Blueprint for a Future Polity

Preamble

Nobody can predict the future with certainty, however systems of government and social organization remain static, considered as philosophies such as Autocracy, Representative Democracy etc., even though their details may vary considerably both between implementations and over time. The rapid and exponentially accelerating progress in science and technology do now and will in the future make many current, even modern, institutions and mechanisms seem ridiculously unwieldy and old-fashioned. This is one of the reasons why young people often seem alienated from political systems that to their eyes bear no relation to the way the world now works. This is an attempt to put forward some suggestions as to the way in which a future polity may be organized so as to cater for the social upheavals that will occur as we move into an era of material abundance [1] where neither work directly for subsistence or work for money to provide subsistence and comfort are the prevailing paradigms.

Certain advances are assumed, all are currently feasible with current technology, or confidently predicted given the current state and current rate of development. These are:

  • The (independent) existence of AGIs (Artificial General Intelligence) comparable to and in many situations exceeding the intelligence of a human being.
  • Abundant, very cheap energy from sources such as nuclear fusion (very close now) and orbital solar energy collection (technically possible now).
  • Sufficient food to feed everybody using genetic modification (available now) and 3d printing (experimentally available now).
  • Improved health and lifespan using drugs, organ replacement, regrowth and nanobots (mostly experimentally available now).
  • Construction of material goods as required using nanotechnology and 3d printing (experimentally available now).
  • Universal, secure, fast and personal access to information and computer power through the internet using mobile devices carried or worn (available now) or by implant with direct connection to the brain and nervous system (experimentally possible now, though at an early stage).

Some ideas are similar to those put forward by the proponents of Social Futurism[3].

Constitution

A constitution is where the rights and responsibilities of citizens are set out. It should be short so that details may be inferred from the major principles according to the current norms of the society. It should be understandable so that any reasonably intelligent being can interrogate it and understand the answer. It should be flexible as even the major principles may change with time and particularly important details may be elevated to a premise rather than a consequence. Changes however should be rare and require substantial amount of support as well as expert approval.

The constitution shall exist as the core programming of a dedicated AGI (Artificial General Intelligence) whose purpose will be to interpret the constitution as required, with the assistance of a committee of the current government. It will gather information as to the state of the polity and the prevailing philosophies of its citizens which it will use to assist in its interpretations. It may suggest amendments, but it may not amend itself without the approval of the citizenry in a plebiscite.

The Fundamental Right

Every citizen has the right to continue in their present condition, or seek to improve their condition.

Corollaries

  1. Deliberate actions to adversely affect a citizen’s fundamental right are crimes.
  2. Actions that cause avoidable adverse effects on a citizen’s fundamental right will be a crime or misdemeanour according to the nature of the offense.
  3. Necessary actions that incidentally adversely affect a citizen’s fundamental right may be subject to review to determine whether there are alternatives.
  4. All cases where a citizen’s fundamental right is adversely affected must be recompensed at a level determined independently.
  5. Every citizen has a right to life, liberty, health, material comfort, education and the basic necessities such as energy, food and water. If they cannot provide them for themselves then the state has a duty to provide them. Without them a citizen’s condition would necessarily deteriorate and therefore their fundamental right be adversely affected.
  6. The State does not have any right to interfere in or dictate the way that a citizen chooses to live their life, except in so far as it adversely affects the fundamental right of other citizens.

The State

The State will be defined by a geographical area and a philosophy. Citizenship is determined by one or both of the following:

  1. Maintaining a primary, permanent residence within the defined geographical area.
  2. Acceptance of the Constitution and its current interpretations and consequences.

Reasoning beings may become citizens either by being born within the geographical area (Residential Citizens) or by passing a test, administered by the Constitution AGI, and public acknowledgement of their acceptance of the Constitution (Constitutional Citizens), followed by a probationary period. Full citizens are those satisfying both criteria; residents would normally satisfy their acceptance of the Constitution as part of the educational process. Children of residential citizens have automatic residential citizenship. The children of nonresidential citizens will have certain rights because of their association with their citizen parent(s); they do not automatically qualify for citizen status. Residential citizens moving between different parts of the geographical area maintain their residential citizen status. People moving into the area from outside, whether constitutional citizens or not will become residential citizens after a period of time, provided that they maintain a residence within the area and live there most of the time. The two citizen concepts are completely orthogonal, being a citizen of one kind in no way affects qualification as a citizen of the other kind.

The geographical area need not be contiguous but may be composed of communities with powers of self-governance known as VDP States, where VDP stands for “Virtual, Distributed, Parallel.”[2]

The rights and responsibilities of citizens according to the constitution will differ according to their citizenry status, for example:

  • Only Constitutional citizens may participate in government selection and plebiscites.
  • Only Residential citizens benefit from the infrastructure and participate in the care of the local environment.
  • All citizens pay taxes, non-residential citizens may pay reduced taxes for the upkeep of the environment and infrastructure, on the basis that they will pay those taxes at the point where they do reside; they will however pay taxes relating to the maintenance of the government and the constitution. Residential but non-constitutional citizens will pay full taxes as they receive most of the benefits provided by the state.
  • All constitutional citizens must maintain an internet connection to the Constitutional AGI, or one of its satellites in order to participate in elections and plebiscites, and to receive important information.

Any citizen has the right to cease constitutional citizenship at any time; readmittance may not be automatic, even if they pass the test again.

The state has the right to suspend or remove constitutional citizenship from offenders, subject to due procedures set out in or consequent from the constitution, and international law.

Federations and Regions

States may be a small, homogeneous group, or large containing any number of such groups, provided that they have a common cause and a reason for common governance. Each homogeneous region may be considered a state in its right, and groups may join a federal state, which may itself then join a higher federation. Each state at whatever level will have the same organization and constitution, though with minor regional amendments.

The Principle of Subsidiarity

Decisions must be made, and actions taken, at the lowest possible relevant level in the state hierarchy. Relevance is determined by considering the scope of the significant effects of the decision or action and only considering levels of the hierarchy that include all those affected.

Corollary: The lowest possible level of the hierarchy is the individual. Any decisions or actions that only significantly affect the individual must be made by the individual, or their nominated representative (e.g. parent). The state may only take such decisions where the individual is unable to make decisions through incapacity and has no nominated representative.

Governance

There will be the usual three branches: executive, legislative and judicial. Each will be managed by an AGI supported by a committee of experts and satellite, specialist AGIs, and under the oversight of the elected representatives and the totality of constitutional citizens. While actual government remains in the hands of human beings, most of the administration and day to day running will be performed by AGIs with oversight by government committees and they will be subject to oversight by the people. This is to ensure openness and transparency and to ensure that that justice and the good of all is not compromised by political expediency and active pressure groups.

Plebiscites

All constitutional citizens are expected to take a part in government. There will be no coercion, though the record of activity may be relevant in certain exceptional circumstances. Plebiscites will be held when:

  • The representatives fail to agree;
  • A substantial minority of the representatives (e.g. 25%) request one;
  • A substantial proportion (e.g. 20%) of the constitutional citizenry request one;
  • For any constitutional change.

Each plebiscite will be held online and will consist of three phases:

  1. The Information Phase, all constitutional citizens will be informed of the plebiscite and all relevant information made available for study;
  2. The Registration Phase, after a suitable time for study, all constitutional citizens wishing to vote will register their interest and undergo a short test, administered by an AGI, to demonstrate a basic understanding of the subject matter;
  3. The Voting Phase, a short period during which all registered voters cast their vote.

It is expected that this process will last in the region of seven to ten days.

Representation

There are five houses within the Parliament, each with 128 members. Unless otherwise stated election is for a term of 5 years, with a maximum of two terms for any individual.

The Judicial Branch

House of Justice

This is the judicial branch of the government. It is elected from within the legal professions, including police, prison officers and probation officers. It handles legal appointments. It has the responsibility for setting sentencing guidelines and maintaining consistency. It acts as the supreme court. It is formed by representatives elected by and from the legal profession. It is subject to oversight from, and it is expected to consult with the other houses.

The Executive Branch

House of Philosophers:

These are representatives of major political philosophies elected using proportional representation from the entire constitutional citizenry. They are the closest to a modern political party. Each political philosophy must issue a clear manifesto, and a plebiscite will be needed in order to amend that manifesto after election. A philosophy, needs 5% of the vote in order to get seats. The proponents of a philosophy propose a team from within its ranks before the election. After that election that team, or a coalition, form the Executive branch of the government.

