subjects of scientific research in legal literature. The vector of development of scientific thought is obvious — a thorough analysis of new technological developments and an attempt to “fit” them into the existing standards of legal regulations [11, p. 450].

However, in any case, the law enforcement process should not go beyond the norms or principles that form the humanitarian status of the individual. The Constitution of the Russian Federation declares the priority of human and civil rights and freedoms (the rights to life, freedom, and inviolability and the right to freely dispose of one’s work). By definition, new technologies cannot create conditions for the circumvention of protective norms of law and abuse of private preferences.

As the pandemic period has affected many countries, including the Russian Federation, law and legislation have not kept pace with the events in countries and in the world. Gaps are observed in legal regulations, and many management decisions lack a legal basis. Moreover, some decisions to restrict the rights of citizens of the Russian Federation have come into conflict with the Constitution of the Russian Federation and the legislation. Turns out, global and ubiquitous digitalization does not always create opportunities for the development and improvement of democratic procedures and the expansion of citizens’ rights. On the contrary, it can largely limit the basic rights of citizens.

Thus, from the point of view of law, digitalization is considered in the context of the search for tools and mechanisms that help simplify and algorithmize legal processes to create standards and templates. The introduction of digital technologies causes structural changes in the legal sphere of society, forming a new digital legal reality, which is largely convenient for law enforcement officers and legal service users but comes with many risks, such as the universal robotization of legal processes, replacement of lawyers with AI, and the possibility of total digital restriction of citizens’ rights and freedoms if necessary.

Political Science

In the modern world, public policy and relations between the state and society are gradually moving to the digital space. Traditional media are losing their influence, being replaced by “digital content factories” [12, p. 7]. Modernity does not experience a lack of information [13, p. 35].

Digitalization in political science is not so much a theoretical abstract construct as a phenomenon that actually exists in actual practice, which has a noticeable impact on political processes [12, p. 16]. At the same time, some researchers distinguish between the digitalization of politics and the policy of digitalization [14, p. 51]. The digitalization of the political sphere extends digital technologies to political processes, political relations, and political decision-making processes. The policy of digitalization is a purposeful activity of the state to transfer the existing practices of political processes to an electronic format. Accordingly, the digitalization of politics is an extraterritorial, cross-border process that affects all states of the world, whereas the policy of digitalization has clear, as a rule, national borders of states (and the subjects of the political process of digitalization are states, state entities, and international political actors).

Traditional political processes and public policy space are increasingly becoming digitalized [15, p. 24], and the government is attempting to take these processes under its control by digitalizing public administration; collecting big data; processing and collecting complete information about citizens, phenomena, and processes occurring in the state; performing the “chipization” of vehicles, products, and animals; creating opportunities to track the location of any person or object; and identifying mass preferences of people by using electronic technologies and AI systems.

A group of RANEPA researchers identify the three main stages of digitalization in the state [16, p. 31]. In the first stage, the state management system is automated, thus introducing various IT mechanisms and services. In the second stage, digitalization is introduced, in which all processes are improved by optimizing IT technologies, and data are analyzed for decision making. In the third stage, digital transformation is presented, specifically the digitalization of public administration. At this stage, new activity models appear, and new products and processes of fundamentally different levels and quality are created.

In sociological and political sciences, the concept of “state as a platform” has become popular [17], which considers the process of the digitalization of public administration as a connection between suppliers and consumers of public services and as the organization of network interaction in the system of public administration. The “state as a platform” construct is being actively implemented in various countries where e-governments are being created, and such structures have been formed, for example, in the United States (the initiators and pioneers in this area were created by them in 2002). The law on e-government (E-Government Act of 2002) has been adopted9 in the UK (where researchers have developed an “assessment platform” in relation to the UK government’s digitalization initiatives)10 and in Russia (in accordance with the national program “Digital Economy,” the Federal Project “Digitalization of Public Administration” has been formed, the implementation period of which is from 2018 to 2024)11. The Russian Federation is on the 33rd line of the world rating for the development of e-government (Denmark, Australia, South Korea, and the UK are the leaders of the rating; meanwhile, the United States occupies the 11th place)12.

