RE: virus: Virian council and process

Carl Wagener (
Fri, 25 Jun 1999 00:46:42 -0500

You do realize what you just let yourself in for Dan? On 25th of December if the voting could be ended by tomorrow midnight... of course, until the mechanism you have suggested, or a modified version, is in place it is a bit tricky to get it going.

Some suggestions and comments in line. Please note that this are simply first reactions, not criticisms.

In the following, as is always the case in formal English, the male gender includes the female except where this defies logic or physical attributes. (Hermit stirring the PC pot for the day :-) )

The suggestions you make are in a sense very akin to the rules of some "friendly" societies. But it is usual, even in the most democratic meeting, to have a chairman (even pro temps) to decide on matters of procedure and precedence. Perhaps we need a virian pope to perform this office? You will find that in the real world and in even more egalitarian and immediate forums (not to say anarchistic), such as IRC, societies that wish to achieve any goals rapidly appoint such a creature in order to moderate the proceedings. How many committees have you seen achieve anything outside of the gilded halls of academe?

> -----Original Message-----
> From:
> []On Behalf
> Of Dan Plante
> Sent: Thursday, 24 June, 1999 20:26
> To:
> Subject: Re: virus: Virian council and process
> Virions:
> This discussion group owes its existence to the internet, and
> the concepts
> embodied in evolution in general, and memetics in particular.
> This suggests
> an approach that does more than just pay lip service to the ideas and
> ideals of the CoV and the revolutionary aspect of internet
> communication; a
> new way of doing things that not only acknowledges but, by
> its very nature,
> variously co-opts, accentuates or subverts, those aspects of
> individual and
> cultural dynamics deemed beneficial or detremental. Call it a
> "directed
> mutation" of the old heirarchial paradigm, if you will.
> Here's a chance to
> do some "memetic engineering" - CoV can try it on itself.
Ok. Sensible. If it doesn't work here, where will it work?

> There's no need today for a traditional top-down heirarchy of
> authority,
> nor for the bug-infested algorithm of representative democracy. The
> drawbacks of both of these systems is, I'm sure, obvious to
> most on this
> list, and has been discussed ad nauseum in the past.

You probably need to put a time limit on how long a measure can be debated before it is put to vote or euthanased.

> Here's one option:
> Set up a web page running a database engine that allows
> individual access
> to all of the database for reading and searching, and write
> priveleges for
> the individual's own "voting" field in each voter record
> embedded in each
> "referendum issue" file. Within each field are three entries:
> one entry for
> the Yay or nay, one for the individual's email address, and
> another for the
> individual's PGP signature for that vote. Everyone has read access to
> everyone else's voter record, and a local copy of all the
> public keys and
> email addresses (everyone can do this nowadays, disk space is cheap).
Can you put this together? Or are you thinking of others? There are maybe "easier", more webbish ways to do this, for example some list suppliers already offer this, or Microsoft Office 2000 supports this relatively painlessly in co-operation with Back-Office servers. But if you are volunteering, let me keep my fingers out of your way and my mouth shut :-).
As to voting, there must be a means of making it anonymous. A simple tally might suffice in many instances. For another thing, the ability to post anonymously would also be good. Where the author is not immediately discernable due to his length, style or inanity it would allow consideration of his ideas without introducing personalities into the fray.
> The CoV mailing list would serve as the arena to first bring
> up issues
> that may develop into an official referendum. The list's
> voting members
> (who would become such simply by being sponsored by an existing voting
> member who would disseminate the inductee's email address and
> public key -
> thereby vouching for its authenticity and providing an avenue
> to check - to
> all the other voting members)
Who will shave the barber?
How do you prevent Gerrymandering? What is the franchise qualification if anything? Is it possible to disenfranchise people for whatever reason. Visualize how, under the proposed rules, anyone could create however many aliases were needed at hotmail or some other address of convenience, and dominate the church... Remember we are all semi-anonymous "volunteers". Don't forget to take the "lurkers" into account. Or not. But your decision should be conscious.

