[EM] Time of trouble - Premise 2

Michael Allan mike at zelea.com
Tue Mar 3 15:09:02 PST 2009

Juho Laatu wrote:
> There may be several IT systems and
> trust in one of them may not yet
> mean quorum at society level.
> Having several IT candidates may be
> a sufficient reason in general not
> to achieve quorum in any of them.
> You could either make the numerous
> alternative IT systems visible or
> assume that there will be one
> dominant IT system.

(So you still think?  But this is just one item in your list - see
> > ...  Are there any strong reverse mechanisms, or blocks, that
> > would be likely to prevent a quorum?
> - Having too many too uninteresting
>   elections
> - Having several competing IT systems
> - The opposite of novelty, getting
>   bored with the system
> - Involvement of party and other
>   plotting
> - Fights between individuals (e.g. on
>   whose proposal will be voted on)
> - Unclarity and fights on the results
>   achieved with th IT systems
> - Low quality of proposals and
>   discussions
> - Fears related to presenting one's
>   opinion in a public vote
> - Complexity of the system
> - Lack of time (maybe people use their
>   time and IT technology for other uses
>   like playing games and voting in
>   reality TV programs)
> - Lack of expertise (in many areas the
>   regular people are not experts and do
>   not want to start studying the topic
>   / proposed norm)

None of these seems a *probable* block.  Do you disagree?  Which seems

> > (I). Organized parties cannot endorse PD(o), if they wish to
> > survive.  Although a party might announce that the IT is
> > henceforth its official primary, and thus PD(o) its official
> > endorsement, there would be nothing to prevent another party from
> > doing the same.  In that event, there would be no distinguishing
> > the two.  It follows that a party must oppose PD(o) in principle,
> > or cease to exist.  (Is this true?)
> I was thinking of informal opinion
> polls whose results may or may not
> be followed later. The results of
> party level or society level
> primaries would thus not be binding
> but there could be other candidates
> too than "primary winners".
> Parties may still support the IT
> system and PD(o) and just work to
> promote their own candidates within
> that system (i.e. they need not
> cease to exist).

Assume single winner.  When you say "their own candidates", you imply
the party has a primary, the membership reaches a decision, and the
party endorses a particular candidate.

Meanwhile, there's a continuous cross-party primary going on.  We
already premise PD(o), in the question.  So we have a cross-party
primary with a quorum of voters.  Any decisive victory in the primary
will carry over into the general election - the winner being elected
to office.

You say the party is not opposed to PD(o).  So its members must be
simultaneously voting in the cross-party primary.  They are obedient
to the party (at least initially), and they vote for the candidate
that was officially endorsed.  Between the time of that endorsement,
and the general election, one of two things will happen.  The endorsed
candidate will either rise or fall in the subsequent voting.

No matter which, but consider: the party members are voting *twice*,
in two primaries (party and cross-party).  It will be natural for them
to wish to economize, and to reduce this to a single vote, in a single
primary.  If we follow this line of reasoning, which the fact of PD(o)
opens up, then I believe we'll have to conclude that party primaries
are in danger of extinction.  What would happen then, to the parties?

> > > ... One can interpret "->" ...
> > 
> > "Probable" is intended.  You may counter by saying "improbable".
> > We then compare reasons.  The overall argument is probable DD.
> The chain of arrows is long, each
> step may not be 100% solid logical
> consequence, and corruption may
> sneak in at all the steps.
> Therefore also the end result (DD)
> may be just approximate or just a
> tendency (that the available IT
> technology supports but does not
> guarantee and does not make
> perfect).
> So, I agree that IT (in general)
> has some tendency to make the
> society more DD like. It is also
> possible that people get
> disappointed after trying to push
> the society in that direction for
> a while. But that doesn't mean
> that the potential would not
> exist.

Agreed.  It needs to be better grounded.  Hopefully we code the IT,
and get some facts.

> > One measure is mean C/C'.  For RD, it is probably close to zero.
> > For DD, it should be near to 1.
> What makes the ability of one
> of the millions of citizens to
> influence so strong in the IT
> system? I'm sure there will be
> competition also in the new
> system, just like there are
> problems in the old system to
> make the politicians approve
> what one individual proposes
> to some of them.

I think the crucial thing is visibility of assent.  In RD, a typical
person's assent - agreement to one course of action, over another - is
not visible to other people.  The IT would make it visible.
> > (2) Review.  For each law that exists in the statute books of the
> > state, what is the level of consensus among the people?  Likewise
> > for each plan that is executed by the state?  Likewise for each
> > policy that is followed?
> > 
> > One measure is n(c)/n, where n(c) is the number of consensus
> > norms, and n is the total number of norms.  For RD, the quantity
> > is unknown.  It is certainly close to zero.  For a mature DD, it
> > should be close to 1.
> In a RD the quantity may be very
> different in different societies,
> and may also depend heavily on
> when and how you ask.
> In some societies people may think
> that the norms have been agreed
> jointly and are worth defending
> them and in other societies people
> may feel that they were set by
> others to support interests that
> are not their interests.

