Democracy.Earth are constructing the basis of a more "liquid" and global democracy
What if democracy was an "always-on" affair - not an "event" (say an election), but an "environment of ongoing consideration and decision-making"? What if you could "place" or "retract" your vote for a candidate or policy, as the issues developed and as your position matured and deepened? What mechanisms would you need - both technological and human-behavioural - to make sure this works, was robust and secure?
That's the challenge that Democracy.Earth has set itself - to build a new digital infrastructure for democracy, operating from the local to the global scale (see the video above from its lead developer, Santiago Siri). They want to use blockchain software's power to secure your identity, and use that as the basis for what they call a new "social smart contract" - potentially operating way beyond the jurisdiction of states.
Every one of these disruptive "platforms" must have its White Paper. But the abstract to Democracy.Earth's White Paper is notably ambitious. Here is its abstract, broken down into points, with the big ones highlighted:
In a world that has succeeded in the globalization of financial assets while keeping political rights enclosed to territories, we need to build new models of democratic governance that enable humanity to collaborate and address pressing global issues.
Democracy Earth Foundation is building free, open source software for incorruptible blockchain-based decision-making (voting) within institutions of all sizes, from the most local involving two people to the most global involving all of us.
Uneven distribution of opportunity around the globe due to the perpetual confrontation between national governments has led to accelerated climate change, rising inequality, terrorism and forced migrations.
Democracy Earth Foundation considers that the technology stack that includes Bitcoin as programmable money without Central Banks, and Ethereum enabling smart contracts without the need of Judiciary Courts, requires a new layer that signals incorruptible votes beyond the territorial boundaries of Nation-States.
This transnational network will act in accordance with the personal sovereignty of its members and protect their human rights with encryption. In our Initial Rights Offering we offer a token called vote that will grant participation rights to every human with decision-making as its main function.
Our proposal introduces cryptographically induced equality: as long as any person is able to validate his or her self-sovereign identity, they will receive a corresponding share of votes that is equal to the share of every active participant in the network.
We define a Proof of Identity process that avoids central authority by introducing the concept of attention mining which incentivizes participants to strengthen the trust of votes by performing simple tests aimed at detecting replicants.
Finally votes get dripped to valid participants under a Universal Basic Income mechanism with a goal of finding a proper equilibrium in the historical tension between money and politics.
We seek nothing less than true democratic governance for the Internet age, one of the foundational building blocks of an achievable global peace and prosperity arising from an arc of technological innovations that will change what it means to be human on Earth.
This is as big-picture as it gets. It's obvious that D.E have placed a bet on "liquid democracy" - the proxy-voting system that the Pirate Party has pioneered - and are hoping that blockchain's super-smart coding can settle down some of the problems of LD. As New Scientist reports:
One problem is that a seemingly unending series of votes [in Liquid Democracy] saps the motivation of users, so fewer votes are cast over time. Additionally, a few “celebrities” can garner an unhealthy number of delegated votes and wield too much power – an issue Germany’s Pirate Party ran into when experimenting with liquid democracy.
Sovereign [the name of D.E's overall platform] creates a finite number of tokens called “votes”. These are assigned to registered users who can vote as part of organisations who set themselves up on the network, whether that is a political party, a municipality, a country or even a co-operatively run company.
No knowledge of blockchains is required – voters simply use an app. Votes are then “dripped” into their accounts over time like a universal basic income of votes. Users can debate with each other before deciding which way to vote. A single vote takes just a tap, while more votes can be assigned to a single issue using a slider bar.
Recording votes on a blockchain requires complex mathematics that makes tampering with them after the fact practically impossible. “The blockchain is incorruptible, no one can modify or subvert how the votes are stored, and that’s vital for democracy,” says Siri. Votes are finite, but users can assign more votes to issues they care most about, unlike conventional one-person, one-vote elections, Facebook likes or signatures on petitions. This means votes will be used more carefully, Siri says.
New Scientist go on to report that D.E has actually been used:
It was trialled in an unofficial digital referendum in Colombia about a political deal with the FARC rebel group last year. It mimicked the official referendum on the same subject, but rather than a simple yes or no, voters were able to allocate 100 votes as they wanted across the seven main planks of the proposed agreement.
In the conventional vote, the government’s peace deal was narrowly rejected. Using Sovereign, they would have discovered that there was only one point in the agreement people struggled to get behind.
What is exciting about Democracy.Earth is that they are consciously movement-building around their software. Obviously, given its open-source ethos, you can contribute code. But you can also become a student ambassador of D.E
They are also allying with our friends at The Fourth Group, and giving them a platform on which they can conduct their #UnitedCitizens inquiry (sign in here) on citizenship in a tech age. They also run an excellent blog on Medium, which has entries on how Brexit could be addressed by "always-on" (rather than massively one-off) democracy, the intersection of Universal Basic income and democracy, and other piece.
At A/UK, we are hugely interested in new systems that bring real power to community level - but which also begin to build a new and better narrative about what it is to feel like a planetary citizen (our I, We, World mantra). We have our own plans in train. But we'll collegiately reach out to them in due course.
One more video which may help explain what is clearly an extraordinarily ambitious project: