While researching my book “Information Age of Abundance”, an idea kept resurfacing within the Anatha team, around something called “Fluid Democracy”.
The concept of fluid democracy (sometimes called liquid democracy) is a natural extension of my research and musings on how to build a better social media environment, one that creates more favorable outcomes for society in general, specifically around a distributed autonomous version of an information-based identity.
Your unique, portable and persistent digital identity
Imagine if you will, if your favorite social media account was also your official, legal registration and ID for the economic system you resided in. We can of course assume a much more rigorous, distributed, layered account security approach if we were to go this route, but simply for the sake of argument let’s assume, we at least can marginally trust this system with our personal information and to store a portion of our wealth. (This will of course take time for people to get used to, but in some ways it’s not too far off what we already accept with electronic banking and our existing social media usage).
Imagine also if via this official portal you were able to perform all of your usual financial and administrative functions:
- Send and receive money seamlessly
- Convert currencies, purchase and sell assets
- Track economic data, output reports
- Manage your personal data and documents
- Communicate with other users
- Generally run your information-age life, from any device, anywhere in the world…
No geographic constraints, no third-party controls, just total, independent interaction with — and concomitant responsibility for — your digital life.
Imagine your inclusion in this system is what allowed you to get access to work, generate wealth, network with other economic actors, build businesses, make friends… all the things you already use the internet for — but instead of using third party products, the system you were using wasn’t owned by anyone outright, instead it was collectively owned by every user in the system.
To demonstrate this, further imagine that this system paid out every user, every 24 hours, all (or most) of its economic activity to its user base. That every user had a genuine stake in the holistic system — your growth and success was inextricably and proportionally linked to the success of the ecosystem as a whole.
However, this system still has rules that can adapt and change in real time.
Imagine, if you as an end user got to have a say in how every aspect of this system functioned. For example, imagine every user decided that it wanted 50% of the entire economy’s inflation and distribution to go towards clearing and cleaning up the Pacific Ocean’s plastic gyre until such time that it was no longer necessary? Imagine you could vote via a smart device on exactly that happening, in a meaningful immediate way, and you can start to get an idea as to the transformational power and adaptability such a system might have.
Of course, you may or may not want to stay abreast of every little on-going occurrence in your environment, in fact you might risk information overload even attempting the task. Wouldn’t it be better to assign your voting power to an individual you trust, or perhaps even a team that works around the clock on the issues that matter most to you? Can you imagine delegating a data-driven, scientific team or think-tank that you find insightful to make the choice for you? Imagine your vote also assured them proper funding to continue operating, and imagine that all of your support could be removed at any time from any delegate or team as they were voting on issues that mattered to you.
The ability to withdrawal your vote and support from a representative in real time before their vote has even been counted on the matter, is what makes this system “fluid” or “liquid”.
The ability to disempower those who misrepresent, lie, or simply no longer align with us as a society is paramount to building a more efficient and accurately representative government. Without the specific ability to withdraw our vote from representatives *before* they divert from your shared perspective, we will be forever mired in manipulative tactics by professional politicians who need only win us over during campaign time, and can easily then backtrack on promises after the fact with little to no consequence.
Now all of this might seem like a bit of a stretch… except for the fact similar systems already exist, and have been in successful use for years.
Delegated Proof of Stake (DPoS)
The delegation systems used by “Delegated Proof of Stake” (DPoS) networks, while far from perfect, are a clear example of how such a system might work.
By achieving consensus through a series of delegates that network participants vote on in real-time, a network can effectively function as a reliable trust network, as evidenced by the multiple, multi-billion dollar DPoS projects that exist today. Developed by Dan Larimer of Steemit — more recently EOS — fame, DPoS systems involve the election of witnesses and delegates in a transparent and accountable network, where incentives are aligned around fair governance by the whole without the energy requirements of traditional “Proof of Work” consensus.
While in use on growing numbers of active and successful blockchain projects, DPoS networks are far from perfected at this point. Their evolution is a work in progress, and they do present some risks. They are theoretically prone to manipulation by cartels, which could dominate and control the system outright. To minimize this risk over the long term we could force the network to check-in and interoperate with other networks (for example the Bitcoin blockchain), while allowing the user-base to migrate to another network should the need arise.
The back-end network that enables a fluid democracy isn’t the real issue, getting the interfaces to work well enough to onboard a global audience on the other hand, is where the real challenge lies.
Unevenly distributed yes, but the future is inevitable
That being said, the future doesn’t show up for everyone at the same time.
While I have lived inside and interacted with these types of networks for some time, there is still a great deal of work to do — most notably on the interfaces and feature-sets the end user applications provide — before we can truly start envisioning what it might be like to power our lives in this way. To power our society — our governments and our economies — via distributed autonomous systems that act as impartial third parties who are also unwavering, incorruptible, and without internal motivation, remains the end goal toward which we are working long-term.
It is indeed a long-term vision.
The process began when we transformed our communications and media into information-aged systems. Next, we must transform our financial tools, our economic ecosystems, and lastly how we organize around a social contract together.
We like to think we live in the information age, but in truth that transition has just started and there is much work to do. It is not a reality for most of the global population in 2019. Our economic and regulatory entities are still very much mired in the 2nd industrial revolution, so until we can also make those as open-source, open-access, and global as the internet, we can’t really claim to live in the information age — not by any meaningful definition of what that could potentially do for us both individually and as a species.
As always it starts with the end user.
The systems of the future will be built to match their interests specifically, because they will be the ones building it. Remember that the next time a member of the boomer generation tells you this industry is all a scam or a waste of time. No matter how successful they were during the last age of man, their information and cultural awareness is simply outdated. Anyone without the imagination and the vision to grasp the potential of the new paradigm will be left behind by it.
The new systems seem like a waste of time to them because it wasn’t built for them.
The new global information ecosystem will mirror a new generation of ideas and just as importantly will offer a real opportunity to abandon all of the mistakes (and debts) of the old systems.
At Anatha we believe this to be so inevitable and important that we are dedicating 100% of our resources to making it a reality.
Stay tuned to see exactly how we do it.