Democracy, DAO

Democracy, DAO

Ancient Athens can testify that pure democracy doesn't work. It's a lovely concept: any citizen can propose a piece of legislation, and everybody votes on it, and if accepted the proposal becomes law. Since everybody gets a vote, democracy is simple and extremely fair. It would be the perfect system of government, if only humanity were perfect. Unfortunately, democracy has several fatal flaws. Nobody has the time and intellect to read, research, and vote on every piece of legislation that comes before the citizenry. This leads people to take shortcuts for the sake of expediency: they either make poor decisions on proposals they don't understand, they ignore proposals they don't understand, or they give their vote to somebody else who has the time and inclination to participate in the system.

This last one, delegation of authority, was the undoing of Athens (since the Athenians tended to elect popular demagogues), but has become the foundation of Western "democracy." Though we think of our governments as being democracies, of course they are not. Modern nation-states are simply too large and too complex to be directly governed by the citizens. If the relatively small city-state of Athens couldn't manage democracy, it's unlikely that any fully developed nation-state could. Instead, our political systems in the West typically rely on representation and more closely resemble republics than democracies. The citizens of a country vote on candidates to represent them in certain political roles, and those representatives then make all the decisions of government.

Representative democracy is a system that allows the citizenry to go about their daily business without devoting an inordinate amount of time to the making, interpreting, and enforcing of laws. Unfortunately, representative democracy dis-empowers the population, because our representatives are not directly answerable to us. Eventually they must stand for reelection, but by that time many have forgotten their mistakes and missteps and reelect them. Even those who remember their representatives' political foibles often find themselves without a viable competing candidate to vote for, and decide which way to cast their vote based on a "lesser of evils" approach.

As a result, bureaucracy becomes entrenched, special interests thrive, and the will of the people is diluted or even superseded. Additionally, voters find themselves forced to elect representatives whose political views do not completely align with their own. This is inefficient at best, and disillusioning at worst. A voter who believes in gun control may be 'forced' to vote for a candidate who does not, because the other electoral choices are even worse. Furthermore, elections tend to be winner-take-all events, where a very large minority can find themselves outvoted and effectively disenfranchised, since "their" representative will not actually be representing their viewpoints at the local, regional, or national level.

True democracy is the only system which can fully enfranchise the populace, but one must find a way to overcome the flaws of such a system. This has been impossible--until now. Consider a reddit-style system where one could log onto the internet once a day, or week, or month, and "upvote" the issues and legislative proposals that are of interest to them.

Theoretically, the best proposals would rise to the top, and upon meeting a certain threshold would either become law, or as an intermediate step, could be submitted to a legislature for debate and vote by elected representatives. Such a system would enable citizens to vote on issues they understand and regard as important, while allowing others to decide upon issues of less direct relevance. Furthermore, a voter could express the full range of his political convictions, rather than relying entirely on representatives whose ideals may not align with those of the voter.

Such a system would have considerable challenges to overcome. Sybil attacks would be the most serious danger, so a form of identity verification would be required. One idea would be for each nation to assign a "colored coin" to each voter based on his national ID number. This would ensure that each person could only cast one vote per issue or election. Universal adoption is another major barrier. The first step toward a distributed democracy would likely be in the form of "suggestions" or petitions (similar to, where elected leaders are strongly encouraged to consider certain issues. As time goes by and the system is proven to be robust, and more people begin participating, certain distributed democracy votes could be made legally binding.

Distributed democracy is not something that can be created overnight. Those in power will be reluctant to relinquish it, and people who are not technically savvy will be loath to change their habits. The voting system would have to be 100% secure, or at least very close to it. Likewise, the system would have to be easy to use, in order for average people to make sense of it. Finally, highly complex, technical, or specialized issues/proposals would be difficult to decide due to the fact that not everybody will be able to grasp them. Any form of distributed democracy must therefore begin slowly, and gradually increase in universality and importance.

