In the game of Monopoly, it is common to hear the “elite” say:
“We need to encourage people to work, and work hard, to keep the old winning dream alive and to keep the country going forward“. *1
You have to ask yourself: “If work is so important, why do they not work? Also, why do they not work hard?”
Even more contradictory about that particular sentence is the fact that you cannot work if there are not any jobs. If a job is the only thing that separates you from necessary resources in order to survive, and those who hold the resources do not have any jobs for you, how exactly are you supposed to get those resources?
If you consider that more and more jobs are automated, it follows that fewer jobs will be there on the market; it is simple math. If that is true, and it is, there is one important question we have to consider:
In the fully-automated system, who is the one who decides who has access to resources?
Who are the people who will get food when all production is automated and no one needs to work anymore? What are the criteria for accessing food or clean water, when jobs do not exist?
How are you going to get food, if everything is in the hands of those few rich people?
Maybe you think you will reach for weapons, in order to fight for your right?
Do not forget that those who have ownership have resources, military, and the industry capable of producing those guns. Maybe you think that they will need someone to protect them, and you will become a soldier, in order to get food. What if they do not need military? What if they have an army of intelligent robots that are a thousand times faster, more capable, and thousands of times more deadly than any human?
To answer those questions, we have to find a solution for the game of Monopoly. We have to find a better replacement for the historically pyramidal structure of the system.
The most dangerous thing about the pyramid is the concentration of power in only one point. That makes this type of system very vulnerable. The danger of concentrating power to one point is the same as with achieving critical mass in a nuclear reaction: once critical mass has been reached, the system explodes violently.
Imagine what would happen if your brain functions depended on a single or just a few neurons?
How efficient, creative, and capable would your brain be in that case?
What would happen if those cells stop working properly?
It has been said that a pyramid is the most stable body, but, in terms of politics, that is not true, because our system is actually a pyramid that stands upside down.
By replacing the pyramid type of system with the trapezoid — by increasing the number of the people in the very top — the system becomes more robust and more prone to error and mishaps. Historically, this is what was going on for quite some time, as there are political bodies that serve this purpose. We have the Parliament and its members. The only question is what the optimal number of people for the Parliament is.
Currently, there are 640 people in the UK’s Parliament. If we compare that with the population of 64 million that is 0.001% — a number so insignificant that we can still call the structure a pyramid. In the US, that difference is even more significant, as there are only 535 voting members in Congress for a population of 320 million people that is 0.0002%.
The question is whether it be possible to flatten the pyramid/trapezoid further, increasing the number of people in the top layer, and would that be feasible from the ruling/governing perspective?
Turning the trapezoid system upside-down would make it more stable than the pyramid.
In terms of social affairs, more people may mean an additional controlling effect, which could potentially create a better balancing of the system; from this, bogus actions could become less frequent.
What would happen if we flatten the trapezoid further, allowing even more people to rule or make decisions?
In nature, a group of not very intelligent beings organized around pyramidal structures, like bees or ants, can show behavior that exceeds expectation of what is possible for a single member of that society. On the other hand, groups of very intelligent beings can show group behaviors that are less than the sum of its members.
Ideally, what we want is not a trapezoid or a flat surface; ideally, what we want already exists, and it is called a topological network. In our case, it is a network without end or beginning, and where each of its nodes has a connection to his neighbor/friend on the three-dimension body, shaped like a ball. The beauty of networks is that they can have different topologies and that, regardless of their topologies, they can seamlessly connect.
What are the issues with democracy as a system?
At the beginning of democracy, only a handful of people had the right to vote. Gradually, the group who had voting rights expanded, allowing every citizen of adult age to vote. Keep in mind that the concept of voting nowadays is more connected to the idea of electing officials and not so much with the individual right to decide on various matters of the state, unlike it was imagined at the beginning.
Mostly, current democracies are “representative,” where elected officials represent a group of people, and rarely is it a “direct” or pure democracy, where as the name says, “demos” (people) have the right to “kratos” (rule).
The problem with representative democracy is exactly what the name says: it is representative. Officials elected to be representatives of the people often do not represent the will, ideas, or the interests of the people who elected them, and, very often, they work only for their own interest, thus becoming misrepresentative democracy. Another issue is that most of the people who vote do not know enough about the people for whom they vote, allowing the entire electoral process to be very prone to different types of manipulations.
