Representative democracy is an 18th century technology

This picture turned up in my twitter feed. It summarises representative democracy – a technology designed to provide voice to citizens at a time when communication and transports costs were very high – very nicely.

The world we live in is very different now.

My RMIT colleagues Darcy Allen, Chris Berg and Aaron Lane have written a book imagining how politics and democracy might look in the future.

 This book investigates the theoretical and practical implications of blockchain and other distributed ledger technologies for democratic decision making. What new structures of democracy does blockchain technology enable? A cryptodemocracy is cryptographically-secured collective choice infrastructure on which individuals coordinate their voting property rights. Drawing on economic and political theory, a cryptodemocracy is a more fluid and emergent form of collective choice. This book examines these theoretical characteristics before exploring specific applications of a cryptodemocracy in labor bargaining and corporate governance. The analysis of the characteristics of a more emergent and contractual democratic process has implications for a wide range of collective choice.

Soon to be available in all good bookshops, and on the shelves of all deep thinkers. Great for stuffing Christmas stockings too, so buy early to avoid disappointment.

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28 Responses to Representative democracy is an 18th century technology

  1. Petros

    It all hinges on hoi polloi being well informed.

  2. I_am_not_a_robot

    For any like me who didn’t immediately recognize what the cover illustration is, it’s a fragment of an Ancient Greek ballot machine or kleroterion:

  3. Roger

    Having read the blurb, I think they’re going to need “For Dummies” version.

  4. Tel

    I tried many times to explain this to my English teacher … how William Shakespeare was so old it obviously had to be irrelevant. Didn’t get the message through, but I gave it the old college try.

    Then there’s that Jesus dude, what would he know? I think the world might be a bit different now … duh! … we have invented haircuts since then.

    Let’s talk about Ötzi the iceman, five and a half thousand years ago, and he’s schlepping about with animal skins wrapped round his feet. Do you know … people still do this? I’ve seem `em wearing leather shoes, like primitive savages … bloody unbelievable. Get with it guys, we wear circuit boards on our feet now, a bit uncomfortable but you will get used to it, and great protection against stepping on Lego.

  5. Dr Fred Lenin

    Do circuit boards keep your feet warm ? Skins do .

  6. Everything exists in theory. Everything is oh so plausible because…..well because we wut discussed it an all you know?
    But then the rubber hits the road, unintended consequences slaps us in the face and we want to k i l l another bunch of self important perfessers ™.

    It was those advanced thinkers who gave us the broken chads and pregnant chads of 2000 Florida, and it was those advanced thinkers who gave us voting machines owned and audited by who knows who with an agenda or three because you know…..paper is so old fashioned.

    I find it funny that these same intelligentsia will post a photo of………wait for it………voting frikking records from THOUSAND YEARS AGO, yet they can’t reconcile that with the fact that we still don’t know who got how many votes in Florida in 2018.
    You have to be really this smart to be this blind to reality.

  7. Dr Fred Lenin

    The tablet on the cover ? Is that a clinton vote counter ? No way you could cheat is there ?

  8. Howard Hill

    Do circuit boards keep your feet warm ? Skins do .

    Yes. If you use those cheap Chinese LEDS.

  9. Squirrel

    Advances in technology also surely raise questions about the need for large centralised bureaucracies – it would be nice to think that a PM who talks about the Canberra Bubble (and sounds as if he means it), might do something about that, even if not particularly radical.

  10. Tel

    Do circuit boards keep your feet warm ? Skins do .

    Stupid Luddites … bitterly clinging to their warm feet.

  11. Tel

    Yes. If you use those cheap Chinese LEDS.

    Even warmer if you use cheap Chinese LiPo batteries to power the LEDs.

  12. Fat Tony

    Tel
    #3108996, posted on July 16, 2019 at 6:09 pm
    Do circuit boards keep your feet warm ? Skins do .

    Stupid Luddites … bitterly clinging to their warm feet.

    Tel, if you want your warm feet, you can keep your warm feet….

