THE BLOG

What If The Internet Had Been Invented Before Democracy?

25/11/2016 13:49

Dear Democracy, you're running on an old operating system. Would you like an update?

This year, the UK decided to leave the EU. I was angry. I'm not anymore. After months of research and interviewing experts for my book Democracy Squared, my focus has moved beyond the surface conversation and towards a deeper issue: a democratic system which hasn't changed one bit since the internet was invented!

Recently, the US decided to elect Donald Trump. I'm not angry about the decision. I'm angry at the way these decisions are made. They are a binary and dualistic form of democracy. Would you like your life to be Blue or Red? In or Out? Liberal or Conservative? People are disillusioned and frustrated. Both Brexit and the US Election are symptoms of a system which doesn't have the nuance for these tensions to be expressed. It's the only outlet people have.

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Democracy needs way more bandwidth
Democracy in its current form is largely assumed to be representative, this made sense back in the day, when pen and paper were the most advanced technologies. But still now, once every four years, we open up the bandwidth and let a load of decisions go through the pipes. But old bureaucracies couldn't cope with that for long, so we keep it to one decision every 4 years. Even referendums are actually representative, they're not direct. To choose In or Out of the EU for instance was still mainly choosing between two ideologies. The nuance of each part of the conversation like immigration, the economy, travel...etc are so much more complex. Having a say in those things would be direct democracy.

Using the Internet to democratise democracy
Still operating like this, on 4-year cycles, in a world where we have the internet, is living in the dark ages. The internet democratises so many industries except one: democracy itself. I have spoken to tech/democracy pioneers around the world who are doing real things to create an incredibly direct form of democracy in many cases. New systems which can cope with democracy at scale with all the complexities and nuances of the world we live in and with even more safeguards and informed decision making than the current system.

I've spoken to people who crowdsourced Iceland's constitution. To people using blockchain technology to create radical direct democracy where all citizens can vote on all policies in a safe way. To people who envision countries where there are no full time professional politicians. To projects which use machine learning to accurately and coherently interpret and enact the will of the people.

Democracy on steroids!
Democracy is currently choosing one person's ideology or another. Which made sense when paper ballots every 4 years were the only way we could enact the will of the people. But that just simply isn't the case anymore. The systems we're proposing, based on insights gleaned from pioneers around the world, all allow for a radically better form of democracy. It is faster. More frequent. More direct. More robust. More informed. It could even get stronger when things go wrong!

So my perspective has largely moved from talking about the media fanfare, to thinking that we're just talking about the wrong thing. We're talking about the opinions of two people or two parties, when we could be questioning the underlying system itself and questioning why we're using the same system as we had in the early 1800s. In 2016 we have the technology which could democratise and decentralise democracy, making the network sovereign, and wrestling power from the political elite.

The complexity of the world today can't go through old indirect forms of decision making. It's just too binary and slow. The nuance and speed comes, as with everything else the internet has touched, from distributing this and making decisions far more directly.

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Democracy Squared research
I wrote this book because I feel this is the only conversation we should be having. Or rather, I think it's the conversation which unlocks all other conversations. Whether you want to save the planet, schools, healthcare, or the economy: none of these things can happen unless our governmental system is equipped for the 21st century.

It's not about Trump, Clinton or Brexit, but because the operating system, the process by which decisions are made which is like working on an old version of Windows 95 in 2016. We can do better. People have done better. It is happening in small pockets in Iceland, Estonia, Argentina, America, Australia, and Taiwan.

This is, for me, the next revolution that needs to happen. The most relevant and important revolution of this decade. I want my children to grow up in a world where their opinions are counted for, not outsourced to somebody so far removed from their needs.

Be well.
Jon
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Democracy Squared: A digital revolution that's about to democratise democracy is available on eBook and Paperback from http://democracysquared.io

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