According to a group of HSE researchers, the creation of a digital government is the goal of the digital transformation of public administration. The basis of such a virtual authority is a customer-oriented government for citizens. Therefore, in the field of public administration, the principles of the so-called “flexible management” (agile) should be maximally developed and implemented, implying effective and working feedback when the state implements various programs, measures, and reforms and evaluates innovations and the degree of their convenience and benefit for citizens [18].

In political science, digitalization affects three areas:

  1. Information support in decision making.

Traditional information interaction in the political system is being digitized. AI can provide information collection, statistics, information structuring, and uninterrupted supply of necessary information to political actors. However, completely replacing a person in this area is hardly possible because through the analytical and mental activity of the person, information is brought into the form that is optimal for decision making by analytical services and expert centers. AI cannot completely replace analysts and experts, but it can significantly simplify their work.

  1. Automation of processes that arise in the management of the state and the interaction of actors in political processes.

The activities of state authorities cannot be fully disclosed. A closed component, which does not tolerate publicity, always exists. Therefore, the creation of digital projects, such as “e-government” and “government as a platform” allows, on the one hand, the reduction of the distance between the state and the population, but on the other hand, preserves a clear border, the limits of what is permissible. Authorities have a clear understanding of what can be open and what should be kept from the public space under any circumstances.

Modern bureaucratic systems are increasingly inclined to self-isolation and digital projects when the rest is implemented on closed parts, especially on those elements of political networks that cannot become public. Opportunities for the development of digital projects and AI systems within political systems are limited by their instrumental role, that is, they can become good tools and communication elements among authorities, civil society, and the population. However, they cannot penetrate deep network interactions and decision making because they cannot replace decision makers. A gray area always exists when making decisions, and certain factors cannot be replaced (any political leader is an important factor when making decisions — trust in the people with whom he works in the political system).

  1. Formation of political actors in the process of public policy ideological basis of political propaganda with the use of digital technologies (the so-called “battle for the minds”) when certain ideological or political structures affect the mentality of the population.

Digital technologies here have great opportunities for selecting people’s preferences and identifying and structuring their opinions. Such technologies are used in organizing and conducting elections, referendums, and pre-election campaigns, thereby determining the degree of public confidence among authorities, popularizing ongoing reforms and projects, and introducing innovations in the life of society, especially in the political sphere.

Digital tools in public policy are actively developing, but they cannot change the main elements of political processes and their existing structures. Such tools are usually mechanistic and do not affect the public administration processes, such as decision-making ones. These tools simply formalize such processes, add new elements, and reduce the distance between state institutions and civil society.


In general, economic processes, which aim to manage the economy, are similar to political ones. A general global trend exists, that is, the formation of digital economy. Developed countries move at a fast pace, but one way or another, the digitalization of the economic sphere affects all countries and continents. The digital approach allows the management of the full life cycle of almost anything: from project development and implementation to disposal [19]. In the world, “smart homes” are being created; whole innovative “smart cities” (e.g., Songdo Smart city, South Korea) and houses can be printed using digital technologies on a 3D printer (such projects are popular in California, USA). The global economy is being reoriented to a digital format to become a “global digital economy.”

In Russian and international practice, neither a single definition nor a single approach to the definition of the term “digital economy” exists. Note that the term itself refers not only directly to the processes in the economy and its individual sectors but also represents a separate branch of knowledge, a modern direction of economic theory that studies the functioning of digital markets and Internet platforms, and the introduction of new technologies in the economic sphere.

  1. Panshin identifies two main approaches to the definition of the “digital economy” concept: the classical approach, which assumes an economy on the basis of digital technologies (development of electronic services and remote technologies), and an extended approach, in which digital economy is understood as economic production using digital technologies (Internet of things, smart factory, networks, fifth-generation communications, etc.) [20, p. 51].

According to R. Meshcheryakov, the term “digital economy” has two approaches. The first approach is classical: digital economy is an economy based on digital technologies. Exclusively characterizing the field of electronic goods and services is correct. The second approach is extended: digital economy is an economic production that uses digital technologies13.

The World Bank explores the various aspects of digital economy. In the report on the development of digital economy, it is characterized by the rise in labor productivity, competitiveness, cost reduction, creation of new jobs, and reduction of poverty and social inequality, owing to such development14.

Foreign researchers give their own interpretation of the digital economy concept, understanding it as part of the total volume of production, entirely or mainly created on the basis of digital technologies by firms whose business model is based on digital products or services [21]. The definition is quite broad but flexible enough to consider the development of digital technologies and digital business in the future.

The HSE research team notes the importance of defining the digital economy concept and describing its boundaries because doing so can allow the building of a single multifunctional system of statistical measurement of digital economy for the full-scale monitoring, justification, and evaluation of policies in this area [18, p. 14].

Russian legislation also lacks a uniform understanding and legal dimension of “digital economy.” In accordance with the Decree of the President of the Russian Federation of May 7, 2018 No. 204 “On National Goals and Strategic Objectives of the Development of the Russian Federation for the Period up to 2024,” the national program “Digital Economy of the Russian Federation” was formed, which went beyond the exclusively economic sphere. Within the framework of the program, several federal projects aimed at the digitalization of various spheres of society life: legislation and regulation, personnel for digital economy, digital technologies, information infrastructure, information security, and digital public administration15.

Digital economy, as a whole, and its individual aspects are new objects of theoretical construction and scientific expert analysis. In scientific economic circles, no clear and unambiguous definition of “digital economy” exists yet, and issues related to the digitalization of the economic and financial sphere require scientific understanding and legal regulations: new virtual industrial technologies, LegalTech, fintech, and many other AI systems [22, p. 155].

For the state and society, digital economy, similar to any phenomenon, has its advantages and disadvantages, including some risks. The absolute advantages of the digitalization of the economic sphere include the optimization of many production processes in connection with their transfer to an electronic format (robotization of production); the growth of labor productivity by reducing the risk of “human factors” (the possibilities of sick leave, vacation, maternity leave, temporary disability, error, and other risks of “human factors”); the centralization of the management of production processes; and the control of taxation, accounting, and audit.

However, the total digitalization of the economic sphere around the world also has negative aspects. The robotization of production processes and the service sector leads to the disappearance of professions, and the need for human labor gradually decreases, resulting in the increase of unemployment. Block chain technologies deprive a person of the value and cost of money. Money becomes a completely virtual structure and does not exist physically. The system of national information (cybersecurity), even in the fields of finance, trade secrets, public administration (including issues that constitute state secrets), transport, and energy infrastructure, comes with threats and risks, which can become objects for cyberterrorism.

The system of resource exchange ceases to depend on the regulators of the national economy. National economic management bodies lose their sovereignty and cannot influence the processes of resource exchange in the economic system. They are actively taken out of control (block chain and cryptocurrency).

The economic concepts of digitalization make it possible to solve specific problems of economic management not only by the public sector but also through the activities of private entities attempting to simplify access to resources and material benefits.


The analysis of some approaches to digitalization, which have been formed in philosophy, law, politics, and economics, allows the identification of a common principle characteristic of applied fields of knowledge — desire for the utilitarian use of new technologies. At the same time, representatives of legal thought begin to consider the safety of such technologies.

The peculiarity of the philosophical approach to the problem is the global nature of the changes predicted with the arrival of digitalization in people’s lives. The answer to the question regarding the level of civilizational understanding of the world around us and the expectation of its global change place philosophers at the level of discoverers of future humanity.