  13. Entropy

    I don’t think that Twitter cartoon quite means the point you were making. Rather than seeming to come up with an improved democratic model, could it actually be someone arguing for the replacement of democracy with a technocracy? Them being one of the technocrats of course.

  14. Bruce of Newcastle

    I am very doubtful, because of how the species homo sapiens thinks and behaves.

    Representational democracy is still the best alternative. That is because the 100,000 or so voters in a Federal seat hold the soft and squishy cojones of their representative in their collective iron fists.

    I like the election coverage shows because the pollies on the panels exhibit an almost pathological knowledge of the minutia of individual seats, booths and margins. They know they are at the whim and will of the voters they are representing. That has a nice way of focusing minds away from elitist fads like global warming and onto little things like nice yummy paying jobs in coal mines.

    If you go to a nationwide system, or even a proportional representation system, then the pollies can dispense with the rude ignorant voters and do what they want. Hence the existential crisis in the EU.

    Furthermore representational democracy is just that. You get a problem you ring up your local MP. Local MP will tend to act on your grievance because if he doesn’t it could get in the local paper. So you get an answer, and often some help for your problem. It works.

  15. John Constantine

    Their billion dollar bully pulpit abc reports: NEW PLAN TO MAKE WESTERN VICTORIA EMISSIONS FREE BY 2040 🌳🌞💨

    The Northern Grampians shire says a new plan to make western Victoria carbon-emission free by 2040, could provide significant economic and environmental benefits to the region.

    Think tank group Beyond Zero Emissions, has created Australia’s first regionally focused Roadmap to Zero Emissions, based on the Grampians, Ballarat, Central Highlands and Wimmera Southern Mallee.

    Northern Grampians shire’s chief executive Michael Bailey, says council will work with other local governments and organisations to help bring down emissions.

    “While there’s an economic argument there’s also a zero emissions argument and what we do for the future. We need to make those decisions now with the technology we have but things will get better and more rapid as we move through.”

    We don’t have representative democracy, we just have the swamp things doing Stalinism, not even pretending to be anything other than orctools of the Deep State.

    Again: While there’s an economic argument there’s also a zero emissions argument and what we do for the future. We need to make those decisions now with the technology we have but things will get better and more rapid as we move through.

    Things will get better as we become more purely commo.

    Comrades.

  16. Jannie

    Could be a problem with Google and Facebook, or any other Big Tech Corp designing a high tech democracy for the deplorables. Theres not a lot of trust around.

  17. Entropy

    While there’s an economic argument there’s also a zero emissions argument and what we do for the future. We need to make those decisions now with the technology we have but things will get better and more rapid as we move through.”

    I would normally and quite happily agree the north Grampians can do what they please, but if it involves sticking their dirty filthy grubby hands in my wallet, they can fuck right off.

  18. Nob

    John Constantine
    #3109074, posted on July 16, 2019 at 8:02 pm
    Their billion dollar bully pulpit abc reports: NEW PLAN TO MAKE WESTERN VICTORIA EMISSIONS FREE BY 2040 🌳🌞💨

    The Northern Grampians shire says a new plan to make western Victoria carbon-emission free by 2040, could provide significant economic and environmental benefits to the region.

    Think tank group Beyond Zero Emissions, has created Australia’s first regionally focused Roadmap to Zero Emissions, based on the Grampians, Ballarat, Central Highlands and Wimmera Southern Mallee.

    Northern Grampians shire’s chief executive Michael Bailey, says council will work with other local governments and organisations to help bring down emissions.

    “While there’s an economic argument there’s also a zero emissions argument and what we do for the future. We need to make those decisions now with the technology we have but things will get better and more rapid as we move through.”

    Since there is no economic argument, does this mean there is no zero emission argument either?

    Or is he using language in an exciting new way?

  19. John Constantine

    The unelected council operatives that get to tax capital to build empires do seem to enjoy squandering money in exciting new ways never seen before.

    Renewable magic taxpudding, Comrades.

  20. Rohan

    Blockchainocracy? Seriously?