, would hash it out in the
> informal arena of
> the list, and if the initial advocate of the issue later
> feels the topic
> still has merit, uploads a text of the proposed "bill" (along
> with his or
> her email & signature) to a new record entry in the "new
> motions" file of
> the database. In the "seconded" field of this record which
> has "append"
> permissions for every voting member, the motion would automatically be
> moved to the "bills pending a vote" file when the "seconded" field
> (automatically weeded for dupes and checked for authenticity)
> reaches 5% of
> the number of voting members (rounded up). A bill would pass
> if 75% of the
> voting members voted in favor, but an existing "law" would
> only need 67%
> to be removed.

I would suggest an automatic passage of a certain period of time (many may not be motivated to do anything much), or possibly simply requiring the blessing of the virian pope suggested above (should we have one? Would the smoke for the election only be valid if it came from burning cannabis?). May I suggest that at most a 20% opposing vote should be enough to prevent a "law" from passing, or remove one already passed? People may not be enthusiastic enough to vote for something, but if in a purely voluntary environment such as ours, as many as 1 person in 5 is unhappy about a "law", then there is quite probably something wrong with the proposal. Think about how you would determine what number represented a quorum, or a percentage of votes cast.

> The entire voting membership would then be contacted by
> email and notified
> that a bill is pending. They then either vote or abstain if they are
> familiar with the issue, or search the list archives for the relevant
> threads, read and then vote, or abstain. After say, 2 days,
> the votes are
> automatically tallied, and all voting members notified of the
> result by
> email. If the bill is voted down, then any proponent must
> start from scratch.

Again, visualize somebody who has forgotten to take their medication imagining that he has a meaningful motion and confusing his bathroom and the Internet. He posts something, and then, one of his other personalities proceeds to second it (Yes, I know that multiple-personality disorder is usually a sign of lousy therapy, but the example works). How do you deal with this situation?
> However, if the bill passes, the principal proponent "owns" the
> consequences, and must take full responsibility for the
> actions needed to
> enact the bill. The principal now has the authority to enact,
> though, and
> can draft the "seconds", then any other "registered
> proponent" (who may
> count for 2 votes each?), and finally, if deemed required, any voting
> member who voted yea in the bill, to do the work to enact the bill (if
> you're not prepared to put the time and energy into the new
> "pet project",
> why should you have a say in changing the paradigm under which all the
> voting members must live?). The only legislation not allowed
> is any that
> would apply to the membership in an unequal fashion. Except
> for that one
> stipulation, anything goes, except that a 6 month "cooling off" period
> would be required to enact any bill that would change the
> mechanics of the
> system itself as detailed above.
CoVers, atheists and cats are similar in many ways. One of similarities is that it is not easy to herd them :-) We will indulge in pilpul forever on any issue (I know, I do it all the time) and I cannot see many (any) agreeing to a blank check on their co-operation even on measures they have voted for... You have also omitted to address the situation where the proposer becomes bored or pissed off and does not want to implement it. What does "responsibility" mean in the context of the CoV? How do you "enforce compliance" in a volunteer community? Hmmm, is "who may count for 2 votes each" not contrary to your "constitutional phrase", "The only legislation not allowed is any that would apply to the membership in an unequal fashion". What is "unequal"? More to the point, what is "legislation" in this context? IMO, six months is forever in terms of a mail list. You also may need somebody to create ad hoc rules to deal with lamers in an appropriately dormouseish fashion.
> The dynamics that this form and function would manifest are:
> - A completely flat (read: egalitarian) management model. This would
> undermine those aspects of human nature that tend to make all
> authority and
> ignorance gravitate to the top, and all expertise and
> responsibility to the
> bottom. We now have the means to enact a true, rather than
> representative,
> democracy.
I observe with interest, but little hope. The idea has some attraction, and might have interesting social implications. But the opposition will be fierce, not so much from the bunch of leader-architect, hormone laden individualists that many on this list undoubtedly are, but by a couple of million years of human development. "Politically correct" usually does not survive attempting to "overcome" genetic programming. And given the demonstrated write-only nature of the CoV environment when sacred cows are flambéed <-(if you see this accent, I might hate ASCII mail a little less), or even when the cows are only slightly toasted, I suspect that your experiment might not hop, never mind fly. Then again, should it fly? All people are not equal. In battles of wit, some here have demonstrated themselves to be unarmed, and others have demonstrated their right to be called nuclear states... should this be ignored in building a model society? If you attempt to subject Alpha-males (or even more, dominant females) to the whims of the pack, somebody is likely to be injured in the following melee... and it may well be the proposer of "nice" theory...

