In us we trust – Core77
It is fair to say that democracy is in trouble. The lofty ideal of governance for the people by the people has suffered from the changing reality of modern society. What was once hailed as an innovative approach to policy-making reflecting the needs and wishes of citizens has failed to meet contemporary expectations for informed and responsive consensus. But it doesn’t have to be that way: technology can help.
We already know the ways in which products and brands respond to our individual needs and preferences, which some say is exploitative in nature. But what if we could reclaim this not-for-sale data collection technology, and instead empower individual voices within politics? How might we modernize Congress to meet the expectations of today’s electorate and meet the challenges this generation faces? While upgrading politics with our current technological landscape may sound like a sci-fi fever dream, the coins are almost here to realize an innovative new form of governance.
What is a digital congress?
To imagine how this might work, imagine your digital twin, or what I like to call your “Meta-Me” – an exact replica of you who lives in cyberspace. This version of you shares your thoughts (and ways of thinking), habits, preferences, behaviors, and most importantly, your values and interests. With this data, your twin can act on your behalf, search for a new car, make reservations, organize gatherings or write summary reports. In fact, you can have multiple twins, each assigned to a specific task or area of your life. Unbounded from the physical world, your digital replica has near-infinite access to information and the ability to learn and act, effectively multiplying your productivity and impact in the world. It’s the ultimate personal assistant. Together, you and your twins represent a powerful multidimensional entity.
Why not dedicate at least one of these twins to represent your views and beliefs to shape the course of society? Rather than 500 human representatives, US policies can be crafted by 350 million meta-representatives, working together continuously in a virtual legislature. This Meta-Us would by definition more accurately reflect the make-up and mentality of the country than any elected group could hope to match. And finally, everyone would have a direct, inalienable and inevitable voice in every decision, unhindered by constraints of time, access, interest and understanding.
But is it doable?
Although a digital convention is far from our current reality, bringing a concept like the Meta-Me to life may be more feasible than you think.
Unsurprisingly, a key catalyst for the Meta-Rep was kicked off by ad tech. At its core, your digital twin is simply a sophisticated manifestation of your online profile, which advertisers have mined, compiled and perfected for decades. The internet never forgets and digital surveillance has never been more prevalent. More so, we are increasingly accepting this invasion of privacy by leading increasingly digital lives, documenting every moment of our existence on social media. Every link you click, every post you like, and every comment you make is collected and analyzed by brands to drive user engagement and behavior. And even that analytics is improving, delivering increasingly sophisticated hyper-personalized experiences on every platform we touch. While advertisers use your data for their selfish advantage, this concept envisions a world where the information collected is instead used in your favor.
All of this is compounded by ubiquitous computing and the power of a digitally connected world. Not only does each of us have a digital twin, but every place we visit, every event we experience, and every product we use also has an online replica. This means that the access and depth of information about our daily lives has never been so comprehensive. Our Meta-Rep could devote their existence to learning about governance, understanding legislative proposals and possibilities, researching current events and their implications, and speculating on potential solutions before voting on the best way forward – from your point of view, if you too possessed infinite wisdom and energy. Sources are scored not only on individual preference, but also on collective credibility; if the Meta-Rep personifies the best version of ourselves, the Meta-Us represents the most educated opinion on how we are progressing as a society.
The real difference between a digital twin and a digital profile is decisive action, so to make it really work, we’re looking to innovations in artificial intelligence. Web crawlers are old technology at this point, but can serve as a useful way to monitor relevant topics for updates and new information. Machine learning provides a programmatic foundation for the meta-rep to learn and grow as new resources become available, and bots and agents provide the twin with guidelines to act on that information by defending , negotiating and voting. Together, these technologies bring an individual’s ideals to life as concrete politics.
The last essential piece is traceability. To create a transparent platform that citizens can trust, we are inspired by blockchain. As Meta-Reps collaborate and carry out their legislative duties, individual actions are recorded securely and anonymously in a public registry powered by this technology. Individuals can personally review their Meta-Rep’s decisions and make adjustments to its algorithm to ensure their values are accurately represented. And anyone in the company can check the legislative journal to validate that decisions are being made appropriately, without undue influence.
All together now
In the short term, your digital twin acts as an advisor, helping you track and understand the political issues most important to you, and informing your civic engagement – the TLDR of legislative movements locally, nationally and globally. At this critical stage, your twin is learning and growing by observing your direct responses to his suggestions. As adoption grows and the technology matures, the twin is elevated to advocate status – virtually campaigning on your behalf for political positions to amplify your voice in the halls of government. This role increases direct elections, polls and public support to ensure that citizens have greater influence in legislative decision-making. Digital advocates can edit, comment on, and promote bills alongside their human counterparts to promote balance and fairness. In the ideal state, your digital twin completely replaces existing human representatives, forming a virtual Congress – writing and enacting policies that perfectly match the values of its people.
So what’s the next step?
Technology is certainly not our only challenge. Even with a working product, there are many institutional and systemic obstacles that we could undoubtedly face in implementing such a solution. But it is clear to pundits and politicians that our current approach is untenable and unable to address the uncertainties we face in the next decade. The only way to move forward as a global society is to rethink representation and cooperation to give everyone a voice. Let’s work together as designers, technologists, thinkers and philosophers to create a more inclusive democracy that shifts power from the privileged few to the citizens themselves – artificially represented by 350 million always-connected algorithms, shielded from the influence and perfectly aligned with each other’s values and beliefs.
Share your thoughts!
– How can this concept be improved and executed?
– What steps should we take immediately to get started?
– What additional ways could we preserve and improve our democracy using technology?