5 pending house bills that could break Big Tech
Despite our best intentions to be active and informed citizens in democratic practices, not everyone has the time, figuring out how to engage can be confusing, and representatives don’t always vote the way you want them to. Plus, the confidence in Congress is hilarious / depressing with all the scandals and thinly veiled corporate interests.
Well hurray for the future, because now we have blockchain technology to propel us out of the murky waters of representative democracy and into a more efficient liquid democracy.
A liquid democracy platform, also known as delegative democracy, asks voters to choose a personal representative as proxy for their vote. In our current setup, elected officials vote for things on your behalf, and the best you can do other than introduce yourself is call them up and ask them to vote your way.
In a liquid democracy, everyone votes on every bill.
You can designate a delegate to vote on your behalf by proxy when you are not available. Personal representatives can be dismissed and reassigned at any time, contrary to the conditions set for elected officials.
The delegate can even select a proxy for their votes, creating a directed network graph, where voters and politicians are connected on a publicly verified blockchain. Anyone can be selected as a delegate as long as they are a legal resident of your jurisdiction registered to vote.
Quick Reminder Course: Blockchain is essentially a decentralized digital list of records with timestamps and transaction data information. Each individual record is considered a cryptographically secure block that is resistant to modification.
Blocks contain a cryptographic hash of the previous block, creating a chain. Once saved, the data cannot be changed without the consent of the majority of the network. As a peer-to-peer open and distributed ledger, blockchain is a permanent and efficient way to record transactions.
Used by Satoshi Nakamoto in 2008 for the cryptocurrency exchange to create Bitcoin, blockchain has now spread to healthcare, banking, and now potentially democratic practices.
David Ernst, one of the leaders of the movement for liquid democracy, founded United.vote, a platform created to start the movement. The site helps connect voters with personal representatives and provides a scorecard that compares votes of elected politicians to voters’ wishes.
“What if instead of centralizing authority in the hands of a few strong men, we extend political power to many, many more voices,” Ernst suggested at the CyFy 2017 conference.
His plan to expand power is liquid democracy through the United.vote platform, which he notes is backward compatible with our current system. Ernst is also running as an independent candidate for California Assembly District 19.
It was partly inspired by the Flux Party’s 2016 campaign in Australia, which attempted to implement problem-based direct democracy, similar to liquid democracy. Although the party only got 0.15% of the vote nationwide, Ernst is sticking to the idea.
A liquid democracy via blockchain would theoretically increase accountability, participation and representation.
Thanks to direct participation and personal representation, elections would no longer be necessary.
Instead, voters simply choose someone to represent them and can select a different person for individual issues. Delegation can be changed at any time, so you’re not stuck with someone if they end up being a total weasel.
So far, only a little over a thousand people have registered on United.vote, but Ernst said: “If I was elected, but only 20 people actually used [the platform], I would continue to follow these people.
While the concept may be ahead of its time (and perhaps a utopian dream), Ernst is convinced that these changes can fix democracy.
This editorial was first published here in February 2018.