Introduction to A Boring Utopia
The following is a description of a new form of government, which I call an Algorithmic Republic. As a simplifying fiction, it may be easier to think of it as a Digital Democracy. The central premise is that by creating pressures and rewards similar to those that allowed Wikipedia to become a decentralized self-assembling Encyclopedia, and suppressing those that turned Facebook and Twitter into civil unrest generators, we can create a governmental decision-making and execution apparatus that will be far wiser, far cheaper, and far more respectful of freedoms than anything ever previously assembled by humans. It will also help to view it as an attempt to replicate the fundamental principles of Enlightenment style governance into digital spaces.
As the above paragraph no doubt seems insane and I desire people to engage with the ideas, I have written them into an engaging and easily readable comedy. The comedy is written from the perspective of a future historian describing our current society and if you read along you should understand the purpose and functioning of an Algorithmic Republic as you understand why two and two make four. I do not ask for your faith, only your attention.
I know the largest ask I can make of you is your time. However, if you will give me ten pages on indulgence I believe that you will read a hundred pages for your own delight. An average reader could complete this work in well under three hours. If you give me those three hours, I claim nothing less than that you will rank those hours among the best spent of your entire life. Above all, I wish to give you a sound, practical, and sensible reason to hope for the future of humankind.
I call the work in totality: “A Boring Utopia.” Following the work itself will be a more technical explanation of the system.
Please treat this introduction as an unlimited license to share this work in whatever non-commercial manner you choose. I am trying to spread the ideas as much as possible.
Chapter One: The Principle of Erosion
In which, as a narrative device, the entire United States government is destroyed because no one can apportion their attention economically.
Breakout One: The Pre-Forum Press
In which I explain things everyone already knows about the media, but more explicitly, and ponder why it is so deeply bizarre that the news industry is sustained by advertising and also why it is bad that we do not have funding mechanisms for pure social goods.
In which I posit what would happen if a hyper-competent deeply autistic computer engineer specializing in Artificial Intelligence, Chaos Theory, and Emergence were to become President.
Chapter Three: Full Transparency
In which I posit what would happen if, in the face of a natural disaster, the government actually gave a fully transparent explanation instead of trying to come up with some kind of rhyming slogan to make me feel like they knew what was going on.
Breakout Two: The Pre-Forum Government
In which things get interesting as I start to lay out specifically why the United States government no longer seems to be working even though the fundamental principles are sound and liken this to a needed conversion of software from a vacuum tube computer to one that runs on silica wafers.
Chapter Four: The Presidential Interdisciplinary Scrum Team
In which I lay out a hypothetical structure for a new governmental office whose job it is to develop software products that better enable citizens to interface with the government.
In which I explain the structure of a bill that would fund the construction of what I call “The Forum,” which is an open-source Republic where Digital Citizens can apportion their share of tax-revenues to certain initiatives, vote via a distributed ledger cryptocurrency, and choose representatives for themselves based on topic.
Breakout Three: Social Media in the Pre-Forum Age
In which I explain exactly why social media is making us all crazy as a function of population size and the economics of attention, and also why this is literally the same thing that happened after the invention of the Printing Press and also has the exact same solution.
In which I posit that people are much smarter than you would think when given the correct set of incentives and rewards, such as offering bounties for various public goods based on pooled resources from the group with winning options to be selected by directly chosen representatives.
Chapter Seven: Order from Chaos
In which I posit that maybe there is a better system of social media moderation other than giving the divine right of kings to twenty-something year-old liberal political wonks and/or literally not doing anything, and that we have known what this is since the Greeks and then adapt this for the internet.
In which I co-opt a word with a slightly different meaning to instead mean the intelligence of groups as a whole, or the ability of individual agents of a group to meaningfully model one another’s behavior so as to be able to cooperate and then discuss how this has contracted and expanded over history.
In which I posit how good it would feel to have a government that was actually capable identifying and gaining agreement on the existence of problems, creating solutions for those problems, and then actually solving problems instead of endlessly talking about how problems can’t be solved because then it would become obvious that politicians aren’t very good at actually doing things.
In which I solve the entire problem of the news not being very good ever in history so well, and in an entirely decentralized manner, that once I did it I had to sit down for a bit because I didn’t think I was smart enough to do that but every time I look at it I keep having to think, “I can’t see where I’m wrong.” Maybe you can see where I’m wrong? But it seems like I really nailed the incentives here and the game theory checks out. For the interested, I will post much lengthier notes on temporality in the future.
Breakout Five: Expertise in the Pre-Forum Age
In which I posit that actually being able to do something or actually being able to predict outcomes is a better credential than a degree and maybe we shouldn’t let people continually fail to do things or be wrong all the time and still call them an expert just because they have a degree.
In which the character who is the closest stand-in for myself solves almost all violence by stealing credit cards and ordering a bunch of overhead projectors.
Chapter Eleven: The Last Temptation of Melvin Sninkle
In which, for narrative reasons, I imagine that Melvin Sninkle dies so we can move ahead to what the world would look like without a President and also just turn the hope dial up to eleven and get really speechy because I really do believe in the goodness of the human race and a positive future for us among the stars.
Breakout Six: Espionage and Warfare in the World Before the Apocalypse Guard
Chapter Twelve: Attack
Chapter Thirteen: Martians
Breakout Seven: The Future