Though we should not aim to put an end to conflict, which is only possible by getting rid of diversity through totalitarianism, we can take steps to resolve it. Rather than accept harmony within our various groups at the expense of global discord, Quadratic Finance, with some representation of multilevel social organisation and the extent to which people’s commitments (i.e. the values and reasons behind their preferences) are viewed to be different, can help encourage cooperation across our differences.
This would help ensure that no group comes to dominate the others while preserving and empowering individuality. This also suggests a duality between individuals and groups, where individuals are viewed as the collective actions of groups and vice versa. Through this lens, problems with the nation states and corporations we depend on today for large-scale organisation can be seen as two sides of the same coin. On one side, nation states, which have the potential to be fair and democratic, instantiate a collectivist notion that a group can isolate and monopolise an individual, excluding them from all other groups – a severe problem since most of our interdependencies cut across national boundaries. On the other side, corporations, which have the potential to be more flexible and efficient, allow individuals to dominate groups, as their incentives for profit and market power tend to trump the democratic interests of the people they serve.
This lens also makes clear that the common promise of some blockchain rhetoric, to break down existing institutions and globally validate truth, would paradoxically undermine individuality and freedom rather than enable them. Alternative data structures based on the social nature of identity, in which paths of trust proving particular claims are constructed to support the social validation of truth on many intersecting levels of social organisation, may be more promising digital infrastructure for building a pluralistic society.
Blockchains nonetheless continue to be an exciting testing ground for RadicalxChange ideas. Gitcoin has used Quadratic Finance in several successful rounds to fund open-source software. Quadratic Voting, which has been deployed in the Colorado State House of Representatives with the help of Democracy Earth, as well as in several other countries and companies, shows significant signs of delivering in practice on its theoretical promise of generating more consensual governance than other methods. This experimental approach, attempting to move from an elegant mathematical model to its implementation in the world, is crucial for discovering the new institutional policies and social norms and practices that will make these new rules legible and intuitive – with the hope that by nurturing and scaling up this niche reorganisation of interaction, it will gain broadly shared legitimacy and eventually transform the systems through which power is organised.
With the continuing decline of legitimacy in the institutions of much of Western world, the future of technology and liberal democracy will be determined by how we collectively choose to imagine it.
In this moment, we are offered two competing visions. The Chinese Communist Party offers a vision of centralised artificial intelligence and automated decision-making, where the powers of the state are thrown behind technological innovation without any focus on democratic governance of those powers, and where the power to solve complex social problems is deferred to technocratic experts with little feedback from the rest of society. We see throughout history that this leads to devastation. The alternative can be found next door in Taiwan, a beacon of hope for democratic and pluralistic society, where technology is harnessed by civic hackers to build new ways for people to band together and determine their own future. The choice is ours to make together.