A Realistic Plan for Fundamental Change

The best systems and ideas mean nothing if we can't use them to actually change the world around us.

Adaptive Democracy has immense potential to improve our society:

  • Using Adaptive Voting and Constitutions as a foundation, it's possible for us to control every aspect of a democratic institution with arbitrary flexibility and accountability.
  • Voters can provide as much information to the system as they wish in elections, but fluidly balanced nomination systems will prevent elections from becoming noisy and unproductive.
  • Systems such as Adaptive Funding and assurance contracts can allow us to flexibly fund arbitrary public goods.
  • Common Resource Rights can allow us to maximize the social benefit achieved by all resources and property, and ensure monopolies and cycles of cumulative advantage are structurally impossible.

Sounds pretty good to me!

But can we actually achieve any of this in practice? Many of these systems would require an almost complete rewrite of our political institutions. Our governmental systems are extremely important, and accidentally breaking them can have devastating consequences. As much confidence as we may have in these ideas, it would be extraordinarily risky to try to move to them in one fell swoop.

We have no choice but to first validate these systems in low-risk contexts, and then build them up incrementally as we gain confidence in their details and our ability to implement them efficiently. Over time we can apply them in more and more important and impactful institutions.

Of course, it would be nice if our experimental validations could also do some real good! If it's possible for our low-risk applications to actually provide immediate benefit, that would be great.

This chapter presents a plan I believe can incrementally achieve these goals by creating three progressively more ambitious institutions.

Adaptive Democracy Labs

Adaptive Democracy Labs will be a nonprofit focused on building general tools and infrastructure to enable the implementation of Adaptive Democracy. It will be governed as funded as an open source project cooperative, allowing concerned people to become funding members and therefore exercise voting control.

The work done by Adaptive Democracy Labs is necessary before any other efforts can successfully and truly implement Adaptive Democracy, since book-keeping systems like Adaptive Voting and Funding would be onerous and error-prone if done without specialized software.

We'll need other things than software. Adaptively democratic organizations will have to navigate existing legal constraints regarding institutional ownership and taxation, so Adaptive Democracy Labs should also produce things like open source articles of incorporation and other legal documents. It should also support general research to improve the economic and ethical theory, invent new specific systems, and empirically study adaptively democratic organizations and elections as they occur in the real world.

As it reaches maturity and we grow confident in Adaptive Democracy, Adaptive Democracy Labs should also begin producing persuasive essays and other media. As it begins working for us, we should share it with others!

Adaptively Democratic political party

Political activism and reform will be necessary to truly fix our biggest problems, so we might as well start as soon as possible! Starting a political party is itself very low-risk, especially since in the early stages it will be small and funding constrained.

It's also quite easy, since filing the necessary paperwork isn't a serious obstacle. We'll just have to wait for software systems capable of holding Adaptive votes for a top-level constitution, and then anyone who's interested can either volunteer their time or pay dues to gain membership and the accompanying voting weights.

The beauty of a adaptively democratic political party is that it can be and do whatever we want. As long as it's all legal, members can vote for constitutions to structure the party any way, and pursue any kind of action or activism imaginable. Here are some ideas I came up with:

  • Hold a adaptive vote for the party platform. Most political parties have the platform constructed by senior party leadership, who may or may not be at all accountable to members of the party.
  • Nominate candidates for real political elections (obviously). Excitingly, depending on what's allowed by law, the party could require winning candidates to vote according to adaptive votes conducted by party members, making these candidates literal conduits for Adaptive Democracy into real governments.
  • Elect "mock" legislation documents and officials, representing what the party members would vote for if a real government used Adaptive Democracy.
  • Conduct Adaptive Funding and assurance contract grants to fund projects members believe are worthwhile. These projects could be anything, from community gardens to neighborhood meal programs to open source research.
  • Coordinate and fund other immediate activist efforts. Since Adaptive Democracy is much more complex than most existing governments could currently implement, I personally think approval voting should be implemented in real elections right away. That kind of activism could be coordinated by members of this party.
  • Hold social events. Why not???