Despite these caveats, such a system would be game-changing. The world sorely needs better political systems than those which are currently available, and technologies which allow the creation of distributed organizations may eventually find themselves able to create distributed political system as well. If Ethereum succeeds in its goals, this is only one of the ways in which it could change the world.


  • FreddyFenderFreddyFender Member Posts: 39
    Thanks for the post on decentralized democracy! I believe that a kinetic vote, versus a static vote might be a new concept people might accept. One of the main issues people have with democracy is the marginalization of minorities and minority groups, so all votes that uphold a position must be fluid enough to not discriminate any fring ideas. Allow the ideas themselves to be the center of the system. Democracy is people-centric and demagoguery is the inevitable result. Memeocracy is the novel approach, separation of the meme and all its ties to the issues plainly stated - no 24 page brief that excludes everyone but insiders or die-hard aficionados. Simple statements requiring graduated vote: 0-%100, 1 to 10, with allowance for a dissenting vote, or a 0 vote. Voting decentralization outside of current nation-state ideals might be doable with some work on a DAO-based `VIRTUAL WORLD VOTE` If I am off topic or missing your points, let me know and I`ll start a seperate thread.
  • ddink7ddink7 Member Posts: 49
    Hmm...graduated voting on a scale of 1-10...I like it!!
  • StephanTualStephanTual London, EnglandMember, Moderator Posts: 1,282 mod
    Very, very interesting stuff. I seem to remember a video, which I'm desperate to find, that was done in an infographic-style and explained how voting decentralization could be implemented in practice. Of course, I lost the link :)

    The biggest roadblock I see to all these new potential systems is that they are building on the notion of replacing or complementing what we already have in nation states. I'm not sure that's the right foundation to build on. I'm not even convinced that voting is what needs 'fixing' in order to solve the problems you are describing.

    For example, even if we somehow figure out a way to leverage new technology and implement something like liquid democracy, you still end up back to square one if a vote on an emotionally-charged proposal ends up being split 60%/40% . Gun control, religion, abortion, age of consent - you name it.

    In this case you still have a very pissed off 40% of a population of millions, likely more or less evenly geographically distributed over thousands of square miles. The only 'solution' would be for these 40% to vote with their feet, and relocate in a new area ('country'?) where they can live under laws that are more appealing to them.

    The likelyhood of this happening at this moment in time is close to nil, as AFAIK you cannot start your own country within a country (Seasteading aside).

    But above all, and if anyone has any thought on this I'd be grateful, is that even if total freedom of movement across decentralized nations was achieved, many would still see the need to relocate as punishment, because it's inconvenient, or sometimes impossible (bedridden or hospitalized family etc).

    PS: where is David D. Friedman when we need him :)
  • FreddyFenderFreddyFender Member Posts: 39
    What brought me to Bitcoin originally, was an in-depth study of the technological singularity and evo-devo as proposed by John Smart - the 2 pillars of modern society are monetary consensus and political consensus. These stratified pillars are undergoing a seismic shift of assumptions and standards. I intentionally found Bitcoin in April, 2010 and revisited it in November, just as the world's awareness was dawning. I always knew Bitcoin would do what it has done, just like many, and Ethereum is next! (No pun intended.)

    My take on the Bitcoin protocol is that it is hyper-competitive, place that within a hyper-cooperative DAO-style environment: You create a fluid, decentralized, non-voting, non-binding, yet self-affirming tool of ideas.

    The one thing that strikes me about voting is the fact that it marginalizes all minorities. Votes do not have to exist as static determinisms, they could remain unbinding and still inform on what is the consensus. As each item/idea is given weight it remains always able to be changed or reworded to allow the destratification of ideas.

