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Cool idea - Liquid Democracy

March 18, 2014
tags: politics, theory, democracy, delegation, votes, liquid democracy

So, the other day I stumbled across the idea of liquid democracy, also known as delegative democracy. It seems really neat to me.

So, what is it? Basically, it's a form of direct democracy where voters on any given proposition have the option of one of three courses of action:

  • Vote directly on the proposition
  • Abstain from voting
  • Delegate their vote to another voter, whom they trust politically

The third option is what makes liquid democracy separate from normal direct democracy. That takes the burden off of each individual voter to know about every single proposition, allowing their vote to still count in a meaningful way. For example, say you're well versed in environmental issues, but you don't know too terribly much about military expendatures. But your friend knows all about military topics, and you tend to agree with her when she votes. You can decide to delgate all of your military votes to her, allowing her to cast your vote. You don't have to study the budget anymore, your friend is now voting for both of you. And if at some future juncture, you no longer politically agree with your friend, you can undelegate your military votes from her, and reallocate them as you see fit. No lock-in, the benefits of collective knowledge, and the prevention of wasted votes, all in one smooth package.

Additionaly, delegation is transitive -- any votes delegated to you can also be delegated by you. Unfortunately, this causes cycles -- If A delegates to B, B to C, and C to A, those votes will never be cast. There are two fairly obvious solutions to this:

  • Those votes are not cast, and those involved are responsible for fixing the cycle before the next vote, if they wish to avoid this in the future.
  • Make delegation a mutual agreement process. This way, B will not accept A's delegated vote, because B knows that he is already delegating to C. Instead, B will suggest that A delegate to C as well. And if A delegates to C, C will know that he cannot delegate to A, because A would reject that request too.

The biggest problem would be the categorization of votes. The neatest solution to this problem (in my opinion) is the idea of a categorization service, which is some service (an organization of one or more voters) who categorizes your votes for you. They exist between you and your delegates, and filter your delegated votes to the proper delegate. And these, like delegation links, can be unsubscribed at will.


I see real use for this in AI, for subjects like computer vision, or expert systems. If you squint hard enough, it's a dynamic neural net, with much more complex neurons. Perhaps this even has applications in algorithmic art or composition? I'll have to play with this to get a feel for it, but I'm excited!

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