virus: Attn: Long Post Pt. 2 (was: Virian council)

Dan Plante (
Sun, 27 Jun 1999 10:44:36 -0700

Continued from last part 1.....

>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.

That's funny. I always figured that the "dangerous unrest" level in a culture was around the "20% strongly opposed" mark myself. But as I said, the system will find the values that work best for it. I picked starting values that would allow rules to initially be introduced onto a fairly blank slate, while keeping the potentially destabilising effect of rule retraction low, so that the system could more easily get over the slightly chaotic birth. But I'm thinking I may be anticipating the dynamics of my proposed percentages incorrectly now. Hmmmm. What the hell, 50/50? Like I said, it really doesn't matter too much. The system is self-stabilising. It's just a rollercoaster ride at the beginning, that's all.

>> 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?

You let the system deal with it. It'll calm down when it gets used to the bright, noisy, rough, smelly world, the doctor cuts the cord, and the mother gives it the teat. Yes, I really do know what you mean, Carl, but I think this is only a worry for statistically small member sizes. Even then, this only gets a bill up, it doesn't translate to legislation. By the way, I was always under the impression that disorders were always a sign of therapy, lousy or not ;-)

Maybe we could add that a member must vote, even if it's just to abstain, to maintain voter privelages? What do you think? Although, like I said, the system can work that out too.....

>> 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 :-)

Exactly the strength intrinsic to this system. There will always be a percentage of those, and even a small percentage is more than enough. The thing is, under this system it's not possible to silence them (either by Draconian methods, or by having a massive bureauocracy - or media - that simply ignores them), and their ideas get just as much consideration as any other. The critical thing to realise here is all the truly important ideas and expertise that are currently ignored, marginalised, or just not heard over the din, as well as those that are incompatible with the vested interests of those in power in the current heirarchial paradigm, get heard and considered as much as any other. This ideal system doesn't have one science advisor hoggong the ear of one President, it has *hundreds of thousands*. It doesn't have a handful of historians and martial experts, it has *millions*. It doesnt have the limited life experience of a handfull of representatives, it has *hundreds of millions*. If a proposal is not going to work, *somebody* will know, will know *why*, and will be knowledgeable enough, and know about enough references to *prove* it. Always.

>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...

What's in it for them, eh? What would cause them to propose, implement, and stick to it? Not much of that on this list, addmitedly, but there's not much motivating or driving (pushing and pulling) anyone on this list except the warm, squishy feeling of the soapbox. Angels and pinheads, for the most part, is what is swatted around on this list. On the other hand, if there was some goal for CoV that captured the imagination, aspirations and ambitions (and therefore the emotional investment) of the membership, something exciting and revolutionary, things would be quite different.....

>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?

That would be up to the membership, but I know I would propose something fairly strict, and commensurate with the consequences to the membership of this action. Maybe pulling the right to propose legislation for a year/month/whatever, although you could still vote and act as an official proponent. The thing I would target is the desire for social acceptance and approval; of "making your mark". But it really doesn't matter after the first little while. The system will settle into its "comfort zone", as long as it is *unconstrained* in all regards except for the ones that give it its self-ordering, self-stabilising properties.

>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"?

Yeah, I goofed here. That was really stupid. A brain fart. Of *course* it's absolute poison to the system. I was not-quite-conciously toying with the idea that you would need to motivate the official proponents a little more, since they are putting themselves on the plank with the principal, but that's not really necessary, in retrospect. The system will find out how best to motivate it's members to get the job done, and it will figure it out fairly easily, where a hundred Cray YMP supercomputers working in parallel for 10,000 years using some very good social simulation software couldn't possibly hope to (it has to do with the real-time dynamic tension between parts in any emergent system - some electronic systems are a good example).

>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.

Sure, as long as the rules are across the board, I would imagine.

>> 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.

Yeah, I know. But the few essential features noted are designed to introduce a system that works synergistically with some aspects of human nature, while supressing others. It *uses* people, in effect. It is these essential features (while specifically excluding ALL other constraints) that will make all the components of the system self-stabilising, self-perpetuating and yes, eventually, self-reproducing.

>"Politically correct" usually
>does not survive attempting to "overcome" genetic programming.