> - A system that would have an unlimited "idea input" buffer,
> but a staged
> "nonsense" filter as well. The whole system would work very
> fast, and the
> turn around time for any bill would be written in stone ahead
> of time (no
> more filibustering).
Yes, well, you seem to have begun to address one of the questions above - your thoughts as to a reasonable time-period would be a good piece of information to chew on... But then again, postulate that one of our luminaries is away; would we wait on his return, or risk his wrath or disdain when he realizes what has transpired in his absence?

> - The nature of the internet, email, and enterprise servers
> for database
> integration, would allow everybody to vote on every issue, as well as
> submit ideas, equally.
True. Once you have the rules of order established But it is a non-trivial task to establish an appropriate set of rules to apply to "beer garden philosophy groups" in the first place. Especially when the beer is electronic...

> - Email and the multitude of distributed "WhoIs" servers, as
> well as Public
> key encryption, would ensure the integrity of the overall system
But not IMO of the people.

> - The "take ownership" consequence, as well as the hysteresis
> aspect of the
> required percentages for bill induction and removal, would
> ensure that the
> beaurocracy doesn't grow out of control, and avoids
> "over-regulation" of
> the membership.

I think that you may find that any attempt to "impose or coerce" order will be seen as "over-regulation". Real-politick is different. Voluntarily breaking off into action groups to accomplish things, then returning and exposing them to the ridicule of the congregation may be a much more productive modus vivendi. Especially seeing as most of what you accomplish will be sneered at, but allowed to stand through apathy or the collapse of opposition through internal dissent. After an appropriate interval, your direst critics and the general "peepul" will bask in the reflected glory of your hard work.
> - Special interests don't have a snowball's chance in hell.
> On the other
> hand, an issue that is of great importance to a large minority of the
> membership would have a chance, but only by persuading a
> majority, using
> email discourse, that the bill is in the best interests of
> the group as a
> whole without significantly undermining the individual. In
> other words, the
> issues stand on their merit (at least, much more than they do now).
Vocal "special interests", no matter how loony, which have a "strong leader" who can persuade people to work together will always "achieve more" than any number of disorganized "sensible voices". You have only to look at the religious wrong, and Pat Robertson's allies in the USA for an example of a tyrannical mob.
> Sure, there are minor tweaks needed, but the essential framework is
> workable, I think.
The framework is workable. I have often imagined something similar in other forums, but the reality seems to be, that except in small groups with way more than average intelligence and co-operative instincts, egalité tends to transform into anarchy pursued closely by tyranny. This is even noticeable in "selected" environments, such as when department faculty attempt exercises like this. When successful, it is usually due to a really strong personality who is able to persuade the members that working in their own self interest is a good thing (you might be surprised how few actually do) and secondly that co-operation is in their interest.

> This approach doesn't just enshrine memetics, it takes memetics into
> account. It also serves as a kind of cultural mutation that,
> working in
> synergy with existing features such as the internet, is able
> to express a
> new cultural "trait". It can serve as an example to others
> that might want
> to adopt the new, effective system, replicating it all over the place.
I'd love it if you are right, but I still don't commit to being "co-optable"
> Dan

Kind regards