Friday, September 23, 2011

[icuxnnjg] Direct democracy via Twitter

If people are organizing their revolutions and protests by Twitter, Facebook, Blackberry mobile, etc., then why not organize the government the same way?   Suppose the revolution has succeeded.

Originally, we founded a republic (elected legislators as proxies for the people) instead of a direct democracy because millions of people trying to debate an issue and reach a decision was previously assumed technologically impossible.  But it isn't impossible, or soon it might not be.  A million people actually can, e.g., tweet all at once and be heard; they don't have to all be physically present in a legislative chamber.

Sorting, categorizing, counterpointing millions of people's speech can be done (if not now, hopefully in the near future) by computers with natural language processing.  For example, here might be an interaction:  You start by saying something.  The AI steers you toward others who have said something similar.  Between yourselves, you discuss and explore the issue, trying to form a coherent and detailed viewpoint.  At each step of the way a computer checks your work, rejecting or warning about logical and other fallacies.  The computer is loaded with a tremendous amount of knowledge (every citizen's Library of Congress) (like Jeopardy's Watson) as a reference for policymaking.

In parallel with people and speech that agrees with you, the computer also finds opposing speech.  You then try to explore or resolve the differences, again with computer aided moderation.  Online discussion is not done by numbers of supporters, but by logic.  One person could theoretically refute a thousand.  A direct democracy need not require lots of participation by everyone: you check that your (current) viewpoint has already been stated by someone else, and you need not participate further (until it gets refuted).

Sometimes, it might come down to fundamentally irreconcilable differences for a very contentious and important issue by probably a close margin, at which point a vote is taken, one man one vote (avoiding sock puppets) at the ballot box.  I hope this will be rare, because a society with such differences frequently may have something more fundamentally wrong with it.

Cynically, can such a direct democracy do worse than the corrupt government we have now?

Facebook, Twitter, BBM are peer to peer technologies (or attempt to look like that), in contrast traditional politics, where it takes a lot of money to say something.  Peer to peer is changing the world.  There is no gatekeeper to control speech, to steer discourse in the direction the gatekeeper wants it to go.  Expect fierce resistance, as this system will likely displace certain current institutions of power, entrenched in the republic system.

Optimistically, this is inevitable, as technology marches on. The era of bad ideas may soon be over.


Staff di Anatramorta said...

I just had the exact same idea, and I am trying to figure out how to make this work.

One problem would be to identify users, to avoid duplicate votes, but this is easily solved creating local certification authorities and certifying one login per person and still maintaining privacy.

Then you need websites to host proposals, pull data together, avoid duplicates etc. This could work easily on small scale, and some form of group coordination would work for bigger scale.

It's possible! Keep in touch? @darioshanghai

Ken said...

The heart of this thing is computer natural language processing (AI). The technology might not exist yet, but is very close (IBM Watson, Apple Siri, Wolfram Alpha, Google Voice Search).

The way I envision it, duplicate logins don't matter: it's the innate strength of an idea, not the number of supporters, that matters.