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Democratic Intelligence

There’s an already existing project out there called Democratic Intelligence, created by Stephen Oberauer. It has been presented in detail in his Transpolitica essay.

Here are some of the most important quotes:

The StackExchange group of websites, with perhaps a hundred sub-sites, each for asking and answering questions about a particular topic, are great examples. These are similar to many other sites that use a concept called gamification. Gamification gives the user, or player, a goal, or number of goals, and usually awards the user with points. In the case of StackExchange, badges and virtual medals are also awarded.

On StackOverflow, their sub-site for asking programming questions, one can ask a programming question, and, if it is a well written question, based on their guidelines, one usually has the correct answer within minutes. Amazingly, this is a free service. I’m not quite sure if that explains just how incredible the system is, so let me try another way: One can either spend hours or days trying to solve a complex programming problem, or type it into StackOverflow and have it answered in minutes!

Everyone can earn points by asking questions, answering questions, doing reviews, improving formatting, etc. One earns these points democratically, meaning that one earns points by other people looking at what one has done and awarding or deducting points. Once one reaches a certain number of points, one is considered more trustworthy or knowledgeable and therefore more functions are enabled for that person. The details are quite complex, but the system has obviously been shaped over many years into what it is today, a beautiful and elegant solution.

Imagine what a self-improving and transparent, democratic, meritocratic system could be like…

It starts with a well defined end goal, perhaps along the lines of “Increase happiness and unity worldwide,” in order to focus the users and help the system to evolve with a purpose.

Perhaps you, as a user of the system, came up with the idea that it might be good for everyone to get benefits instead of just people who are not working, so you go to the website and type your proposal, “Give benefits to everyone, not just those who are unemployed.”

The website gives you a list of similar suggestions, and noticing that your proposal is already on the system and is number 273 in the queue, with 834 votes, you click the vote button to increase the value of the proposal and write a comment explaining why it would mean so much to you.

The proposal now has 835 votes and with its new value it is bumped up to position 272 in the queue. Within the next few weeks a further 7,433 people vote for the proposal and it eventually reaches the number one place in the queue. Your comment on the proposal has been noted by many people and voted up so that it is number five in the list of comments.

People who have earned the most points on the system vote for or against the idea, based on feedback from a group of experts on the subjects involved, including mathematicians and people who are highly clued up about benefits. The experts each record a ten minute video, or write a short article, explaining anything that they think is relevant, and then the videos and articles are uploaded to the site and linked to the question. The people with the most points (trusted) watch all the videos and then vote on whether or not to go ahead with the proposal. Each vote includes the voter’s reason for voting for their choice.

70% of the voters decide that it is not a good idea to give everyone benefits, so the proposal is disapproved, but you are not happy. You believe that the system is faulty and you should be one of the people with a large number of points, so you can be included in the final round of voting. For this reason you need to increase your points to 200. This takes a lot of work.

You answer some critical thinking tests, which bump up your points from 50 to 100. Then you read all of the recommended books… some history, some logic, some science, some psychology, etc. One of them doesn’t appeal to you, so you create a proposal that the book is changed. Eventually you do all the tests on the books that you read and your points are bumped up to 150. Unfortunately you don’t quite get the points that you need, so you decide to try to become an expert on benefits.

You go to the expert section on the website and follow the strategy to become an expert. Eventually you write an amazing article on benefits and are selected as an expert. The next time the benefits proposal makes its way to the top of the list you are ready with your well researched video on how amazing the world would be if everyone had benefits.

Your video is watched by the people with the most points and 80% of them vote for everyone to have benefits and the new policy becomes reality.

Unfortunately the new policy doesn’t work out as well has you’d hoped, but since there is a democratic way to change things, people propose an even better system and the better system is implemented next.