Many specific systems, such as Common Resource Rights, aren't strictly necessary in order to practice Adaptive Democracy. Any political entity using Adaptive Democracy would be free to pick and choose some of these less core aspects. Adaptive Democracy wouldn't remove disagreement and make practicing members into a monolith, it would just help negotiate disagreement productively. The party platform would depend entirely on what party members wanted, and it's possible multiple independent adaptively democratic political parties could arise.

Here are some detail chapters discussing ideas I personally would agitate for inclusion in the party platform, and hopefully eventually for inclusion in the actual government.

Adaptively Democratic consumer cooperative

Political activism absolutely won't be enough. Large corporations and wealthy plutocrats have seized way too much power over both material resources and our political institutions for us to think we can make change in that arena alone.

To have any real hope of reforming our societies, we have to regain our economic power. We have to engage in economic activism, using democratic structures to retake enough land, resources, and capital that we can stand head to head with the existing corporate behemoths. Only then can we change our laws and take away the unfair advantages those corporate behemoths used to gain their position.

Cooperatives are the tool we can use to pursue economic activism. Cooperatives are perfectly compatible with free markets, and they can operate with the same freedom and flexibility as for-profit companies.

Importantly, cooperatives with modest visions who only operate on a local scale won't be enough to change things, since many of the most important economic systems we need to reclaim are unavoidably sweeping in their scale. Once Adaptive Democracy Labs has created the tools necessary to operate adaptively democratic organizations, I will be founding a consumer cooperative with the core mission of using technology, automation, and economic scale to cooperativize every supply chain that is critical to human prosperity. However, for now I'm going to leave these plans vague. It's too early to make any concrete promises, and it doesn't make sense to get lost in details we can't even see clearly yet.

We have to stop waiting for our government to be reformed to start changing things.

I need help!

We have many difficult problems ahead of us, and I'm only skilled in software engineering and type theoretical logic. I need people who can help solve these problems with complementary skills and perspectives.

Adaptive Democracy Labs is the first step. To explain the specific immediate goals of Adaptive Democracy Labs, I'll answer the question "what would you do if you were given 10 million dollars?" These are the projects I would build teams around, in order of priority:

  • Adaptive Democracy Tools, software implementations of Adaptive Democracy mechanisms, such as a Adaptive Voting server, systems for cryptographic transparency, and voting user interfaces.

    Hire: UI/UX designer; Rust engineer, or just work on this myself; engineer/researcher experienced with end-to-end auditable election systems.

  • Adaptive Democracy economic theory, the project of formalizing, proving, extending, and empirically validating the logical theorems.

    Hire: theoretical economist/mechanism designer; voting behavior simulations researcher.

  • Legal tools for adaptively democratic organizations, researching and designing legal structures .

    Hire: lawyer with a mind for creative and original legal design.

  • Magmide proof language, to allow us to build robust and provably secure software systems.

    Hire: expert in the Iris higher order separation logic; an engineer experienced with the LLVM compiler infrastructure; I myself would work on this project if resources allowed and after Adaptive Democracy Tools had produced the minimum necessary to create new organizations.

  • Media outreach, share Adaptive Democracy and create media intended to deradicalize U.S. politics (I want more persuasive media I can share with my parents!).

    Hire: history/social sciences researcher; multimedia producer/illustrator.

I'm looking for awesome people, people who learn fast, have passion for this work, have a track record of doing things they aren't required to do, and are true believers in democracy and shared prosperity. I have a hunch people in the Effective Altruism community will be both especially interested and especially helpful in achieving these goals.

These goals are massive. They will require a huge amount of work from a huge number of skilled and passionate people. When asked how do you eat an elephant, we must simply answer one bite at a time!

It's likely we will meet stiff resistance from entrenched interests who know they occupy an unearned position in society that does nothing to make the world a better place. We have to be brave in the face of this resistance, and do everything we can to compassionately help even these entrenched interests understand we simply want a better world. A better world will benefit them as well, even if they won't occupy the same position of relative privilege.

I'm done asking for permission, but I am asking for help. If you think you can be helpful, please reach out to me!

Hopefully together we can build a truly free, truly ethical, and truly prosperous world.

Main Chapters

Adaptive Democracy
Common Resource Rights
The Power of Cooperatives
A Realistic Plan for Fundamental Change
Table of Contents
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