    *small disclaimer: I have been working on a small project that uses many of the DAO ideas we're discussing. I salute any and all contributions but if anyone is planning a private venture, I will desist and STFU.
    I am a huge proponent of all things Open Source (FSF, OSS, EFF and GPL et. al.)
  • ddink7ddink7 Member Posts: 49
    Ursium, you have excellent points! One of my areas of focus in grad school politics in the United States prior to the Civil War. Slavery was of course one of the major issues, but many have overlooked one of the most important issues of all: power. The South fought tooth-and-nail to maintain parity with the North in the Senate, in order to preserve as much political power as possible. Once the South lost parity in the Senate, the political situation began to turn really ugly, as the South did everything in their power to preserve their "rights" despite the fact that they were in the minority politically. So really, how do you protect the rights of the minority from being trampled by the majority? It's a thorny question!
  • Karl_SchroederKarl_Schroeder Member Posts: 37 ✭✭
    Just to point out a couple of things: Promise Theory networks seem to naturally generate representative nodes as a consequence of other nodes 'electing representatives' that can be trusted to vote the way they would vote. In other words, representation seems to be an emergent property of a certain kind of network, rather than being a human political invention. Secondly, if you're studying democracy, make sure you study more than the United States. It's just one case in a very broad spectrum of possibilities. (I occasionally run into 'students of the American constitution' who are embarrassingly unaware of how constitutional philosophy, law, and practice have evolved globally since 1776.)
  • ddink7ddink7 Member Posts: 49
    Thanks Karl. I have my M.A. in history, but I have to admit my focus is Western-based.
  • LeanLean Member Posts: 28 ✭✭
    A year ago I took this course: and I think it will be a good idea to share this thread with the community of this MOOC. Lot of people there could comment and enrich on this
  • davidpbrowndavidpbrown London, UKMember Posts: 15
    edited March 2014
    I've wondered for a long while that politics would benefit from an Open Source bug fixing system.

    There is real opportunity to empower the Peoeple and open up democracy but first people widely need to understand politics is relevant and feel a need to engage. For the past few decades we've gotten lazy; every problem gets money thrown at it, rather than ever we engage reality and the negative feedback that suggests. That force of negative feedback in economics and politics is as powerful and as important as any positive feedback. Managing that pressure will become more critical, as the financial and economic crises hit home. So, I expect people will begin to demand more from politics, as they feel the pinch and the sharp end of politics' effect on their lives; that without the cushion they are so used to.

    These ideas of distributing power and wealth and giving people more control; of then having Democracy DAO; and of moving beyond big parental Government thud and blunder, are well timed and I hope to see more of them in the coming years as DAO's become more capable and commonplace.

    I note your thread in reddit:
  • mquandallemquandalle FranceMember Posts: 50 ✭✭
    > There is real opportunity to empower the People and open up democracy but first people widely need to understand politics is relevant and feel a need to engage — @davidpbrown

    People are lazy about politic because they don't have political power. The most we can do is to sign a petition or protest in the street. That's not political *power*.

    But looks at the ancient Greece, which was the first and unique (direct) democracy. If you give power to the people, they'll use it. If you wait for people to politicize before giving them political power, you'll wait a long time.
  • dyamanakadyamanaka New MexicoMember Posts: 11
    Absolutely well said!

    You've pointed out the fallacy of past and current political systems. Democracy DAO opens up a whole new realm of possibilities.

    Another post "Basic Income" talks about class tokens.

    Class A tokens are for voting, while it also generates Class B tokens for currency.

    Now a person votes and further supports their favorite projects, legislation, with finance. It's not a perfect system, but it helps express the desires of the public.

    Good luck with your idea!
  • davidpbrowndavidpbrown London, UKMember Posts: 15
    @mquandalle Quite right. I was wondering then about the prospects of people either voting directly or nominating someone else to cast their vote, on given individual topics. So, a Representative would have many votes to cast and they'd be able to fraction those out as they wish.

    Part of the problem you alluded to is that we've fallen into Big politik; we have only a choice of a couple of large parties representing all issues badly, rather than any ability to express our individual interests directly or with subtlety.
  • SatCaSatCa Member Posts: 29
    With every creation, there is destruction.

    If we were to implement this, then we either ensure that people around the globe are made aware of such a movement.

    Else an Internet based government shall only empower those who are currently rich enough or connected to the crypto movement enough to enter first.

