Technological solutions to the problems of democracy

  • April 21, 2012

It seems to me that a lot of the problems caused by democracy (corruption, lack of representation, mindless politicking, fear and loathing campaigns, dog-whistling, short-termism etc) are attributable to the fact that our parliamentry system is based on very old technology – the idea that the only way the voice of the people can be heard is for those people to be organised by geographical areas where all will vote for a single person who will go and represent them and their area in a parliament somewhere.

What this causes is a concentration of power in the hands of a few, most of whom we actually know very little about, do not really trust, and who often actually *fail* to represent our views, essentially rendering us powerless. The types of people who seek office are also often the very people least suited to serving the public good – instead they are egotistical and power-seeking, and too often prone to engaging in corrupt or unethical behaviour to maintain their positions in the system.

So the first challenge is to reduce the power of individual representatives and parties, in favour of more direct representation of our individual views.

We will still need some sort of system to receive and collate those views, and to coordinated the functions of government, but it should also be a system that does not require career politicians to keep running.

By using technology to collect and collate the views of the people *directly* we would have a much more democratic system. And by stripping away the power from politicians, politics will start to attract only those ones that want to do it for the right reasons, ie that they have a *genuine* desire to make life as good as it can be for as many people as possible.

Another problem inherent in democracy is that it accords an effectively equal weight to the vote of every person on every issue. I think this is a mistake, and one which inherently we all understand to be a mistake because we understand that not everyone is equally qualified to make decisions about particular questions.

Here’s an obvious analogy: if you’re sick, you go to an expert and allow them to diagnose your symptoms and give you advice on how to get better. You don’t go to a builder (who you may well trust to build you a house) or a baker. You ask the expert for their opinion, and trust them to know what they are talking about.

Most of us are also sane enough to know that we, individually, don’t know everything and are happy to defer to someone we think knows more about a subject than we do. That’s not to say that there is not a large grey area in each of these where we all might like our *opinions* to be taken into account, but we are, I think, generally prepared to accept that our opinions don’t make us experts in a particular field and that they should be weighted accordingly.

So the second challenge is to find a system that allows expertise about a subject to add weight to the votes of those experts.

I believe technology could be employed to address both of these challenges and that the resulting system could lead to better representation, less corruption and better decision-making.

I believe such a system could introduce the sort of weighting of opinion based on expertise that would make democracy much better able to yield wise decisions.

Finally, I also believe such a system could prove popular, as it enables everyone to feel that their abilities and skills will be taken into account when they vote on particular issues.


Leave a reply

Fields marked with * are required