Tuesday, November 24, 2015

We're very nearly living in the future

Oh, such exciting times ahead. I'm literally jumpy all day with the prospect of what next year holds, both personally and for the world at large.

One of the areas I've personally been interested in for a long time now is the process of governance and policy making through the mechanisms of democracy. I registered a site for this ages ago, but as per usual my current employment contract is both wonderful and onerous - having to spend all day working on someone else's cool stuff, and promising anything awesome that I create to said employers. This leads to mental and time-constraint deadlocks that stop me actually doing anything awesome (more on this later - much more, hopefully).

I've proposed this concept many times to people before, but this is the first time I've seen it properly captured by someone in an easy to digest form (and props on the name too, I love it).

Ladies and gentlemen - Liquid Democracy.


In short, the concept boils down to this - you vote on what you wish to vote on. If you want your opinion heard, but don't feel informed enough to vote, you can delegate your vote to someone else (anyone else) for that particular issue.

This pretty trivially expands to groups of issues over longer timescales (express a preference for a proxy or delegate to vote on your behalf, and let them control issues grouped by policy type or any other grouping mechanism).

For example, Alice can vote directly on the upcoming "Raise the pension age to 100" issue. Or, she could delegate to Bob (who in turn could delegate to Chuck, etc) who can vote for her. At any point, she can switch her delegate based on who she prefers (which is instantly advantageous compared to our current system). Win all round, then.

Technically, this is pretty trivial to implement - the hard part is the security aspect (including privacy of voting). The good news is that's all solved problems, pretty much. It just needs making.

I'm picturing an app on your phone which shows:

a big YES button
a big NO button
the name of the issue
a link to the details surrounding the issue (including background research)

Imagine if the relevant stats / arguments could be collated in a visible, searchable fashion (including links to learning materials / research where applicable). Imagine that, for those who opt in, voting records could be transparently examined (and of course, if people don't wish to opt in, then their vote is counted on the issue and nothing else).

Who gets to decide the issues that are voted on, and when? That's a bigger question! but raising the meta level of the game would be - I hesitate to say, interesting.

Lots of devils in lots of details (letting people vote up to the wire, tracing influence networks, security implementation, etc) but I'd very much like to live in a society that is willing to try this form of representation.

The LiquidFeedback platform looks like an excellent starting place for this (and it's possible - hopefully highly likely!) that the technology is there. If so - what's stopping us using it?


  1. What's stopping us is that we live in a bought and paid for corporatocracy rather than an actual democracy where we'd get to make choices like this. We need Lessig's 'One Way Forward' as a precursor.

  2. I'm not convinced this needs to be a dichotomy, or indeed there needs to be mass adoption levels before relevance is acquired. I quite like the idea of using it as a tool in smaller spaces than country-level politics (although I'm thinking smaller-scale businesses or clubs is probably too small).

    As you well know, I think there's some value in just making this - 87 days to go ;)