Decentralising & Digitalising Democracy
In this article I discuss the many problems facing our democracy. Here I would like to share a few ideas as to how we might improve the democratic process using digital technology. The idea is based around the online governance platform. On here citizens will conduct all aspects of governance including:
- Proposing and voting on bills;
- Delegating political power;
- Participating in their local, regional, and national online-councils.
- Allocate budgets
- Discuss & Debate
Each voter will enjoy:
- The right and ability to vote on every issue.
- The ability to distribute their power amongst any issues they choose
- The option to delegate political power to as many delegates as they like.
- The ability to reorganize this power at any moment
Each voter will have their own personal profile where they can upload qualifications, work they’ve published, video statements etc [for the crypto enthusiasts, this means the use of NFTs or non-fungible-tokens]. News feeds will be populated with the key governance news of the day such as new proposals, changing laws, popular comments and so on.
The platform has five design elements:
- Contribution Dividends
- Perpetual Referendums
To understand how the system works, it helps if we think of present day democracy as if it were an economy. In this economy the consumer (the voter) spends their money (their vote) on products (political parties/candidates). However this economy is unlike traditional economies in that the consumer can only spend their money once every few years and has to spend all of it on one product. Most products are out of stock (i.e. smaller parties will never win) leaving consumers with a choice of a few products (usually 2). This limited choice forces voters into buying a product that they don’t really want (or doesn’t represent them) and no one is truly satisfied. Essentially, the ‘political-economy’ has low competition, it is illiquid and consumer rights are non-existent.
Each voter receives an ongoing ‘supply’ of upvotes — this is their political ‘capital’ if you will. These work in much the same way as traditional upvotes or likes (enabling for the prioritisation and filtration of information). Anyone can submit proposals & there will be no limit on the number of proposals. Once published, proposals will be represented by an ongoing or ‘perpetual referendum’. Voters can distribute their upvotes across these referendums in varying degrees of weight. This is done by assigning more upvotes to certain proposals — aka ‘multi-voting’.
Assigning more votes to an issue will decrease the available upvotes the voter has to spend on other issues which will simultaneously increase the political power that others yield over their favoured issues. Other voters will also be doing the same thus the system naturally organizes itself into a ‘meritocracy’ of subject matter experts. This will effectively tokenize ‘knowledge’ & ‘political power’. The wisdom of the crowds will be unlocked.
Benefits to perpetual referendums
Perpetual referendums ensure that decisions resulting in negative or unintended consequences can be reverted with ease. The system responds to change, it is dynamic and evolving. This is in marked contrast to days system which is incredibly slow at rectifying mistakes. The system is stubborn & resistant to change. In fact, today, with reputation & votes on the line, poor policy is often actively defended. It is based on a defence of the status quo by a small subset of the population who do well by it. The rigidity and inflexibilities inherent in democracy today will cease to be. Political-plasticity will be realized.
Just as the flow of money around an economy is the expression of society’s wants and needs, so too are the flow of upvotes around the digital ‘political-economy’. Similar to the economic concept of ‘price discovery’, the political economy will be in a constant process of ‘consensus discovery’ as political power organises and reorganises itself amongst the referendums. The ‘state’ (the ‘position’, ‘expression’ or ‘distribution’) of all upvotes on the platform will be determined to be the ‘political will’ of the people and governance decisions will be made according to this state.
Let us use a few examples to explore the benefit of the upvote & multi-voting:
Those who have studied change know the dangers it poses on the planet however getting that knowledge up to the legislators has been and still is an arduous task. To reach the legislators, the knowledge has to travel upwards through layers of hierarchies, it’s had to overcome the fears and prejudices of those legislators, and it has had to contend with hostile lobbying from threatened industries. With an upvote, the urgency of the issue can be converted instantaneously into real-world action without having to pass through this noise. In other words, upvotes will enable data (that is to say, ‘information’ and ‘knowledge’) to flow frictionlessly around society and be converted into action.
What is the contribution dividend?
Modelled on the ideas of proof-of-stake, the contribution dividend is a financial reward attached to each upvote. This dividend will enhance the quality of contributions on the platform & incentivise political participation. Carefully curated ideas that provide value will be rewarded and thus encouraged.
How does the dividend work?
Each contribution a member has on the platform (such as making a post, or posting a comment) will be up-voteable. Voters can express agreement or support for a contribution by upvoting it. This will do two things:
ONE, provide exposure to that comment &
TWO, send the dividend to the creator.
The more upvotes a comment has, the higher up the page it will be. This will in turn grant greater visibility to the profile of the contributions creator which should then translate into more upvotes (& their attached dividends) being directly delegated to them which they can then do what they like with. The more someone adds value to the system, the bigger their reward/salary & the more political power they should receive. With the use of NFTS, researchers can carry out and publish their studies and be rewarded for doing so.
Upvoting someone’s profile will send the upvote directly to that voter. They will be able to cast that upvote however they like. Checks and balances will be found by the ability for delegators to recall their delegated upvotes at any time. Absolute power will rest with voters at all times.
In contrast to today’s system which stifles creativity due to the need for representatives to ‘tow party lines’ (amongst many other issues), the upvote combined with the contributed dividend encourages creative thought and innovation ideas.
How many upvotes will each voter receive?
(# of issues) x (# of voters)
Firstly, having a constant supply of upvotes distributed into the political economy will ensure there is sufficient liquidity to allow society to adapt to new threats and new technological advancements (through the issue variable) whilst also allowing societies to adapt to changing demographics, population sizes and so on (through the voter variable).
Secondly, this constant injection of liquidity will act as an ‘inflationary’ force on existing upvotes ‘taxing’ political inactivity. Inactive voters will see their political power inflated away as the number of issues and voters increases in the system encouraging political participation.
How does the system work behind the scenes?
The upvote is the heart of the platform. It can be ‘spent’ in multiple ways:
Upvotes can be cast directly on proposals themselves. Proposals that pass a certain threshold (which will need to be democratically agreed upon) will be determined to be law. Party representatives will vote according to this state.
NOTE: After a proposal is submitted there will be a fixed time limit until it is passed into law. whereby the results of voting are hidden (one week for example). During this time, voters can either vote yes or no. After the week has passed, the results will be published and voters can begin reorganising their political power as they see fit.
Where does the upvote go? The upvote will be locked into a digital wallet representing the proposal itself. The dividend will be burned.
2) COMMENTS & POSTS & NFTs
Each contribution a member has on the platform (such as making a post, or posting a comment) will be up-voteable. Voters can express agreement or support for another members contribution by upvoting it. This will do two things: ONE, provide exposure to that comment & TWO, send the dividend to the creator. The more upvotes a comment has, the higher up the page it will be. This will in turn grant greater visibility to the profile of the contributions creator which should then translate into more upvotes (& their attached dividends) being directly delegated to them which they can then do what they like with. The more someone adds value to the system, the bigger their reward/salary & the more political power they should receive. With the use of NFTS, researchers can carry out and publish their studies and be rewarded for doing so.
Valuable contributions — > more rewards + greater visibility — > more political power
How does this work behind the scenes?
Upvoting any contribution will send the upvote to a digital wallet linked to the post/comment/nft itself (which links back to its creator). The dividend will begin ‘streaming’ to the contribution creator’s digital wallet (the upvote however will be locked into the digital wallet representing the contribution itself).
Upvoting someone’s profile will send the upvote directly to that voter. They will be able to cast that upvote however they like. Voting profiles and voting preferences of public delegates will be totally transparent ensuring voters know how their delegates are voting. Checks and balances will be found by the ability for delegators to recall their delegated upvotes at any time. Absolute power will rest with voters at all times. [How does this work behind the scenes? Upvoting a profile will send the upvote to the digital wallet of that voter. The dividend will begin ‘streaming’ to the contribution creators digital wallet.]