    A good Open Source government cannot allow for misplaced trust, and must not lack accountability.
  • davidpbrowndavidpbrown London, UKMember Posts: 15
    Of course, especially for anything political, there would need to be a way of ensuring one person one vote; that fees and system access were not disadvantaging or excluding anyone; and that such options were not the only methods for communicating opinion and affecting change.

    The point was more that the move beyond big thud and blunder parental Government, will be a change to smaller; more local; and then more dynamic engagement with issues. Only when the People hold power and wealth, do they have any influence. Where all the power is in the hand of a few, we end up with the dull choice between two parties that we see and that are then the sum of bland averages, they take actions that are blunt; off target; and not properly representative of anyone's interests - what we suffer currently is also more expensive and inefficient. Devolved power and wealth is the future but we need methods of action enabling that.
  • SatCaSatCa Member Posts: 29
    I have a non-interventionist honest policy.

    But I care about my fellow brothers, therefore I scream I know how we can get it implemented to enough unknown people absolutely everywhere on the internet.

    I only hope you understand it requires a social experiment. Kindly help me in conducting my social experiment, by participating in my forum. (Participation is most appreciated)

    Be yourself. Feel free to be more than yourself. I'm collecting the right data needed.
  • Karl_SchroederKarl_Schroeder Member Posts: 37 ✭✭
    I've recently been studying Project Cybersyn, which was to my knowledge the only attempt ever made to implement a cybernetics-and-computer based (socialist) democracy. The experiment happened in Chile, and was ended on September 11, 1973 by the CIA-backed coup that put Pinochet in power and ended 70 years of Chilean democracy. If you're at all interested in next-generation governmental design, you need to study Cybersyn!

    Regarding representation, however, my latest novel Lockstep includes a government where the representatives are simply those people who are literally most representative of a set of stakeholders: your rep is someone who can be relied upon to vote exactly the way you do most of the time on most issues, and is discovered by simply data-mining a database of pseudonymized "likes" and mods--the trail of preferences, essentially, that each of us leaves in the 21st century.

    Reps would have to have certain base skills (which is also usually the case with sortition-based systems) so in practice the reps are chosen from a pool of candidates; but the pool could be extremely large. In this system you have an automatically-generated proxy acting on your behalf (unless your preferences are all over the map, in which case perhaps you can represent yourself) and votes are not held at predetermined times. Instead, reps transition in and out of their roles as the demographics and preferences of the population shift. New reps work for a time with old reps, so the rate of knowledge transfer between people becomes the limiting factor. Overall, though, the reps would not represent the opinions of the people four years ago, but the complex and ever-shifting current mindset of the population.
  • cybertreibercybertreiber Vienna, AustriaMember Posts: 29 ✭✭
    @Karl_Schroeder? If you happen to be inspired by Cybersyn you might want to check out Javier Livas' work (eg. & He is concerned with carrying on Stafford Beer's legacy in the field of law, governance and democracy. I endorse his pristine thoughts on how we should approach social science holistically or better yet, science at large and hence adhere to the genuine principles of cybernetics.
  • FreddyFenderFreddyFender Member Posts: 39
    @Karl_Schroeder I'm glad you presented this style of inclusive democracy. Exclusivity has been THE millstone of impedance towards all democracies of a grand scale. Democracy is local, that is a given, but a true dynamic governance has yet to be tested through a 'buy in' type approach.

    Anarchist view all forms of voting as tyranny, and as a result of this paradigm, many disenfranchised would look at an opinion-based ethereum blockchain application with less derision and maybe try it. What critical elements could we tag to highlight the benefits and pitfalls of opinion democracy? I would like to see buy in from young and old, rich and poor, marginalized and franchised alike.

    During the last several decades we have had music as the vocal opponent that can propel change and allow for inclusion. We now are at the beginning of a new meme and inspiration is brought out from an interaction of thought, tech innovation and the edge of inventiveness. Musicality seeks a new form: on the internet, and finds it in all these projects and grand visions! We continually look for rebirth as a outlet for democratization and personalization.

