Fake news, profiling & converting voters using social media^, rigged elections, media cartels owned by those in power (or that would lie to get the power), demagogy… the list can go on and on. Democracy today means that those that lie best or have plenty of money, get to steer our society. Actually, it has been so since a long, long time ago. But we now have the opportunity to set democracy free, if we make the right use of the technology at our disposal.
The Internet has seen better times. It was and still is a gateway to knowledge. The problem is that the information found on the Internet is often far from accurate; sometimes it’s horrendously false. From a highway to enlightenment, it has become a stormy ocean where one’s mind can be forever lost.
Fortunately, the Internet as a platform is still extremely powerful. We know it has some problems, but people all around the world are working to improve things. Along with newly emerging technologies, the Internet can still be our ladder towards the next stage of social evolution.
The purpose of any post in the Futurology^ category is to launch a wild, boundless speculation regarding what the future holds regarding a certain concept. To get things going, here are some of the things I imagine can be happen in the near future (coming decades) given a possibly unavoidable technological evolution of democracy. Feel free to submit your own ideas in the comments below. With your approval I may integrate these in the article, giving proper credit.
- The way election campaigns are currently organized is one of the main problems of democracy. Because the people with the most money can reach out to the largest audience and can organize the flashiest campaigns, it all revolves around wealth, which is not always a proof of wisdom and intelligence. Wealth can be obtained through opportunity, or worse, through inheritance, which offers no guarantee that the receiver of the wealth can wield it responsibly. However, fixing the broken election system is totally within our power.
- One of the good things that emerged during the past decades from the capitalistic competitive environment is the number of ways through which we can measure performance. There are countless tools for determining a person’s skills. Politicians shouldn’t even be allowed to enter an election if they cannot pass an interview that shows they can qualify for a given position.
- Even more importantly, winning an election cannot be a blank check for getting any position in a government. A candidate vying for a position dealing with mining should have passed the relevant interview. Of course, a candidate can pass several interviews for several different areas, but never should a government hire a lawyer to deal with agriculture.
- If we, the people, don’t want corporations to decide our society’s future, then we should take responsibility and change the broken election system. Goodbye donors. No party or candidate should be allowed to receive any funding from commercial entities or power brokers during an election campaign (or any other time for that matter).
- Election campaigns will be redesigned to be much cheaper and paid entirely by a neutral, society-funded technocrat organization. Goodbye massive costs, millions of printed fliers and throw-away promotional material. Hello standardized and equal promotion for all candidates. All election-related financial transactions shall be documented in transparent, public records: open for challenge and debate.
- A standardized election campaign means that all candidates should be given a precise, limited and equal amount of resources. This will include air-time on public channels, online and offline promotion. Candidates will have to adhere to a standardized way of stating their message: focused on previous accomplishments (proven and verified) and future plans (a public online space will be created where such plans can be fact-checked against budget and reality).
- Today, with the help of Big Data^, we can assess the performance of politicians in a neutral way. Just look at how this software^ can find the best people to support a given law. Given enough data, software will be able to perform impartial screenings for an increasingly large number of candidates. Think millions. Just imagine that your highly skilled work colleague can one day receive, from a computer, a suggestion to candidate for a governmental position based on his skill, not on how many friends he has in a political party or the power of his dad’s commercial empire.
- Earlier, I mentioned transparent financial transactions during an election campaign. Actually, everything should be transparent. All transactions that the government does should be easily accessible for any citizen. All contracts between government and companies that work for it should be open for public debate, because, in fact, these companies work for the taxpayers.
- In case you haven’t been living under a rock, you probably heard of cryptocurrencies^. Enter crypto-voting. Sierra Leone just had an election where blockchain^ technology was used. Using blockchain, election results can be seen and validated in real time. It’s also much harder to steal an election (and can actually be made impossible if implementing relatively simple checks such as random people cross-checking other people’s votes). This system also reduces the costs of organizing an election and, in my view, can be used to facilitate what I call continuous voting.
- Continuous voting means that anybody can change their vote at any time. Voters would simply log in with their ID and change their votes for any number of positions that are elected by the public. Politicians will be part of a market where every citizen owns one vote token per vote area (one vote for the education ministry, one vote for the local police chief and so on). This means that a politician would lose the safety blanket of a mandate, which is exactly the amount of responsibility that is required from any person in a leadership position. Mandates, after all, belong to an age where elections were expensive to organize. It also means that any citizen could own hundreds of vote tokens that entitles them to vote for a large number of positions. The vote tokens would be given by a system that automatically allocates them based on the citizen’s address (allowing a person to vote for all positions that influence their life).
- Taking this further, direct democracy could be implemented by having laws as crypto-mandates: the more people buy in, the more power a law will have. This could remove the need for traditional politicians altogether. Rather than politicians, you would get something more akin to project managers that promote a law and try to get buy-in for that law.
- The system could be expanded to include a public polling option not only for laws, but even for contracts. I’m referring here to the deals between government and companies that perform services critical to society (cleaning, public transport, etc.).
- Taking this even further, we could imagine how instant direct democracy will look like. When a law reaches the support it requires, it could go into effect much sooner. For example, people could vote about speed limits in their community and see the effects immediately applied on connected traffic displays. A “thermostat”-like behavior would be implemented, to make sure that a law doesn’t “flick” on and off from one day to the next.
- Depending on law, applying the changes would take a reasonable amount of time. For example, budget laws would apply only as soon as the affected institutions can adapt to a change in budgeting (within reasonable limits). This might mean less job safety, but would drastically increase a society’s ability to answer to its economical environment, which would, in turn, translate into better performance. With proper social protection measures, this can translate into an adventure where all members of society take part, together, in the well-being of their greater family.
- Using such systems, a city could easily revoke the contract with any company if people realize it provides poor quality. No more deals behind closed doors, no more lying to get a contract with the government only to quickly drop in quality and siphon taxpayer money.
The Futurology Disclaimer: I do not claim that my ideas are original. I’m sure these suggestions are just scratching the surface of what can be achieved, but hopefully they’ve scratched enough to get somebody inspired to come up with more. I’m also sure many of these ideas are already being worked on by several organizations. If any of the ideas listed by anybody on this page are original and will benefit any organization, I expect credit to be given where it’s due.
2018-03-31 – 1.0 – Written.