PASSAGE OF LEGISLATION
- Submit Proposal
- Proposal is checked for spam (by an elected group of moderators)
- Once approved, becomes a perpetual referendum
- Allowing voters the ability to distribute their political power amongst a range of issues in varying degrees of weight will enable voters to express a much wider spectrum of political desires such as how strongly they feel about any particular issue or how urgent they believe a particular issue to be.
- By making it easy for all to participate in the governance process a much fairer reflection of society will emerge as those currently under-represented will be accurately represented.
- With real political power attached to each upvote, an individuals ‘vote’ will be converted into real-world change.
- As upvotes can spread laterally/horizontally (rather than vertically up the hierarchy), the time taken for real-world action will be dramatically reduced and society will be empowered to tackle the most pressing and important issues facing our world today.
- With the absence of election cycles, financial market volatility will be reduced whilst also enabling the benefits of longer term undisrupted governance to be realised.
- As changing consensus will be visible to all, this will further stabilise financial markets as changing consensus will be visible to all.
- Digital governance will eliminate many of the practical constraints that comes through governing in person in-person governance) huge time savings will emerge & digital efficiency can be realised saving time and money.
- In addition to that the digital medium will constrain those who have a habit of taking control of conversations preventing ‘accidental dictatorships’.
- Lastly, the more introverted of society that have solid value to add to discussions will be able to do so free from the anxiety of public speaking and so on.
How will upvotes be funded?
The same way that governments are funded now — from the public purse. The US Congress costs more than $5bn per year to run (around $15 per citizen), the EU Parliament around $1.5bn (or around $4 per EU citizen). Due to the absence of the election cycle (due to the use of perpetual referendums) the money saved here can also be redirected for this use (the 2020 US election cost $14bn $40 per citizen). The value of upvotes will provide too small of an incentive to warrant hodling them but the totality of them will provide large enough of an incentive to motivate people to enter public service.
What happens if the network gets hacked?
The entire platform will be secured using distributed ledger technology.
Couldn’t someone with a large number of votes be able to manipulate an issue that has low participation?
This would be visible to all. If the delegators thought their actions were nefarious in any way then they could just recall their upvotes. In other words, only temporarily but this would be self-harmful. Remember, ultimate power always lies with each voter no matter whether that power is delegated.
NOTE: There are algorithmic solutions available such as quadratic voting (whereby it becomes more expensive the more upvotes one assigns to an issue), or conviction voting (whereby the longer someone has their vote assigned to an issue, the stronger it gets). These may provide some value however the exact mechanics and incentives that these algorithms create will need to be explored in much more detail before implementing changes of such a radical nature. We all know how dangerous algorithms can be.
What about vote-buying?
Delegates will not be able to determine who has delegated to them.
What about checks & balances?
Political power always rests with each voter at all times.
What if someone’s phone gets hacked?
The hacker might be able to influence the vote for a period of time but once the person gains access back to their account they will be able to revert all of the votes & the system will return to equilibrium. Remember, absolute power rests with each voter at all times.
Isn’t governance too complex for this?
Governance complexity is precisely why digital democracy is necessary. The wisdom of the crowd will make everything faster, cheaper and more efficient for example: House planning, Road Planning, Product procurement. The bloat of governments will be reduced and the impossible work-load placed upon representatives’ backs will be shared amongst constituents.
Who owns the data on the app & where will it be stored?
No-one/Everyone. All the data on the system will be securely recorded and stored on a distributed ledger(s). Zero knowledge proofs and other privacy ensuring technologies will be utilised to ensure sensitive data can be hidden when desired (for example — citizens that would like their profiles to be private).
What happens if we implement some sort of digital democracy and the people decide on self-annihilation?
Today’s governance systems are already taking us down the path of self-annihilation.