Quote of the day—John Robb

A form of direct democracy is coming.  One that lets people directly influence the decisions of the people they send to Washington.

A form of interactive democracy that doesn’t require any changes to the constitution since it works at the party level and not the national. 

When it does, it’s going to hit us fast, taking off like wildfire since it fulfills a fundamental need that the current system does not provide.

Here’s a quick example from the perspective of the Trump insurgency.  Other political parties would need different approaches, but they could if done in the right way (simple approach, scaled quickly by using disruptive marketing, grow from there), grow as quickly as this. 

Here’s how quickly populism can be automated:

  • Trump or Bannon picks an issue: the narrower and more inflammatory (disruptive marketing) the better.  Make the vote a yes or no.
  • Trump asks his supporters to tell him what they want (he doesn’t ask those opposing him). 
  • His supporters download the app to their smart phones and vote.  
  • A little programming and marketing magic radically improves the number of Trump supporters using the app and reduces spammers/non-supporters attempting to skew the vote down to a trickle.
  • Millions of Trump supporters download the app and vote.  
  • Once the decision is in, the app makes it easy to call or spam message to the user’s Congressional representatives.  Millions of calls roll in.  
  • A bill that codifies that issue is fast tracked in Congress.  Massive pressure via the app and the White House gets it passed quickly.
  • Connecting action and results quickly generates buzz.  Repeat.  This time with 10 m downloads.  
  • The app evolves. The pressure from the network increases.  It consumes the Republican party.

John Robb
March 10, 2017
How Trump and Bannon Could Automate Populism
[I’ve been wondering, for at least 30 years, what sort of new form of government might come out of the rapid technological changes we are seeing. Robb offers us, and he admits this, a very simple view of one possible outcome. I’m not convinced he is correct about the potential for the model he presents. I admit instant communication has great potential to make changes. But the minority party has the same tools as the majority party.

And the technological changes are not just in the field of communications. There are things of great importance on “the technological spreadsheet”. These include, essentially, continuous electronic surveillance on political opponents and the public at large, robots and drones (both armed and unarmed) for law enforcement and military action, and the threat of implementing a cashless society (more than just surveillance, it would make tax resistance extremely difficult).—Joe]


13 thoughts on “Quote of the day—John Robb

  1. I like the variant that Neil Smith describes in The Probability Broach (“participatory representative democracy”) — where the representatives each vote however many proxies their constituents have given them at this particular instant.

  2. In this day and age, where it’s not a matter of If but When a system is hacked, I don’t care for the idea. Just like I don’t care for online voting. Course I don’t do the book of faces, twatter, or any other (un)social media offerings people seem to be infatuated with. Only reason I carry a cell phone is in case of an emergency. I’d probably be more apt to go with R. A. Heinlein’s (PBUH) concept put forth in “Starship Troopers” where one gains citizenship, voting rights, and the ability to hold public office only by serving in the military. But I did a tour in the Army so I could be prejudiced.

    • Hacking would be a concern, though not to the extent it is for voting. Here we’re talking about influencing only, I think.
      The problem with a lot of recent voting system changes is that there is no way to confirm the validity of the “results”. It’s not hard to see that the only valid system is paper ballots (counted by automatic scanners if you like, but they can be recounted manually), submitted in person at a polling station by identified voters, under the watchful gaze of poll watchers. No form of electronic voting can ever be trustworthy. No “pull the lever” machine, either.

      • I very much agree with you, Paul, on the voting part. Influencing, in my opinion, should hold almost the same importance though. I want those I vote for to take my opinion into consideration, not what some app on an insecure system reports. Unfortunately as Mikee mentions down below, “civil servants” are usually neither and vote as the One With The Mostest Money wants them to.

  3. Direct democracy. Wow. Just… wow.

    As a monarchy is tyranny by one, and an oligarchy is tyranny by a few, so democracy is tyranny by the majority. No, thanks!

    • It’s not even as good as that – it’s tyranny of the technologically connected.

  4. Although I like the idea of being able to robocall my representatives, like they robocall me, the value put on incoming calls about legislation would go down to the amount of effort the constituents put out to make the call, meaning near zero. It would be just your robot talking to their robot, and nobody would really care.

  5. Trump already is doing this on a more informal level. He’s used, and is using, Twitter to communicate directly with the People. He can quickly A-B test ideas and alter his approach.
    He’s also using it to garner additional support for his policies, so it’s a two way street. That’s another subject, though.

  6. I worked in a state legislator’s office for two weeks as an intern, a long time ago, when I was in high school. One of my delightfully inane duties was to field calls about issues that came into the office, and tabulate pro/con opinion. The calls were ignored, the tabulated opinion was documented, and the legislator went on his merry way and voted the way he would have voted without that information, anyway.

    Never overestimate the hubris of a legislator. In fact, don’t even try. You can’t.

  7. Two points of interest about Mr. Robb’s concept:

    1) Political parties aren’t mentioned in the US Constitution at all, indeed they didn’t exist as a national political concept when the document was agreed to, so the lack of any needed changes to the constitution could equally be said to argue the continuing unconstitutionality of political parties.

    2) Ignoring point #1 entirely, if this is to be seen as strictly a national political party function, then having a “vote” count only if a stipulated (if likely quite minor) amount of money contribution to the party be also attached seems an inevitable eventuality. I would think the que lining up to register a legal challenge to that would be a long one.

    None of which obviates his observation that changing technology will disrupt established methods of human interaction.

  8. Yeah; direct democracy, or pure democracy as it’s been called for millennia, is the pipe dream of the Progressives. Once they use it to get enough power, of course they’ll do away with democracy altogether. Democracy is merely their means, or tool, for getting that power, or so they think.

    Anyway; don’t make the mistake of believing that instant communication actually changes anything in this regard. Snail mail, polls, telegrams, organized public demonstrations, visits to the capitol (or knotted bits of rope delivered by runner), have been around since dirt, and can be made to serve the same purpose. Gutenberg would have had a lot to say on this very subject as well. That we can now do it faster (if we’re stupid enough to do pure democracy at all, forgetting that the U.S. was supposed to be a republic), doesn’t make a paradigm change.

    That change happened sometime well over 100 years ago. Some say it started with Jackson, you know, the “Manifest Destiny” shithead.

    The only way instant digital communication actually changes anything would be found in the way the communications could be altered, reinterpreted, and faked en masse. Also not new at all, but providing more power for those who control the software and the “pipelines”– No doubt it is an attractive idea to them, which they’ve been thinking about for many years already. The other way is to bypass, to some degree, the Old Media (now properly termed the government/media complex) and break their generations old monopoly on “news” reporting. That has happened already. They’re desperately searching for ways to undo that change and revive their monopoly..

    There’s nothing new under the sun, Young Grasshopper; they only take different shapes, and operate under ever-changing pretenses, to keep us off balance. We would do well to keep that in mind.

  9. We have a Constitutional Republic.

    F— Direct Democracy. So if we have 51% as parasites we have issues.

    Let’s go back to the Constitution and burn down/defund all the institutions and alphabet soup agencies that are not authorized to even exist.

    • That would leave DC looking about like it did in 1801, which would be a Good Thing.

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