O ur time is characterized by a high amount of digital surveillance. As the world progresses (as time passes since the digital revolution) more and more of our private information is collected and stored in endless data farms and are then used by corporations and governments to manipulate our perception.
It seems that there is no other way of coping with this problem than slowing down the process of giving up our last “private” information and pushing governments to control private companies and private companies and media to control governments.
In this landscape, new ideas start to grow; ideas about how we could organize ourselves as a society in radically new ways.
One of the most appealing is called liquid democracy.
This idea is based on combining two types of democratic governance which we know from our everyday life: direct and representative democracy. Let’s take a look at them.
Direct Democracy is a type of governance, where all members of the community decide/vote on every aspect of their structure.
This kind of democracy has an unquestionable value — each member of the community has a palpable impact on the shape of the organization.
However, it also has a rooted problem — scale. This solution seems great for small communities, but when a community grows… their problems also grow. The number of decisions increases and they become more complex; members of the community need time to do research and make their choices, then, the votes need to be collected. It is easy to imagine, how the voting process can become very lengthy and hard to manage.
This is the reason why Representative Democracy emerged and became very common in many parts of the world. In this model, voters choose their leaders and trust them to be committed to make research and decide accordingly.
Unfortunately, representative democracy has problems as well.
The competences of a single representative are limited, the process of changing the representatives when they misrepresent citizens or don’t keep promises is complicated, not to mention the ever-present problem of corruption.
Lastly, the time and efforts saved (by designating leaders), in comparison to direct democracy, seem to be used for campaigning, raising funds, political games, and battling for power instead of conducting research and working on new solutions for the merit of community.
Liquid Democracy combines those two types of governance in an elegant manner, it can, however, take many different forms to do that.
Each participant has a possibility to vote on every single problem in the debate. But if she or he feels that there is a more competent person to decide on a particular matter, it is possible to delegate a vote to a representative. Those representatives can delegate combined votes even further. Each member of the community can hand over their vote just for single polling or else for a specified time. The delegates could also be chosen according to particular areas of specialization.
This is how liquid democracy promotes the rise of a specialized expert over omnipotent — but probably much less informed — politician. Thanks to the diversification of votes, according to different fields (thematic blocks), citizens could be represented accordingly to their unique set of beliefs.
This solution is not feasible in our (expensive) voting infrastructure where voting is still conducted with pen and paper, counting votes, verifying citizens, campaigning, etc.
However, this model could successfully exist in a digitalized society, where the cost of adding a question to citizens is close to zero.
Those virtual systems could have yet another quality — transparency, and verifiability.
This kind of government organization can take the shape of a diversified board of directors — which could be combined with crowd-investment or could be used in a social and political context.
Wisdom of the crowd
If we take a large group of people and ask them any question involving quantity estimation, general world knowledge, or spatial reasoning, accumulate those answers and average them out, the collective answer would generally be as good as, and often better than the answer given by any individual within a group.
An explanation for this phenomenon is that there is idiosyncratic noise associated with each individual judgment, and taking the average over a large number of responses will go some way toward cancelling the effect of this noise.
The classic wisdom-of-the-crowds finding involves point estimation of a continuous quantity. At a 1906 country fair in Plymouth, 800 people participated in a contest to estimate the weight of a slaughtered and dressed ox. Statistician Francis Galton observed that the median guess, 1207 pounds, was accurate within 1% of the true weight of 1198 pounds. This has contributed to the insight in cognitive science that a crowd’s individual judgments can be modelled as a probability distribution of responses with the median centred near the true value of the quantity to be estimated.
We can observe interest in this type of project management in many cryptocurrency networks and teams of forward-looking entrepreneurs. Elon Musk declared that this will be the type of governance on Mars. In politics, all it needs is for one party to use liquid democracy to find out what is the will of the citizens and to employ the representatives in Parlament only to delegate the will of the people.