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What is the basic building block needed to form an e-democratic platform?

Typically decision-making first requires discussion then the reaching of an actual decision. It is easy enough for citizens to vote on options that have been generated by discussion. But how can citizens be involved in a democratic way in the initial discussion before it comes to voting and is this the most fundamental part of e-democracy?

For citizen discussion different possibilities exist:

- 'software option': a popular option is to use semantic web options to allow software to gather and merge opinions from social media etc To what extent is this a viable method of generating sophisticated integrated community views? Would people trust the software and its designers with such an important and nuanced role?

- 'human-driven option': another way would be to take the model of Wikipedia and change it from a knowledge-based platform to an opinion-and-knowledge platform. It would need to be re-engineered to enable voting on all types of decision - from the change of a word upwards. Sophisticated scalable design would be needed to keep track of all changes made, with their voting-weighting, at the same time as showing the most popular evolving page.

Which track seems best - both in terms of ideals and/or practicalities?

  • Feb 20 2014: This is similar to an idea that I have been mulling over. Basically, I think there exists a market for a social-media-interfaced website that could allow a "facebook" or "twitter" atmosphere of communication between the concerned public and public officials. Perhaps this is along with a "wikipedia" like interface where bills and possible legislation can be uploaded, viewed, and commented on. These types of websites require the participation from government officials as much as the public to be effective.

    I think the dichotomy that you present isn't necessary. I think that perhaps the best way to proceed is to pitch the idea to computer programmers who know the logistics of creating and maintaining these sites. The big question remains. Who is paying for it?
    • Feb 20 2014: I'm not clear on how the facebook/twitter-style interface that you mention would work? As I see it one of the most important functions of e-democracy is to enable crowdsourcing of all the policy ideas out there in society that currently go untapped. But what I don't understand is how public officials are supposed to have the time to read many, many contributions from people on any given topic? The whole process seems fraught with inefficiency. It's also not clear to me that such tools foster the development of sophisticated viewpoints.

      Displaying bills and legislation is certainly something I'm in favour of. But the wiki you mention seems to me to have the same problem in relation to comments as for the facebook/twitter tool above, unless you see it operating as a wiki rather than space for comments. If that's the case, though, then how are you planning on resolving editing conflicts? Wikipedia has sophisticated mechanisms in place for that but they are notably undemocratic (e.g. reliance on published material).

      The problem as I see it is basically - how to effectively combine multiple viewpoints in a way that is very scalable, as e-democracy would require? I have set out the two options I am aware of. How do you envisage dealing with these issues?

      I agree that it will be very interesting to hear the views of any computer programmers here but I'm also interested in other people's views - I think the issue is not just a programming one.

      In terms of who's paying for it I agree that's a very interesting topic but perhaps worth a separate conversation!
  • Mar 3 2014: Hi Patrick,

    Struggling a bit to take on board all the new terminology here (as well as remember the way the system is working between emails)!

    On the state question I think there's a very real difference between the state and utilities. The state has a monopoly of violence, sovereignty, etc. These are really crucial, in my view.

    Am I right in thinking that a lot of what you're thinking about is directed to stopping people charging more than they should (or being charged more than they should) in transactions?

    How does the society of abundance that you mention get provided? By who? Many or all of the problems of the world you mention as fixable at your page seem to rely on this society of abundance.

    Is a society of abundance necessarily compatible with environmental sustainability?

    Does the Registry do anything to solve social sustainability issues? (e.g. modern-day slavery, working conditions etc etc).

    Isn't time taken to produce a utility already part of our complicated demand/supply system? Don't we want flexibility in this system not rigidity? e.g. if two types of what come to market in a US supermarket, don't we want the one that was made more quickly to do better?

    As you can see I don't understand your system that well. I think for more discussion we should Skype it. Otherwise abandon as this type of messaging is too proving too complicated.


  • Feb 26 2014: has a bunch of ideas on this. I've got an idea as well that might interest you.
    • Mar 1 2014: Hi Patrick,

      Thanks for this.

      I used to be fairly active on metagovernment - there certainly are lots of alternatives there. What I'm looking for here is thoughts on a specific issue about how to design e-democracy. Maybe similar debates are happening on metagovernment - think maybe it's more a gathering place for projects than place for discussions on issues coming up?

      Thanks for the link to your idea. I don't think I've understood how it is that your system will encourage people to work hard and efficiently? Also, who's going to enforce the rules? It seems perhaps dependent on a heavy state apparatus (though maybe I've missed how you plan to deal with that).
      • Mar 1 2014: about the question about how to encourage people to work hard and efficiently: the same way we encourage people to work hard and efficiently in the current monetary system. The desire to be rich, which translates into being able to request utilities from society, or "make your voice louder".the only difference being the way to get rich now it is by providing an abundance of quality goods for many people as opposed to just winning the game.the more people you satisfy in the least amount of time the richer you get.
        enforcement of the rules is done automatically by the software. it has to be done through software which is the big difference - there is no more paper money. Paper money would be used as a fallback system if ever the registry were to fail. there would still be police and laws to make sure that people aren't doing similar things like they can do today to bypass our laws to make money, like laundering. I'm not sure what you mean by state apparatus... care to elaborate?
        • Mar 2 2014: Doesn't the fact of being able to participate in a market where S (supply) is very small (e.g. because many qualifications are needed) amount to 'winning the game'?

          In terms of the state apparatus - it's an issue for a university lecture series really but how about something like 'those institutions exercising the political authority that is delegated through elections'? That would include Parliament, government, civil service etc.

          I think I'm only concerned if your system creates more rules but I think you're saying it doesn't. Of course, my actual preference is to have less state-enforced rules in the traditional sense.
      • Mar 1 2014: the way decisions are made in the registry that I proposed is by people voting on particular ideasand contributing their excess "time money" towards projects. The one that actually gets implemented in late is the one that will stick.
      • Mar 2 2014: Can you win the game by working in the market where S is small? A better way to say this is that there is an incentive to work in the industries where S < D, so yes it's a good way to 'win the game'. And this is good - because that means those utilities are not yet in high abundance when society wants it to be, either because it is inherently difficult (qualification) or no one wants to do it. The more people who end up working in that industry, the supply goes up and it becomes cheaper for everyone...however those currently working in that industry will end up getting paid less than they used to. At some point, the market will equalize based on the difficulty of getting the training/qualifications to produce it, and the paid amount you get back for working in that industry. At that point, society can adjust the Q factor for that utility if they still want more, so that more people will work in the industry, or if it's just that difficult or horrible to do, accept that it will be that expensive to get those utilities.

        Ok, I think I get what you mean by state apparatus - those civil services are just utilities like anything else. However some of them are categorized as infrastructure projects. I believe I address that question here, but tell me if I'm missing something:
      • Mar 2 2014: About the more rules: I don't think it makes more rules, no, but it certainly changes them.

        I think it also will make a lot of jobs obsolete (bankers, stock market traders, etc). But their skills would be easily transferable to figuring out the workings of the registry. Imagine joining a group (kind of like an insurance company, or a bank) that simply takes some percentage of your excess time money you give them and allocates it to particular things that you like. If you're not engaged as you could be in society, you can pick one of these groups that has has the same incentive of the high level things you do (education, environment, health, infrastructure), then you just pay them something like a tax and they put your excess time money towards projects they think you would like. They could send you reports on what your money went towards, etc. The neat thing about this is it gives indiividuals more control over what they think is important. If you don't intend to have children, you can choose to join a registry and live in an area where education isn't that important in that area.