    So we’re now going to be governed by hackers in Nigeria, China and (cough, cough), Russia. Simply brilliant.

    Why didn’t I think of it?

  21. Crossie

    Petros
    #3108945, posted on July 16, 2019 at 4:33 pm
    It all hinges on hoi polloi being well informed.

    It all hinges on hoi polloi being able to trust the technology and the current crop of technocrats tell us that is a pipe dream.

  22. Crossie

    These are not new ideas, most of them have already been proposed in Megatrends, written in the 80s. A lot of those long-ago proposed improvements were adopted and improved upon such as internet banking and shopping. People stick with a bank for security reasons and stability of their money.

    Voting is at times even more sensitive than where you park your money. Votes bring a parliament that bring laws that bring a government to execute the laws. If you can’t trust the technology owners not to interfere you don’t play. People keep forgetting one simple fact – human nature.

  23. egg_

    Isn’t the pull chain also a voting method?

  24. Terry

    So, democracy to be replaced by benevolent technocrats?

    What could possibly go wrong?

    This seems appropriate, in light of the cartoon.
    https://youtu.be/P4KBPaS-1PU?t=30

  25. Frank Walker from National Tiles

    Anyone trusting a politician more than their own purchasing decisions is gullible enough to believe that a blockchain can be easily “hacked”.

    Does anyone want to explain how to “hack” a blockchain? You can’t explain that for a reason. How are you going to make the proof of work records become hacked?

    Take XYO for example. The only way to cheat it is to absorb a cost higher than being honest.

    Of course, representative democracy is absurd, like a benevolent dictatorship.

    Most non-core functions of government ought to be privatised and blockchain will allow for honest, transparent and efficient management of title and the rights stemming from this.

    The idea that we still form governments to manage roads in suburban residential developments is truly 18th-century thinking.

  26. Frank Walker from National Tiles

    Crossie, Megatrends was fantastic. Dad had a copy and I read it as a kid and thought they were off their head.

    They were mostly right. Holy moley the predictions they made were eerily accurate and mind-blowing.

  27. Diogenes

    Does anyone want to explain how to “hack” a blockchain? You can’t explain that for a reason. How are you going to make the proof of work records become hacked?

    Frank,
    do some reading

    Once a transaction has already been sealed into a block and added to the Blockchain, changing it is close to impossible. Not only would it be necessary to reverse engineer the hashed block and make a change to the transaction data contained within but this would have to be done simultaneously over at least 51% of the copies of the ledger held on different nodes. This is why it is practically impossible to ‘hack’ a Blockchain. While it is not theoretically impossible to reverse engineer a hashed block, the number of permutations a processor would need to go through to do so is mind-boggling. This is even before taking into consideration that more than 51% of the nodes would also need to be hacked simultaneously and the new block inserted into each.

    https://www.bitrates.com/guides/blockchain/why-cannot-blockchain-be-hacked

    NOTE The above page is undated ….
    Now from Feb 19 this year …

    Early last month, the security team at Coinbase noticed something strange going on in Ethereum Classic, one of the cryptocurrencies people can buy and sell using Coinbase’s popular exchange platform. Its blockchain, the history of all its transactions, was under attack.

    An attacker had somehow gained control of more than half of the network’s computing power and was using it to rewrite the transaction history. That made it possible to spend the same cryptocurrency more than once—known as “double spends.” The attacker was spotted pulling this off to the tune of $1.1 million. Coinbase claims that no currency was actually stolen from any of its accounts. But a second popular exchange, Gate.io, has admitted it wasn’t so lucky, losing around $200,000 to the attacker (who, strangely, returned half of it days later).

    Just a year ago, this nightmare scenario was mostly theoretical. But the so-called 51% attack against Ethereum Classic was just the latest in a series of recent attacks on blockchains that have heightened the stakes for the nascent industry.

    https://www.technologyreview.com/s/612974/once-hailed-as-unhackable-blockchains-are-now-getting-hacked/

  28. Frank Walker from National Tiles

    So it is extremely rare and costly for the attacker.

    Which is what I said.

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