e-Democracy! Yes or No? – Hacker Noon

Written by Hunnar Ramwani

In a large democratic country there might be problems which affect only a particular group of people but is actually beneficial to the other group, decisions on such matters might be influenced by the biases and vote-banks of the ruling party. A solution to this problem is direct democracy i.e. people will vote and decide every matter of public importance, but this itself is a problem because in today’s busy life no one has time to think about public matters frequently and therefore voting percentage is an issue for many democracies. Not all people who are eligible, go for voting even for General elections and if there are frequent elections for smaller matters the voting percentage may even decrease further, for example when the citizens of Madrid were asked to vote directly (and electronically) on the renovation projects of one of the most important squares in the city, only 8% of eligible voters actually took part in the voting process, also it can be too costly to arrange elections repeatedly. Technology might help us solve this. We can use artificially intelligent bot to study the behavior of a person and understand his views and it can act as a proxy in voting while the person doesn’t even need to know what’s going on, the bot will take care of it all by itself. Sounds good doesn’t it??

Detailed Explanation of the !dea.

Let’s see an example to understand it better. Sylvia (a human being) lives in a world where each citizen with the right to vote is paired with a voting avatar, an autonomous agent that is able to communicate with her and who is authenticated by a central voting authority to vote on her behalf. Sylvia is the only authorised person to communicate with her voting avatar (e.g., speech recognition, fingerprint authentication, …). The central voting authority is a democratically elected government with executive power, supported by an elected bureaucracy who sets the agenda of debates, polls, and votes to be conducted among the entire electorate. Each morning Sylvia receives the daily political agenda, with issues classified by themes and by interest: local, regional, national, and global (the world in which Sylvia lives is likely to be a world federation). Sylvia can simply ignore the message and have a good cup of coffee, as she does on most days: Her voting avatar has already been searching the internet for opinions, consulted influential avatars, and built a preliminary voting behaviour for her daily agenda. During the day, the voting avatar will follow all discussions and correlated votes, and update Sylvia’s voting behaviour based on this information and on the level of strategic behaviour she set (currently she left the “strategic voting” button unchecked, like most of her friends claim to do). Her voting avatar has been training for years on a number of votes Sylvia takes directly every month, as well as by observing her conversations on social media, by reading her emails, and by having direct conversations with her every time that the avatar made a wrong or debatable decision on her behalf. Last night, for instance, Sylvia realised that the avatar suggested voting against issuing extra visas to refugees from the Mars colonies, based on a number of dubious sources that she had consulted a couple of days earlier out of curiosity. They discussed the issue for a good 5 minutes, clarifying her position on immigration, the job market, and charity (she actually found the discussion very helpful in constructing a solid view on these issues). Today Sylvia is quite interested in the debate on global freezing, and her voting avatar is proposing a vote in support of the current bill (decisions with long-term consequences involve a long series of iterated votes on improving proposals, in order to maximise consensus). Sylvia has access to a short summary of the reasons supporting the avatar’s suggestions, with links to a number of articles by authors she finds reliable, extracts from email discussions she had with a friend on this topic, as well as a list of her past decisions on related issues. She notices that the coherence warning is yellow, suggesting that her vote clashes with some of the positions she defended on the energy market a couple of months ago, but not being a public figure she chooses to ignore the warning…

Points in favour of e-Democracy.

  1. All the important decisions can be taken considering everyone’s view.
  2. The system will become more transparent.
  3. Electoral frauds can be reduced.
  4. One might say that we can’t trust it to make such decisions but we already trust it to make other decisions of ours than why not this? Also many parties already use political consulting companies using such data for making their strategies. So why can’t this be used officially?

Points against e-Democracy.

  1. Once people get used to delegate their consumer power to artificial agents, will they be ready to delegate their citizen power as well?
  2. All our personal data will be used to train the voting avatar so it might get a bit risky.
  3. Any loop hole in security can cause a major blunder.

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