You're preaching to the choir here, Carl. The intent isn't to promote egalitarianism for its own sake, rather to recreate the conditions inherent in all pre-emergent systems, such as the mutually beneficial "pact" that a mass of similar cells made with each other (in the form of an incremental mutation that gave them a chemical "affinity" or "stickiness" to each other) that introduced the first multicellular organism, which also just happened to make something that was too big to be enveloped by the amoebic "hunter-killers" of the day, and eventually, after another beneficial mutation that manifested a "leaky" interface between cells, made one cell's cache of nutrients available to all, and all to one, which gave the colony as a whole a survival advantage in terms of a "starvation buffer" in some instances (i.e. the beginning of a "stomach") etc, etc.....

>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),

Success! Sacré cour!

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...

Yes. Most of these points were dealt with above. And you're right, some will have bigger "cognitive guns" than others. I'm counting on it, actually. One other way that this system is profoundly different that the current paradigm of heirarchies is that, while heirarchies work best with the LCSD (Lowest Common Social Denominator) and pander to the extremes (special interest groups or "SIGs"), this system does the exact opposite; it selects against that other crap and lets the more reasonable "cognitive cream" float to the top (for its own benefit). I know this might seem an insufferable anthropomorphism by now but, because I feel that this will give rise to a truly self-organising-stabilising-perpetuating "thing", it really is the best and most "socially descriptive" language I could muster for the eventual interpretation of the system's percieved behaviour.

>> - 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?

(See my earlier comments on member sizes and self-stabilisation.). The world is awash in luminaries, they just don't live very long inside the current political paradigm (Vaclav Pavel being a very intelligent, creative and noble exception that proves the rule).

>> - 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...

Actually, as I mentioned before, the initial rules (malleable as they are, after the fact) are nowhere near as important as how the system uses human motivation/desires, which must be inviolate.

>> - 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.

See comments above for this.

>> - 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".

Since ultimately, it is just people organising themselves, all they could claim is that they were imposing on themselves, or coercing themselves. On the other hand, habituation (and yes, simple human nature, I agree) would cause a lot of people to scratch their heads for a while before they caught on to the actual dynamics of the new system.

>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.

Yes, I see this as inevitable, and it's perfectly compatible with the system as described. If it helps, the system will not only let it stand, but encourage it. If it hurts, the system will handle it some way.

>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.

Again, motivation (in this particular case, personal investment of some sort - emotional, financial, etc.) will tend to dampen this kind of behaviour, typical of heirarchial institutions. For CoV specifically? That's a little harder to imagine, I admit....

>> - 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.

These dynamics erupt out of the current (naturally polar - and often arbitrarily so) political system. Most incumbent administrations get that way by hovering closer to the "centre" than the other(s). This doesn't necessarily mean that the centre is where most people, as individuals, really are. It just means that the centre is where most people from both "sides" consider the least "repugnant". This seems to suggest a gaussian distribution, or "bell shaped curve" of individual issue affiliation, but in reality, very few people are actually at or near the centre. In fact, if your ask most people (and actually talk in depth with them, instead of getting them to circle a multiple-choice answer to a "massaged" or otherwise constrained question), you'll find that most people populate BOTH ends of the traditional "political spectrum" in some way or another, describing an *inverted* bell curve. I don't know how many people I've talked to who are very "pro-family" and "pro-gun", but at the same time very "pro-free-speech" and quite "libertarian" in their views of other people's behaviour. Unfortunately, for a myriad of historical accidents, we have, under the current system, a (naturally polar) distribution of issues along traditional party lines, held there with the influence of special interests, historical inertia, and duct tape. If people were able to vote individually on specific issues, this would dissolve over night.

Also, a strictly text forum would go a long way to mitigating the effects of "cult of personality". Then again, people could use the media to do an end-run around this.....but then, the system would probably protect itself from this by somehow restricting people who have appeared in the media.....? Hmmmm... I think it's this issue, plus the larger scales of membership numbers that present the biggest problems.

>> 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.

Yes, I've been there too :-) The common thread in every case, though, and I think you'll agree with me here Carl, is that it was just a *simulation*. It didn't have the hook that a real situation would have, where every member *knew* that the outcomes *would* bear on their personal motivations, and in the minutae of their everyday lives (not just in their status at the water cooler) in an important and fundamental way. As I've outlined before, this is critical. If it isn't there, there is no enduring sense of excitement or anxiety, and everyone is just "playing monopoly", and they know it deep down inside. The chosen system has to be able to grab everybody by the guts, and twist. It has to work inside the brain stem, or it won't work.

>> 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

Me either ;-) On the other hand, if the dynamics play out the way I'm sure they would, I would *insist* on co-opting *myself*. I wouldn't trust anybody else to handle things important to me, until I could exchange ideas with them and "take their measure", so to speak.

Thanks for the comments