On the other hand, the problem addressed by “direct” democracy is that most people do not have enough knowledge in order to make reasonable decisions on certain policies or subjects. Large masses of people are prone to lynch-mob behavior. Thus, not everything is bad with a ruling minority; in fact, many positive changes — such as fighting prejudice, racism, sexism and many others — we have won only due the fact that those decisions were made by minorities.
Additionally, the “direct” democracy approach was not very practical for much of history, at least not from the standpoint of creating policies, making decisions, or voting. Even the simplest act with a large group of people would need a humongous effort to get to the final decision; debates and discussions could last forever.
Although not very efficient, we use direct democracy when we need to decide difficult public matters by using a referendum.
Referendums historically weren’t very efficient: they require a lot of time to organize and discuss, and they come with similar costs to elections. Although this statement is true, we have neglected many ideas, technologies, and the current level of development that now exist.
We have many technologies and products that never before existed, but, in terms of politics, nothing has changed; we still have the same type of system. We have advanced our technology, but some of our systems are in the same state they have been for hundreds — if not thousands — of years. We are completely neglecting ideas that have been with us for quite some time.
When we say “ruling,” we tend to think about the people on the top of the pyramid, but ruling is nothing more than making decisions around tasks/problems we are experiencing and need to solve.
New system basic requirement
In order to have a direct democracy, one prerequisite has to be satisfied: political and social literacy. In order to read, we need to know letters; in order to use computers and smart phones, we need to know basic operations. It is the same with politics and social affairs: we need to be literate and active. We have to exercise our democratic abilities.
In order to move towards a more direct democracy, we would need to stop with the “vote and forget” practice. Our political activity must be constant and frequent. By saying this, it already looks like a full-time job, but what I have in mind is more of a usual activity that everyone does, similar to reading the news or eating your breakfast — even 5 to 10 minutes a day would be enough and would make a significant difference.
Every citizen who knows how to read, can use modern tools of communication, and has a sound mind is a good candidate to make a positive change. If a child or very old person can contribute with good ideas and/or actions, why should we prevent that?
Political activity should be thought of and carried out the same as any other social activity (shopping, meeting people, talking, etc.); it should come naturally, like our breathing. It would be valuable to have society composed of such of individuals. We may be afraid, though, that this can be dangerous, as large masses were not, historically, very good at making decisions. However, I would argue at this point that this was due to a lack of education. Nowadays, when education can be freely accessible and available, I believe that we can change that.
What has changed in the world that can allow us a more “direct” democracy?
Many new ideas and invention are literally popping into existence on a daily basis. We are connected like never before. We have our “Star Trek” like communication devices, and we can speak with each other, regardless of the fact that we are on different sides of the planet.
Communication and connectivity has changed. If we wanted, we could be connected with an unimaginable number of people; we can exchange our ideas, chat, talk, or have video conferences. We can speak to many people, and we can read what many other people say.
Communication, connectivity, the Internet, networks, phones, and computers are tools that give us the ability to be connected like never before, and those tools can make direct democracy come true.
Can the same technology work as a governance tool? Again, politics can look quite complex...
Internet communication and computerization are great tools, but they are almost completely neglected as tools for making top decisions that affect all of us. Although, decision systems can function simple as aggregating massive amount of surveys into single report, this never came alive on larger scale.
Imagine what would happen if we could legally take political decisions or/and the creation of policies into our own hands. Imagine a world where each voice would really matter, and where you would be morally responsible for your own decisions — a world where your voice, combined with everyone else’s, could make a political decision by using electronic devices instantly. Would that be possible?
Currently, we are making day-to-day decisions with our electronic devices by making online purchases and managing our internet bank accounts. We are making decisions on how we are going to spend our money. As the shopping and banking systems are computerized and connected, all of our decisions can be processed in a matter of seconds. The system is secure, and all transactions are done in a manner that does not interfere with our shopping experience.
Making political decisions can be the same. Imagine a web site where you could discuss different political subjects, policies, make amendments, and suggest improvements. People could read the discussions, comment, and vote on a daily basis. Such a system would be almost inexpensive, but, yet again, very efficient. There will be a price for hardware, software, and maintenance, but that price would be miniscule in comparison with organizing just one referendum. On the other hand, the benefits would be significantly higher than the cost we would need to pay.
For example, the Scottish independence referendum *2 had a price tag of £13.3 million (around $19.3 million), and Scotland is a small country with population of just 5.3 million people. A similar amount would be sufficient to support electronic system for a much larger country for several years with almost unlimited numbers of “votes” and “referendums.”
You must also consider this: if someone would give you the moral burden of a decision to send military troops into war, where thousands would die and millions would be affected, would you decide any differently than your government?