Of course this is a rough idea of a transparent, self-improving, democratic, meritocratic system. You can probably find faults in this solution. I can see some already, but this is just the start. The real system should be thoroughly discussed and thought out and would become more complex as it matures and improves. The main point, however, of this system, is that it is self-improving and focused. While existing political systems sometimes have the ability to improve and mature, they are very difficult to change, and can only be improved up to a point, because ultimately their party’s purpose is to stay in power. They will not hand over the reigns to a system which makes them obsolete. The purpose of the solution I’m proposing is not for it to remain in power, but for it to improve itself, and recursively replace itself with better systems that also generate solutions.

The system could be used not only for international change, but also for smaller groups, like charities or researchers, trying to figure out the most efficient way to solve a problem.

But imagine if it was used internationally. Imagine if you could see a clear and well defined path that you could take to suggest any change, or become an expert on any matter so that your knowledge, experience and desire for change could make a difference.

How to make it grow

The system would require regular use by a large enough group of people in order for its usefulness to be seen and to attract more users and grow. For this reason it could start as simply a way for a charity similar to GiveWell to decide the most effective way to spend donations. Perhaps it could be used by activist communities like Zero State and Humanity+ to collaborate internationally. It could also be used to run a public company, although if the goal of the company is to make money, this could work against peace – seeing as the most effective ways to make money are not necessarily the most moral.

As the system matures, the charity or activist community could, for example, use the system to figure out better ways to find users. It might decide to accept donations, and it might decide to use some kind of international currency like bitcoins, or it might simply rely on volunteers to complete any tasks that come out of the system.

So, this system is already in place on the https://democraticintelligence.org website, but almost nobody uses it, because almost nobody knows about it! The system needs to be given a chance, and especially more attention. The Fractal Future Network was created in particular to support such projects.

I find it quite amazing how far Stephen Oberauer has come more or less on his own. But it’s clear that this system requires a lot of support to become really popular. So, I’m trying to draw some attention to it, at least first of all within this forum.

What do you think about it?

1 Like

Have signed up to the site. Have also been looking at systems such as stackoverflow and Reddit etc. In the bumpconductor system have been looking at how users could ‘bump up’ (or down) a bump! Solutions/initiatives (including existing solutions) could also be bumped up/down. Gamification is a great technique for improving engagement - thought about introducing the concept of ‘bumpstars’ ( where stars = “someone they’ll always remember”). One thing that I’ve been wondering about is how to make decision making less prone to influence from others perceived to be experts.

Like you stated - Stephen has already come along way.

From what I’m seeing so far there are a number of jigsaw pieces being created…

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I just found this: http://cohere.open.ac.uk/2012/01/27/evidence-hubs-a-new-way-to-interact-with-idea-networks/ , http://evidence-hub.net/about/ which implements basically all the ideas I want in Jera, and it’s open source! It seems like it hasn’t been used much in the last year though. I kept digging into the creators, and found about the Knowledge Media Institute, and one of its latest initiatives: http://catalyst-fp7.eu/ , which looks really cool and includes these: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JrfX_zysLcQ , http://www.wikiprogress.org/index.php/Wikiprogress.org:About , https://cidashboard.net/ , http://catalyst-fp7.eu/open-tools/litemap/ , http://catalyst-fp7.eu/open-tools/edgesense/ . They all seem quite useful, and free to be used.

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I’ve been looking into various EU initiatives for a while but didn’t spot this one - so thanks for this Guillermo.

Also just noted there was a very interesting conference held in Brussels (7-8 July) for ‘Collective Awareness Platforms’’. Gutted to have missed it.

I’ve checked out the projects you linked @guillefix. I am really amazed that the EU finances the creation of tools like those. The Knowledge Media Institute seems to be doing awesome work. Too bad that it doesn’t really get the attention and love that it deserves from its wide potential user base.

I think the LiteMap tool is pretty close to the discussion aggregation tool that I want to following debates across different platforms. However, a really good and useful discussion aggregation tool should use more automation. Something like a Google for debates about specific topics or scattered comments on one certain piece at one web location would be very awesome. I guess that’s a business idea in its own right with huge potential. Well, maybe FP-8 might support something like that. :smiley: