dGov on Clubhouse: A Quick Review of Decentralized Governance, Taiwan, and Collective Intelligence
I had a pretty powerful experience yesterday. I had Divya Siddarth of RadicalXChange in a Decentralized Governance room on Clubhouse, an invite-only, conversation-only audio app that has recently seen explosive growth. I have been blown away by the sheer volume of incredible changemakers from such a wide variety of efforts, from local to governmental and even supernational.
Divya was recounting the highlights of her recent article Taiwan: Digital Democracy That Works on the incredible use of decentralized intelligence by Taiwan to, among other things, have the best Covid response in the world. Within a few minutes, an incredible array of thinkers, changemakers, entrepreneurs, authors, VCs, academics, activists, and artists joined and though Divya could only stay for the better part of an hour, the whole event lasted more than five. Too many powerful ideas were shared to write a full article on it, but would be a shame for them to just disappear into the ether, too. A bullet list highlight is a manageable enough commitment:
Background: decentralized governance is a general term for group decision making — governing collectively rather than hierarchically.
- Best covid response because they built “robust socio-technical, cooperatively owned systems that involve, learn from, and help the many.”
- Used Pol.is, a machine-learning powered system for listening to a wide range of people.
- Pol.is lets you share short (<140 characters) text statements that are semi-randomly sent to others to vote on with one of three options — agree, disagree or pass; because unlike most social media, you cannot respond, it successfully avoided the trap of polarization.
- Many more highlights. If you don’t have time to read Divya’s full article, she did an excellent breakdown in a Twitter thread, here.
We discussed quadratic voting, a novel mechanism people more effectively expressing their will democratically:
- Rather than one person, one vote, which inevitably leads to the tyranny of the majority — the majority will always win, even if they don’t care that much and even if the minority cares immensely. Moreover, typical voting is to decide on one leader to make all decisions for you for four years. Pia Mancini of DemocracyOS’ TEDTalk came up, her quote “We are 21st century citizens doing our very best to interact with 19th-century designed institutions that are based on 15th century information technology.” Voting every four years made sense hundreds of years ago when the pace of change was so slow. It’s no longer appropriate.
- Instead of voting for one person to make all decisions for you, imagine you could vote on ten different issues and were given a hundred credits to express your preferences. That would more fairly represent your wishes than someone else making all of those decisions for you. The problem with the credit model is that if you put all ten of your votes on one issue, you could overweight it. Instead, quadratic voting only counts the square root of the number of votes you add. You can express that you care only about one issue, but you would only be able to add a little over three votes in this example.
- Where this is notably used is GitHub, which creates a matching fund — $100,000 for example — that it will distribute to one of a few projects, based on to which ones people choose to donate money. The project that gets the greatest amount of the matching fund isn’t the one that gets the most amount of money from individuals. It’s the one who gets money from the most individuals.*
This was my quick, weary explanation. See Glen Weyl, co-founder of RadicalXChange and author of Radical Markets’ explanation here and his co-founder, Ethereum founder Vitalik Buterin’s explanation here.
- We discussed the need to use these tools to empower and unite disenfranchised and marginalized communities as much as use them to create a new visions of a better world.
- We discussed using them on the small scale for groups and even co-working squads.
- While some felt that the conversation itself was doing good by simply occurring as it opened the minds of those participating, which would inevitably ripple out, others more seasoned said these conversations have been going on for fifty years and not much has changed.
- There was pushback that that may be true, but there is a newfound capacity for ideas to spread in the internet age.
- We discussed power at length, including its affect on the individual; this was paired with a discussion of private interest.
- We talked about positive examples like the Nordic countries and South Korea, but it was pointed out that those are homogenous nations.
- The homogeneity point was pushed back against, saying that current democratic mechanisms are designed to listen to and represent the will of the people and that these tools only do that better.
- We discussed crypto not as a breakthrough in economics, but as a breakthrough in crafting society.
- We discussed that people’s ability to engage civically is hamstrung by their “time poverty.”
- We discussed the impact of culture, paradigm, and memes — idea viruses — as well as “mimetic design” — taking an active approach to crafting a meme, a way of thinking or seeing things that can spread virally.
- This, of course, could not be coercive — it would have to be so inspiring and compelling that it spread on its own.
- We talked about indigenous cultures’ methods of using collective intelligence and decentralized governance.
- We talked about the need for broader education, better incentive structures, and heightened leadership.
- We talked about how Colorado was testing quadratic voting in some capacity with the help of RadicalXChange.
- We talked about how RXC is actively seeking to work with more governments to test and incorporate these amazing mechanisms
Some asked if there were any downsides or flaws in these new decentralized governance mechanisms
- Collusion was brought up. If people work together to game the system collectively, they can influence it.
We’ll be doing it again Wednesday March 3rd with Anastasia Kalinina, formerly of the World Economic Forum where she was the head of the regional agenda for Eurasia and a founding member of the Global Shapers Community Team, now co-founder and CEO of Re-State Foundation which is redesigning governance at local, regional, and global levels.
Please join us if you’re on Clubhouse and if you know of someone who would be good to be a featured speaker, please reach out.