Wouldn’t direct democracy just jam the system completely?
It would not, if it is done correctly. Networks can have different topologies, and they can connect with each other. If they are balanced properly, similar to current internet or road traffic, it would be possible to avoid congestions and points of failure.
It is obvious that our current social and political systems do not keep pace with the current level of technology we have. We use the name “democracy” as a notion of ruling of the people by the people, but, instead, we have ruling by the elected elite. We could argue that the elite are also people, but democracy does not mean that. By the same analogy, we could argue that all other systems — monarchy, socialism, or communism — are also democracies, because they have been ruled by people.
Topological networks gravitate around certain nodes; some nodes have more connections than others. Similar like in social networks, some people have more friends than others, and they can be “followed” by more people than others. Some of them can be more influential than others.
Although a self-balancing system looks uncontrollable and can sound almost anarchistic to people who are control freaks, it is not. Each of us already has a self-balancing network in our heads, and that network (“brain”) works just fine.
Imagine if you were one of the nodes of the network; what kind of decisions would you make? Would you make good or bad decision for others? What kind of decisions would you make, if they had an equal impact on you as they would on everyone else?
Are officials required in the new system?
Yes, they are required. Their role would be more administrative than anything else. Also, in order to avoid mob behavior, we would need some kind of rules, and those rules would need to be carried out by officials. Just as online shops or banks have their own personal, and just as web sites have moderators, a political system management would need to have some type of personnel to maintain the system. Scientists, sociologists, psychologists, judges, lawyers, and any other person who has expertise in a certain field can be helpful, in order to give necessary knowledge or to resolve difficult matters.
Direct democracy or electronically-supported democracy is not a new idea; it just happens that it has not be used or implemented on a larger scale. *3
First, let’s consider similar networks that already exist and are widely used:
“Facebook” and “Twitter” are the largest social networks at present, and they are good examples of social connectivity. They provide tools for a large number of people to organize, communicate, and share digital content. The bad thing about these networks is that they are corporately held, not very transparent, and they have their own technical limitations.
“Kickstarter” and “Indiegogo” are examples of cofounding sites, where people can organize, without any special governance or monitoring, in order to raise funds and fund a variety of different projects, in return for some type of rewards or finished products. Also, they are in the hands of corporations and not very transparent.
“Paypal” and many bank portals are good examples of secure payment processing on a large scale by using Internet communication.
“Wikipedia” is a good example of an online collaboration project. It is an online encyclopedia with a remarkable amount of content and an even more remarkable ability to correct itself; it also withstands malicious attacks. Many people are involved in constantly making improvements. Sources are backed with references, and tracking down malicious edits can be an easy job to do.
All of above are examples of worldwide online collaborative decision-making systems. Every time we click on a like or dislike button, we are making small decisions. Every time something is “trending,” regardless of whether it is a “funny cat video” or “Cancer research funding project,” we are deciding, either with our money or with our votes, to show whether we support something or not.
A very important aspect in the future system should be transparency. Web-based democracy networks would need to be highly transparent; every monetary transaction, every vote, everything we discus or comment on should be visible to everyone. This idea can make many people feel uncomfortable, afraid that this can be misused; in a fully transparent political system, everything is known — even the fact that someone was trying to influence someone else’s decisions.
What is lacking in the current system is full transparency; people should have the ability to monitor the actions of their governments very much like with the Wikipedia.
On the other hand, we are already transparent to our governments, to spy agencies, even to corporations. While this is something you would rather not think about, you are already monitored, and you are monitored 24/7: your browsing history, your emails, your phone calls, movies you watch, your professional career, even changes to your health condition, and much, much more. You are monitored, but you do not have access to that data or to anyone else’s data. Basically, if they want to, those agencies can know more about you than you know about yourself.
Ask yourself what would happen if we could access all information about everyone else’s activities?
What if you could watch those who watch you?
Politically, direct democracy is the way to go forward. Crowd-sourced political activity can bring us closer to the solutions we badly need for the problems we are facing now and we will face in the future.
Next time on this subject “The Next One (The New Game – economics – draft)”
Notes & References:
1. Wealth Inequality in Americahttps://youtu.be/QPKKQnijnsM?t=2m19s
2. Cost of Scottish independence referendum to exceed £16mhttp://www.heraldscotland.com/news/13195426.Cost_of_Scottish_independence_referendum_to_exceed___16m/
3. Direct Democracyhttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Direct_democracy