    PS. - Democracy for me was always distant, corrupt and something to be avoided. Lets see what we can accomplish as a group.
  • Karl_SchroederKarl_Schroeder Member Posts: 37 ✭✭
    edited March 2014
    Here's an exercise to test out the flexibility of Ethereum DAOs: can somebody implement a Social Decision Support System, similar to that described in, using the Ethereum language? I don't have the programming chops to do it, but I think a lot of people in this forum would find SDSS's to be an interesting model for experimentation.

    I would enable nested topics and allow feed-upward of critical roadblocks to higher-level topics within the SDSS, to make the whole into a Viable System model.
  • sillytunasillytuna Member Posts: 38 ✭✭
    edited April 2014
    "Theoretically, the best proposals would rise to the top, and upon meeting a certain threshold would either become law, or as an intermediate step, could be submitted to a legislature for debate and vote by elected representatives. Such a system would enable citizens to vote on issues they understand and regard as important"

    I would disagree with this. As anyone who follows the skeptic community knows, what happens are great campaigns of misinformation designed to rile up communities. The truth gets lost amidst rhetoric and lies, lead by a few charismatic and powerful people. If you want to know how nasty it gets, follow what's happened with abortion, global warming, and teaching of evolution/creationism in schools.

    The best proposals would not rise to the top, it would be a popularity contest. Moreover, it wouldn't be about citizens voting on issues they understand, it would be about what they regard as important and very often don't understand at all.

    Here is a great specific example of what one could call food terrorism:

    Vani Hari doesn't have a leg to stand on scientifically yet she single handedly got a company to make a change that wasn't required and the entire media let her do it. She got a huge amount of support from people who claimed to understand and feel the subject important. They didn't and it wasn't.

    We've also all seen how things get on Reddit or Bitcoin Talk. It's not about truth and knowledge at all. It's about creating division between people, riling people up, spreading fud instead of fact. Worse, it's about making those spreading fact seem untrustworthy by use of all the cliches in the book - the very same thing happens with pseudo scientists vs scientists and there has only been one winner for years now (altho skeptics are now fighting back).

    When we elect representatives to vote on our behalf, there is a belief that they are voting as we would. This is not true, we are voting for them to do the right thing. The fact that they often do not, or that we feel like we have little choice is the real problem, hence Russell Brand's take on voting.

    I don't have answers but I wanted to point out that, in my mind, there is a critical flaw in the thinking and it needs to be addressed. Whether it can be with reputation systems I don't know. The problem is that those who want to subvert the system will go to extreme lengths, and often $millions, to do so. A small minority can become so loud as to feel like the majority, and can obscure all facts from the rest of the populace very effectively.

    If we aren't careful, all we may achieve is to move the system from a few power hungry people who generally like the status quo to a few extreme people who will lie and cheat even more than what we have already.
  • Karl_SchroederKarl_Schroeder Member Posts: 37 ✭✭
    No, you raise an excellent point, and one I've been struggling with recently. These are issues of authority, which Western society has been fighting over for centuries. An example is the Reformation, which came about because a lot of people got fed up with having to rely on a central broker for moral authority (the papacy) which had become manifestly corrupt. The alternative was crowd-sourced and reputation-based churches (protestant sects) which in practice collapsed the unified moral edifice of the religion, in a Tower of Babel crash. The abuses you're talking about were key to my critique of Cory Doctorow's "Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom" and its reputation-based currency; we argued about this stuff as he was writing the novel. Neither a central authority nor a reputation-based (crowdsourced) authority work.

    This leaves us with a puzzle. It is this: if we can't identify a valid source for authority, then why does science work? By rights scientific development should be subject to all the frailties, manipulations and cheating you describe above. It is; and yet, it continues to move forward. The reason, I think, can be expressed in the language of distributed cognition.

    If I haven't lost you, then I'll just say that distributed cognition is thinking processes that are distributed among multiple actors; in Edwin Hutchins' landmark study, "Cognition in the Wild," the distributed system is the crew of a ship doing near-shore navigation. No one person contains the entire analysis of where they are and where they're going. It's my belief that science--and governance--are distributed cognition "apps."

