The rise of the internet and the digital era has enabled people to question and participate in the decision-making process of their government. But some of the earliest seeds of this idea – that all these electronically expressed views could help in removing the limitations of a representative form of government – were planted by British broadcaster and science historian James Burke way back in 1985.

In an episode of his BBC show The Day the Universe Changed, Burke explored the idea that a microchip, which could “keep a tally of opinions voiced electronically,” could help in listing the limitations of a centralised form of government (which according to him was was originally invented because “there was no way for everybody’s voice to be heard”). He also imagined that the computer would give everyone “unhindered” access to knowledge and do the work that was previously given to only a select few.

However, Burke did express concern that this system could make conformity more rigid and totalitarian, and talked about a “balanced anarchy”.

Watch the full episode below.