The Legislative Branch

House of Experts

These are representatives from expert societies that represent the various professions and specialities, for example IT, Medicine and Engineering. The term here is for two years since it is expected that members will have careers in their respective fields. The task of this house is to oversee all legislation before it is passed to ensure that it reflects what is possible and achievable.

House of People

These are selected from all eligible citizens by lottery, the term is 1 year. All adult citizens that are not members of another House, and who have reached a minimum educational standard, are eligible unless they are prevented from attending meetings by illness, incarceration, or by jobs where substitution is not possible.

House of Regions

The state, assuming it is large enough, is split into regions of roughly equal size. Homogeneity is more important than exact equality in population. Each may have their own parliament but also elect, by proportional representation, a number of representatives to the higher parliament based on their percentage of total population.

Legislation

Legislation must pass all three houses within the Legislative Branch. The houses of the other two branches may veto legislation, in which case it goes to a plebiscite. If legislation fails to pass in all three houses of the Legislative Branch, but has substantial support both there and within the other houses then a plebiscite may be requested. All Citizens have the right to propose legislation, and should they gain enough support it must be considered by the parliament and may be the subject of a plebiscite even without sufficient parliamentary support.

Crime and Punishment

Many citizens will access the internet by means of implants. These will have the ability to directly monitor both the physical and psychological state of an individual. Under normal conditions information obtained this way is completely private. Anyone convicted of a sufficiently serious offence must have an implant and, under control of a court, access allowed by legally entitled people to some of the available data. Monitoring will be performed and access protected by an AGI. After completion of a sentence the monitoring will be turned off and complete privacy restored. Second and subsequent offences necessitate longer periods of monitoring. There may be a three-strike rule so that after a third offence the monitor will always be active. The purpose of the monitoring is to detect antisocial and criminal behaviour before or at worst immediately when it occurs. The AGI must ensure that even the worst criminals maintain privacy when engaged in normal activities. Attempts to bypass the AGI to gain information for any other reason, for example commercial gain, will itself be a serious offence.

Most offenders will, it is hoped, be deterred by a technology that makes it very likely that they will be caught. It should also help determine those who are ill, for example drug addicts, or those with some psychological weakness that others could use to manipulate them. Incarceration should be reserved for the very worst cases, not necessarily those who commit the worst offences, but those predators who have no conception of the rights of other people to be free from their depredations. It should be a major goal of technology to be able to detect these people at the earliest possible opportunity and, if no remedy is possible, to remove them from society in order to safeguard others. They must of course be due respect to the basic human right, so even the worst predators must have the right to rehabilitate themselves, so treatment, education and jobs must be available. However if someone is dangerous enough to warrant removal from society then they must demonstrate beyond reasonable doubt that they are safe before they can return.

Education

Education must be central to the concept of the state. In a world which is not dominated by the need to have a job to provide for self and family, the quest for knowledge and understanding for its own sake will have a vital role. All educational material will be provided by online courses. For children the primary responsibility will lie with parents, however the state will provide mentors, and premises in which they can work to help guide children and parents through the courses and provide basic social skills and physical exercise. The education of children is held to be the responsibility of everyone, and everyone may contribute subject to security safeguards. Universities will be provided to do advanced research and as centers for informed debate and the initial development of ideas. The universities will provide most of the online courses, but anyone will be free to present a course if they demonstrate reasonable competence and their material is generally of acceptable standard. Anyone is free to take any course, universities may provide tests of competence and award qualifications as they see fit.

Conclusion

This is a world of plenty. It may seem utopian but it is possible and many think even likely. Abundant power and the use of genetic engineering, nanotechnology and 3d printing provide enough food and material goods to satisfy everyone’s basic needs. The problems of such a society are to avoid stagnation and sinking into a morass of hedonistic excess. There has to be stimulation to ensure that people lead satisfied lives and maintain an interest in progress and expansion. There has to be some form of consumerism to provide a focus for developing new ideas and products. It will be a different world but hopefully an interesting one.

[1] Abundance: The Future Is Better Than You Think by Peter H. Diamandis and Steven Kotler, The Free Press 2012, http://www.abundancethebook.com/

[2] Liberal Democracy, The Third Way, & Social Futurism by Amon Twyman, http://ieet.org/index.php/IEET/more/twyman20140719

[3] What is Social Futurism http://wavism.net/principles/what-is-social-futurism/