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The Nuts and Bolts of Panocracy - Part 1
Firstly a reminder that the panocracy we are talking about here doesn't require the election of people but it does require the election of laws and regulations and you, dear reader, are encouraged to take part. In other words you are taking over the job the politicians make such a pig’s ear of – making decisions that affect your life.
Don't worry, though, it's not as hard or onerous as it sounds as we'll now explain.
As we said before, you have an agent to act on your behalf and they may have an office in your town, or you can talk to them on the phone or via their app or website. If all of those are down, there's always the mail - it doesn't really matter how you deal with your agent as it's the same thing whichever way you do it.
Your agent's task is to cast your votes on proposals put before the panocracy. Your agent needs to know how you would vote on any issue and so they need to position your political, economic, cultural, social and religious perspectives relative to the proposals.
Needless to say your views are highly confidential in the same way and for the same reasons as your medical details or your payment card numbers. The collection of your opinions can easily be engineered so that no one can find them out. That's because your opinions can be immediately 'distilled' when collected. Your views may be expressed as a region of (multidimensional) space or embedded in a neural network, or something else.
Or you may decide you don't want any of that and prefer to vote on issues yourself.
One way to obtain your opinions would be a survey or a questionnaire. The questions in the survey would be set up so that there were no right or wrong answers, merely honest or otherwise. Questions could be of the form strongly agree/disagree/don't-have-a-view-on-this because it's easier to answer them and find your values more precisely.
This is the kind of thing envisaged at The Political Compass which has a simple example where opinions have two dimensions - social and economic. This illustration requires you to estimate your own position on the axes of libertarian vs authoritarian and economically right vs left. This would be inadequate for the panocracy where there will be many more categories or dimensions of opinion and estimating your own position in each one would be difficult for most people. In this system, your views will be represented by a single point in the (multidimensional) space of all possible views.
It can be fun to place well-known politicians on this map and then squabble over other people's choices. For example, I'd put Joe Biden in the upper left quadrant and Donald Trump in the lower right. Anyone disagree?
There are other ways of determining your values and voting preferences.
“a man’s preferences ... are deducible from what he has chosen in action. Thus, if a man chooses to spend an hour at a concert rather than a movie, we deduce that the former was preferred, or ranked higher on his value scale.” - Murray Rothbard on 'Demonstrated Preference'
So another angle – and one which is widely used by social media - would be to use your 'demonstrated preferences'. Which movies or TV shows did you watch recently? Which YouTube channels are you subscribed to? Do you listen to Mozart or watch Star Trek? And so on …
Social media platforms already collect a lot of data about your online habits and piece it together to determine which adverts they serve you. Back in 2014 or so the private firm Cambridge Analytica obtained voluntary responses to a survey of over ¼ million Facebook users, then used a software loophole in Facebook to access their 80-odd million 'Facebook friends'. This huge volume of data was then processed to assess the voting intentions of 80 million souls so that those who were deemed 'floating voters' could be targetted with advertising intended to sway them towards a preferred result.
The main ethical concern over the Cambridge Analytica episode appears to be that the larger data set was obtained without the explicit permission of its providers. However, the incident exposed the depth of detail that Facebook held on its users and also its ‘unwitting’ part in the release of that data.
A much more pressing ethical problem for all of us is the depth and detail of the data now generally held by - and open to analysis by – large organisations, public or private. Whether by hook or by crook, bad actors like those above seem to get hold of it remarkably easily. This is possible because the data are stored in their unprocessed form and indeed are offered for sale. The panocracy wouldn't allow that.
I use the Cambridge Analytica example not to suggest that there's something universally underhand about data mining but to point out that there's already at least one mature technology that's capable of assessing people's opinions by looking at their demonstrated preferences.
Such technology can be, and has been used to tailor advertising to appeal to the recipient's personality traits. It's probably happening to you right now on your favourite social media site. The site will serve a different version of an ad depending on whether it thinks you're an intro- or an extro-vert. (Personally I ignore all ad-verts however appealing they might seem – the mute control on YouTube is particularly useful!)
So rather than assessing how you'll respond to new adverts for make-up, a variation of the procedure can find out with high confidence how you'll respond to new proposals for legislation – as if you were doing it yourself. This is how it will be easy for everyone to vote. And no private data will be sold to anyone.
It's simple to keep information on your own voting record private to yourself. By running your preferences through your agent's system which tests them against actual proposals, you can find out how your vote was cast in each case. To find out how reliable your agent's system has been, no one apart from yourself would need to know your preferences, how your vote was cast or how you would actually have voted.
If an agent or researcher wanted to analyse their system's performance then they might enrol some voters in a study. Each voter would only have to, say, reveal the percentage of correct votes the agent's system had achieved in their case.
Panocracy is about truly free choice - the freedom you get when you’re released from an ever more intrusive and ever more elitist and detached executive. It's a clear and deliberate antidote to the current practices of contrived opinion, misleading propaganda, nudge unit manipulation and downright coercion.
As we've already seen, various techniques are available for assessing your voting intentions. Doubtless there are many more – we don't want to be prescriptive! Each will have its own merits. The important thing is that voters will be free to choose their favourite, or none at all.
Different agents are at liberty to choose from different techniques for assessing how their clients votes should be cast. This may well be an element of their offer to prospective clients. Those agents who can demonstrate that their methods produce better results – in this case better means closer to how each client would actually have voted – might be expected to attract more clients. It will of course be illegal for an agent to deliberately misrepresent his clients and it's quite easy to check for this – for example by looking for unusual voting patterns - without compromising privacy.
Next time we're looking in more detail at the RFC (Request for Comments) part of the panocracy. This is the part where new policies, laws and regulations are developed before being put to the vote. It's all done by ordinary people. The panocracy capitalises on the extraordinary skills of ordinary people to keep the ship of state on course.