In other words, acceptance of positive law, as being legitimate, would
skew the measure and make RD look like DD.  So we might worry the
measure is unfair to DD.

However, measurement would amount to a full review of the law, because
we can only obtain n(c) by employing the voting IT, and turning it on
the existing law.  Once thematized in this process of review, the law
would lose its mantra of fact, and be judged as just another proposal
(status quo) among a variety of alternative revisions.  The value n(c)
would slowly emerge from the voting process.  So I think it would be
fair to DD.

> I note that one reason why countries
> have decided to use RD instead of
> DD (in its regular meaning) is that
> in some cases the representatives
> may know better what norms are good
> than regular people. DD may also
> mean more populism.

(This would come under the topic of possible dangers, given DD.)

> > (III).  Assume a business firm, like Google, wins the IT toss.  It
> > then monetizes the user interface with advertisements, in an
> > attempt to recoup its capital investment, and turn a profit.  The
> > users respond to this by voting up a consensus resolution: "No
> > more ads, please".  How could the firm respond?
> Difficult to say. They might say that
> voters can not decide on behalf of
> private companies. If Google would
> not follow the advice it could lose
> popularity. If voters would try to
> influence the internal matters of
> several enterprises that could lead
> to thinking that it is not right to
> try to influence independent companies
> (or e.g. decisions of private people)
> using public IT systems.

The latter point can be agreed for practical reasons.  The public
decisions of the voters (PD) can easily be ignored, when the voters
have no power to act.  In the case of DD, they crucially act in the RD
general elections - OR(f) in eqn b.1.  Because of this, the PD that
matters to the politician is that of her *consituents*.  (She can
safely ignore all other PD.)

In the case of Google, the equivalent power to act is the ability of
the voters to deliberately *stop* using Google's voting IT, and switch
to another.  The IT itself gives them the ability to coordinate.  (And
this is an ability that Google's competitors will be keen to
facilitate, wherever possible.)  So the PD that matters to a business
firm is the PD of its *customers*.  (It can safely ignore all other

(More on the scenario, here:

  GoogleVotes monopoly vs. JoeVotes ecosystem

> Public IT systems could make campaigns
> against companies with unwanted
> behaviour more efficient than they are
> today since distribution of the idea
> would be more efficient.

(This is a big topic.  What are the effects of PD in non-political
 spheres, such as in the economy, and in culture?  Translated into
 these spheres, what are the equivalents of DD?)
> > Here you diverge from the ideal?  IT(p,c) is rather strong.  It
> > says, to paraphrase it:
> >
> >   IT(p) Anyone can raise a new issue (class of candidates), or an
> >   option of that issue (instance of candidate)
> > 
> >   IT(c) If society has the potential of consensus on the issue,
> >   then actual consensus will be expressed - without suppression of
> >   dissent
> One problem with IT(p,C) is that there
> may be millions of issues to decide. In
> this situation the chairman or whoever has
> the control may influence on which issues
> reach the consensus forming level, or to
> keep people in the sate of confusion.
> One way to keep the issue space nice and
> small would be to focus on voting on issues
> that already are on the table in the RD
> entities (e.g. seats to fill, law proposals
> to approve). But this doesn't cover the (p)
> part.
> Maybe there should be a special mechanism
> that would raise the status of individual
> initiatives that are interesting to many so
> that eventually they reach also the
> attention of those voters that do not
> follow all the hundreds of initiatives.
> Also in this case the final initiative that
> makes the issue popular could come from the
> media, chairman, party etc. instead of the
> individual that made the initial proposal.

Assume IT(c=delegate cascade), and there are no such problems.
Ideally, people can delegate their initial votes with zero effort -
automating them.  So there can be an automatic quorum.  This is OK.

If a consensus is possible, it will be hammered out by a relatively
few voters and delegates, those who are most interested or most expert
in the topic.  If a consensus emerges, it will be news.  As such, it
will mobilize the interest of a much wider set of voters and
delegates, and thus attract their scrutiny.  If it nevertheless holds,
it will then become even more newsworthy, and attract even more
attention.  And so on...  So consensus can form naturally and
independent of authority - a purely unforced consensus.  The voting IT
and the public sphere are sufficient for vetting and publicizing the
issues.  Mediation by authorities is probably not needed.
> We can compare the new system also to the
> current system with free speech, polls,
> letters to the editor, discussion lists in
> the Internet etc. It is not too easy to say
> what the crucial new thing that makes the
> difference is. Maybe the emergence of a
> global (or nationally) dominant easy to use
> and well organized IT system would make a
> difference?

I think the crucial thing is the public awareness (and self-awareness)
that comes of formal assent.  Everything hinges on the voting method.
If we give people a method that's as natural and ubiquitous as
speaking, then, like speech, it is a social medium.  But the running
sum of individual votes in this medium amounts to a willfully
sustained and self-moderated consensus (or dissensus).  In other
words, it amounts to the deliberate voice of a people.

(I don't know if a people ever raised such a voice, before.  I don't
 know if it spoke for good or ill.)

Michael Allan

Toronto, 647-436-4521

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