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Dynamically Distributed Democracy
Hassan Masum, 26 Jun 05

Direct democracy doesn't scale, but representative democracies lose touch with the public. What to do? "Societal-Scale Decision-Making Using Social Networks", by Marko Antonio Rodriguez and Daniel Joshua Steinbock, suggests an intriguing possibility based on social networks. Instead of voting for preselected candidates, you assign voting power to whoever you trust - dividing it among several people if desired, or retaining some or all for yourself.

The voting power then propagates along the social network formed by trust relationships. People trusted by others will "aggregate" voting (or decision-making) power. It's just a simple simulation at this point, but the authors are looking ahead to network politics:

The increasing complexity and interconnectedness of global society makes decentralization both necessary and attainable...It is our position that dynamic representation is a critical part of this shift as it plays out in the context of public policymaking. In order to manage the complexity of global society, it will be necessary to replace the traditionally static, hierarchical forms of representation with new network-based models which adapt to the rapidly changing dynamics and contexts of decentralized society.

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This sounds like ideas I posted online in 1999 as part of TDP. began archiving the TDP site in early 2001.

With regards to this 'Dynamically Distributed Democracy' paper, two things that may be of interest are my comments on Advisory Direct Democracy and on Bubbling Mechanisms.

I had thought-out more on how this type of system could work, but did not get around to putting my notes into a more publicly-usable form by the time TDP ran out of funds in 2001.

I'm not sure if anyone publicly posted/published similar ideas before 1999, but it's certainly possible.

I'm glad to see these ideas finally gaining some traction. There is benefit in them, so I hope they continue to do so.


Posted by: T.W.Vincent on 27 Jun 05

It's unlikely that such a system could be implemented directly at a national level anytime soon, but it is already highly applicable to online communities that want to make self-governing decisions. Perhaps "Dynamically Distributed Democracy" could be to digital decision making what Wiki is to content creation: radically democratic, participatory, trust-based. Only then, perhaps, could it serve as a proof of concept and inspiration for Emergent Democracy at the national level.

Posted by: Daniel Steinbock on 27 Jun 05

Thanks for the links, Thom - there's certainly some similarity there. I like your breakdown into four types of democracy. A combination of Advisory Direct Democracy and Advisory Representative Democracy might be best for politics, since good representatives perform many more functions than aggregating our votes.

I second Daniel's suggestion of applicability to decision-making in online communities. Another proof of concept might come in a policy arena, e.g. within a government or granting agency. Since there's not enough time for each interested and qualified party to judge every proposal, they can offload judging to trusted peers, with the option to override. It would be interesting to see how the outcomes of this would differ from the seemingly-open process often used of posting proposals and allowing comments from all parties - time constraints on the supply side and "aggregating constraints" on the demand side limit effectiveness of that natural approach.

Posted by: Hassan on 29 Jun 05



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