Representatives of legal, economic, and political thoughts can only play the role of catching up. The world has entered the digital age; therefore, the state, society, and science must respond quickly to the new challenges of time. A theoretical understanding of the phenomenon of digitalization in all areas of scientific knowledge is evidently needed, and a legal response to the rapid development of AI systems is necessary. However, the modern legal framework, as a rule, lags behind the development of digital technologies. The main achievement of science is that it gives this exact experience despite its negative experience [23, p. 47]. In philosophy, a person dissolves in digitalization; in law, digital rights blur the legal field; in political science and economics, no clear contours and limits of the new digital experience are found.

Digital technologies simplify technological processes but do not eliminate the need for awareness, mental activity, and forecasting; AI cannot do so.

In each of the sciences, digital technologies make visible all the shortcomings of the real processes of administration and management and the processes of theoretical modeling. Theoretical models are more accurate than empirical tests. Therefore, within the framework of the use of digital technologies, with an increase in the quality of scientific reflection, improving the quality of public administration mechanisms, legal regulations, administration of justice, preparation of legislative acts, and the forecast of economic processes is quite possible.

The bolder the proposals for the use of digital technologies in the applied field of knowledge in the future are, the more opportunities humanity will have to prepare for changes.


1 Stepin V. S. On the threshold of the third civilization // The First of September. No. 76/2005. URL: (accessed 25.09.2020).

2 Zorkin V. Law in a digital world // The Russian newspaper: Capital newscast. No. 7578 (115).

3 Federal Law No. 34-FZ of March 18, 2019 “On Amendments to Parts One, Two and Article 1124 of Part Three of the Civil Code of the Russian Federation” // SPS ConsultantPlus.

4 Message of the President of the Russian Federation dated 01.03.2018 "On the main directions of the internal and foreign policy of the state" / / Official website of the President of the Russian Federation. URL: (date accessed: 21.09.2020).

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6 SPS ConsultantPlus.

7 For example, an attempt to introduce the mandatory consideration of the “opinion” of a special computer program in federal courts and prisons of the United States about the possibility of a person committing a crime in the future is close to failure due to the biased conclusions of AI. At the same time, preference is given to consider racial differences among people, despite the objective need for a further study of a person’s addiction to drugs and his propensity to commit similar crimes. Angwin J., Larson J., Mattu S., Kirchner R. Machine Bias. No software is used across the country to predict future criminals, and it is biased against blacks / / ProPublica. URL: (accessed: 15.01.2020).

8 For example, the “block chain” technologies used in the creation of cryptocurrencies have not yet been tested for possible hacking. Thus, vulnerabilities in the Zcash network (under this brand, the eponymous digital means of payment is produced) lead to the possibility of the data leakage of financial account holders that greatly facilitates shadow access to financial information (News message “You could have missed it: hacking for $7 million and Zcash vulnerability” // Official website of the RBC news agency. URL: (date accessed: 16.01.2020).

9 US Government. Digital Government: Building a 21st Century Platform to Better Serve the American People. URL: (reference date: 24.09.2020).

10 Brown A., Fishenden J., Thompson, M. Venters, W. (2017). Appraising the Impact and Role of Platform Models and Government as a Platform (GaaP) in UK Government Public Service Reform: Towards a Platform Assessment Framework (PAF). Government Information Quarterly. URL: (reference date: 20.09.2020).

11 Decree of the President of the Russian Federation No. 204 “On National Goals and Strategic Objectives of the Development of the Russian Federation for the Period up to 2024” dated May 7, 2018. URL: (accessed: 22.09.2020)

12 UN Study: E-government 2018. URL: (accessed 24.09.2020).

13 Meshcheryakov R. For the transfer to digital economics, it is necessary to change the paradigm of thinking. URL: (reference date: 25.09.2020).

14 World Bank (2016) Digital Dividends: World Development Report 2016, Washington, DC. URL: (reference date: 22.09.2020).

15 SPS ConsultantPlus.


About the authors

Anastasia V. Timchenko

Moscow State University

Author for correspondence.

Laboratory for Legal-Policy Studies Researcher Political Science Department

Russian Federation, Moscow

Andrei Timoshenko

Moscow State University

Russian Federation, Moscow


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