Everyone and their cousin has an opinion on what is broken with our politics and Government. Too many laws, too few, the wrong ones being enforced. We swing our political ideals, inherited from the murky past, above our heads like the battle axes of raging Vikings, hoping for change. For a better world.
Or some, it should be pointed out, just want to pillage this one.
And at the center of it all lies one precious idea. The sacred one at the heart of democracies, and the one that provides false legitimacy to totalitarian governments. The agency of the individual, recorded at lethargic intervals:
Because with the votes in your pocket, you can make change; your candidate wins, right? votes turn civic engagement into a zero-sum sporting event, with winners and losers. And we must win, for the sake of x, y, and especially z.
Is this a problem? Well consider: gerrymandering, apathy, the power of special interests to swing elections, jackass leadership, polling, compromise by foreign entities, Citizens United…the problems suggest that our current system isn’t an optimal solution, to say the least.
But what if we could build governments and organizations that did not need votes, because agency of citizens was continuous, the Government coalescing around those expressions of willpower like a video image forming from a stream of bytes?
Votes are discrete marks of will in time. Votes are letters we write every few years to our government. Most of them say “you suck, go change…but keep the people I know in office please!”
Votes are bad technology, practical in small groups to express community agency and absurdly unable to scale to hundreds of millions people.
But what if instead of this system of voting, a technology thousands of years old, we had a stream of willpower, constantly recorded and accessable for local, state and federal control? Instead of one data point, what if every living moment, every second, was a chance for evaluation. What if everything about your state of being flowed into this system to create a model of your self. Your words, interactions, dopamine levels, your heartbeat, the raw signals from your neurons?
Humans cannot calculate how to extract meaning from a stream of data like this, we can barely build systems to collect it. But computers can handle this kind of big data problem. The tools of Data Science and Machine Learning allow us to extract meaning from Byzantine streams of information, and conduct realtime experiments to optimize systems. To build a model of you, constantly adjusted and evaluated against the laws of the land. Wiping away politics, and leaving the land cleared for storytelling of a better world.
At the core of replacing the vote with something better is understanding that when you make a machine learning model of something, you can then query it, like you would a database. If you train a model, for instance, on pictures of dogs and then show it another picture of a dog, it could tell you with some percentage measure of confidence whether the new picture was a dog or not.
So if we built a sophisticated enough model of you, then the government, or companies, could query this model of you. And this model of you would not only represent your best interests and intentions, but would also act as a shield against unwanted intrusion. In other words, before someone could you show an ad, the model could negotiate how much it would cost to get through to your conscious Singleton. Because it’s time to stop giving our attention for free.
So instead of voting every so often, your model could be queried hundreds of times a second. And it would be constantly retrained by your own interactions and grooming of it. Also, we could eliminate the true horror of the modern world, polling, completely. Why try and aggregate opinion and guess when you can go directly to the humans who will be impacted by a law or decision?
This is what HAiL, the Human-AI Language, could enable. Not just new kinds of voting, but rather new forms of realtime self-governance based on a microservice of you. Not using AI to make decisions for us, but to enable us to reject the compromised forms of government we have been saddled with by the Enlightenment.
There will be many challenges to this system as it evolves, but to address one briefly: security. The most secure system you could imagine would be one that is entirely focused on modelling only you. This model of you will be the core of a new identity system, since it will be able to easily detect anything that isn’t perfectly you. I predict that anything other than confirmation of your model will eventually be seen as sub-par security. The implications for governments and corporations when identity is owned completely by individuals are profound, and I will explore them in detail in coming posts.
I have no sympathy for the Governments of the world, either the totalitarian or compromised democratic ones. They will go the way of the Brachiosaurus in time. But first we must evolve our new ecosystem of human interaction, which will require creating and owning a model of yourself. We need better types of corporations to do this, since Facebook, Twitter, etc have proven to be… compromised.
I am not suggesting to not vote, or to drop out, or to disengage in politics. You should engage whole-hog in these endeavors and get the wins for your positions you can. But realize that real change is coming, in twenty years or a hundred, and it will turn people’s votes into a stream of will, with the query as its basis instead of the vote.
And when it does, I will guess that politics will become hyperlocal, decentralized, and precise.
There is only one entity that is sacred, and it isn’t the vote.
Image from this GQ article on automatic voter registration.