    In the case of science, authority is not contained in a central node nor within the consensus of the human actors doing the science. Instead, science offloads crucial steps in the reasoning process to nonhuman actors: experiments. Authority, in other words, is divested into an objective process (also seen in Andy Clark's Extended Cognition model). Something similar happens with the block chain, where neither a central authority's opinion nor the opinions of groups matter; an objective calculation performed in a distributed fashion is combined with a consensus by the majority. Similar to science, and retaining some subtle vulnerabilities because of that ultimate appeal to the majority.

    In politics (including the politicization of climate science) the same seesaw between authority and public opinion goes on. The solution is to locate the source of authority, as in science, outside the human. The question becomes "what's the political equivalent of an empirical experiment?" Many people have taken this to be "voting," but voting is only provisionally and contextually effective; it lays authority in the hands of mass opinion, which can be manipulated or just plain wrong. In cybernetic terms, our current political systems lack effective feedback loops; loops that base new policy decisions on some objectively measured *result* of previous policy decisions (similarly to experiments) rather than public opinion or propaganda. Such measurement systems are necessary, but currently either don't exist or aren't enforced.

    None of which invalidates the idea of Social Decision Support Systems; you've identified how the problem of authority still exists with them. Building feedback loops based on agreed-upon measures for the success of policies might make an SDSS work. The ironclad rule would have to be that you can't play if you don't accept an objective (can be verified by all stakeholders) measurement process for the success of your proposed policy. Here, once again, the block chain may be of some use.
  • sillytunasillytuna Member Posts: 38 ✭✭
    Great reply.

    "By rights scientific development should be subject to all the frailties, manipulations and cheating you describe above. It is; and yet, it continues to move forward."

    There are many psuedo scientists who have been pushing this back using all the means people use to spread misinformation. So science is, but science in the public realm and, importantly, in legal areas has not moved in a positive direction in many cases.

    Science itself is almost entirely empirical, but even that needs consensus. Repetition is key, yet repetition in e.g. medical studies consistently show lessening effects (it's an interesting area which indicates human bias gets in all over the place).

  • SomethingSomething Member Posts: 10
    > True democracy is the only system which can fully enfranchise the populace,

    Noble ideas (in the main post), but I would disagree with this cited premise. I view democracy as failure. Knowing that the person who most steals from the many invariably wins, I vehemently oppose it.
    And as someone said in a blog I read earlier this year (I can't remember who, but my point is this isn't my idea), when one votes he clearly intents to subject his fellow citizen to force (otherwise he wouldn't vote - if everyone was on the same side, voting would be meaningless).

    Personally I would be interested in contacts that allow users to form voluntary communities which then can (depending on the content) use direct democracy or even be constituted as dictatorships (for those who agree to participate). I see no need to enhance and automate the present statist system that invariably leads to totalitarianism (with my voting record open to public - that'd be just great!)
  • FreddyFenderFreddyFender Member Posts: 39
    @Something, Contracts can exist in a double-chaumian blinded state and leave you fully aware of your voting and everyone else's vote too. Blackbox entries are possible from both sides of the ledger if common principles are used. Forms are submitted, then signed with OT or other chaumian clients. Not many examples to look at but "" says it all.

    I am with you on the false promise of current democratic models, all nasty and for the taking. A ledger could carry information and not bind outliers to the results, yet afford the ones who are committed, an absolute view of all participants without the usual coercion of vote.
  • JasperJasper Eindhoven, the NetherlandsMember Posts: 514 ✭✭✭
    @FreddyFender I'll look at that link eventually. Trying to deal with the scale of voting events is a thing too, - making voting efficient. Here i suggested using proof of reserve as Kraken did it is a 'Truth or Punish' scenario.

    Here is a post by Vitalic( with some good points, i think the most relevant one to the DAO is that perhaps democracy doesnt 'incentivize' voice well enough. I dont think 'incentivize' is the right word, but i think earning a living for being political might be something that the DAO does automatically somehow. (it would have to be well written though..)
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