Government is truly one of the most universally hated objects in the scope of human consciousness. There is not a place on Earth that has not at one point in history or another had a change in regime. The premise of government is simple: a entity that ensures the safety and wellbeing of a collective. The reason governments are deposed is simple as well: failure to provide for the safety and wellbeing of the collective. Sometimes this is an externality like a country invading another. Other times it is the people under the government rising up against it for its failures. The latter reason normally is the result of corruption or other human failure. For ages this has been ubiquitous in governments. You can’t have a government without corruption, so as long as the life of the governed is not unbearable it is an acceptable trade.
The mutual agreement in this social contract is that, should a government become too corrupt, the people under it have the right to depose it. As modern technology has advanced however, we have seen the erosion of this right. Modern governments, especially western governments have military capabilities that far outrival the abilities of what the citizenry could conjure. Even in countries like the United States with the protections of their 2nd Amendment still are outgunned if during a revolt their government decided to, I don’t know, nuke the population into submission. This point was quite plainly stated here in an actual press conference.
All this to make the following point plainly evident: fair democratic government should it wish to continue must be changed as revolution is no longer a readily viable power balance. The more advanced the militaries of nations’ are above what is available to their citizens, the more brazen the corruption and suppression become. I would argue we are seeing this now more than ever in “democratic western” countries. Most developed countries have quite literally an oligarchy of political dynasty families, millionaires and billionaires, and actors/popular influencers. I will pause here to those who are smugly thinking “yeah the political party opposite mine is so corrupt”. You’re wrong. Corruption is a disease that is not selective to a single party or line of thought. It abounds and is sustained by just such thinking.
Chastising aside, how can such a problem be solved? Fortunately, in many nations I believe there are still good people and that meaningful change is still possible through non violent corridors. Out of the many options available that I attempt to list and quantify, the underlying intent is to illuminate the darkness of government and its functions and to remove as much power from centralization as possible.
Blockchain is one of the biggest inventions of this century if for anything else for the fact it distributes a task in a trustless manor. Instead of being used for a currency, such as Bitcoin, consider this: a blockchain voting system. While still in it’s infancy the technology pairs seamlessly with the concept of free and fair elections in a democratic nation. A blockchain is immutable meaning results could not be tampered with or altered on a server like current electronic voting machines. It is cheap, costing a fraction of what the full cost of voting is if you factor in transit to a voting station as well as the many other facets on both the voter and polling place. It is fair, as all you need is an internet connection and you are able to place your ballot (something in a Western nation so ubiquitous traditional exclusion of voters would be impossible). While there are all these and even more benefits, there are some concerns. For one, privacy is a major issue to consider in an election system based on blockchain. After all, how do you ensure that one person gets one vote? What about voter fraud? If the government has to issue a blockchain ID to someone to vote, doesn’t that defeat the point of decentralization? The list goes on. For more reading related to this topic as a whole check out this. There are still many issues to be ironed out with this concept, but as a whole for democracy I see blockchain voting as a must for the continuation of a free society.
Privacy Focused Connectivity
This is a bit of a weird technology mash up. There are a lot of technologies, both developed and developing, to aid in this very thing. As such I would be remiss to only include or point out one. The critical underlying issue that addresses is human predictability. Humans are the random numbers to the static environment around them. What parts of them are predictable can easily be found using algorithms and even swayed using those same algorithms. Human free will can be distilled down to nothing more than an algorithm to be used by marketing agents, political candidates, governments, and more. This make privacy of certain things all the more important.
The Onion Router, or TOR for short, is one such way to achieve this privacy. Without going too much into detail, TOR takes your internet traffic and routes it through many relays, making a message very hard to deanonymize where it came from, where it is going, and what is being done with it. It’s perks are a large userbase, it has been around quite awhile, and has many active nodes being run for it. The downsides are it is very slow, the network can become over encumbered with too much use, nodes have no economic benefits to being run outside of goodwill, and those who do run nodes can and often do get served a lot with court orders thanks to the traffic coming out to the light net. The last two especially are why this is neither economically nor socially appealing. Frankly I’m amazing so many people host with the amount of trouble running a node can be technically and legally. I could write an entire article about the shortcoming and how to fix them. Maybe someday I will.
Another privacy preserving alternative is the LokiNet, an interesting take on TOR. I am skeptical of this project but it is worth mentioning in leu of any other projects attempting what they are. The LokiNet attempts to solve two of TOR’s problems: bandwidth and economics. As I understand it, node owners on their network are paid in cryptocurrency for provide reliable, fast, and high bandwidth connections. This kills two birds with one stone in the sense that both incentive and internet speed are covered. The technology itself is what has me skeptical though and if anything I would treat it as a tech demo not something to actually use for concealing internet traffic. Regardless of that these are the two big players in securing privacy online. A great deal needs to be done to advance this goal for protection from both government and private entities.
You may be thinking “isn’t that what blockchain is?”, to which I reply yes and no. Yes, it is the underlying technology that powers cryptocurrencies, and no because they are functionally different. Using blockchain to secure the future of voting is one thing. Using blockchain to secure the future of finance is another beast entirely. One of the most impactful and devastating things a government can do to it’s people is mint a currency then inflate it. Inflation has been the downfall of a great many civilizations including the mighty Roman Empire. It is truly the biggest tax on the poor as it prevents the building of wealth for them but not the rich. The concept of a government based currency form though has never been the only option in history though.
One particularly interesting counter pick to a government currency would be the East India Company. The Company was legally both a governing body, a company, and an entity with the power to mint its own currency. The modern day counterpart would be something such as Disney Dollars. All that to say a government is not the only body that can create a currency. In fact, anyone can create a medium of commerce just by finding someone willing to trade for it. Enter the concept of Cryptocurrency. Instead of a government or company you have a collection of cryptographic databases stored by thousands of individuals like yourself. It has value because the collective agrees it does. Bitcoin specifically has a flat cap on how many coins there are (21 million), making it deflationary instead of inflationary. This paradigm shifts power away from corruption and mutability and makes it fair and equal for all, rich and poor alike. While there are still many hurdles to overcome regarding them, cryptocurrencies are the future regardless of how much you like them or not. The only real choice will be between a government issued cryptocurrency, and one that is run by the people for the people. One will rid humanity of a problem that has spanned thousands of years, and the other will ensure it lives on. To my esteemed reader I’m sure the choice is obvious.
NFT Proof Of Ownership
Non Fungible Tokens have been stigmatized, and for good reason. However, despite the many misuses of the technology, there is one key function they will serve in the future: proof of ownership. Mind you in their current form the only data stored on chain is a link to websites. This can be abused and in fact is only the tip of the iceberg for issues with them. For more on that read this excellent article. In the near future these problems could be alleviated with technology such as blockweaving, and when they are more fully resolved digital and physical ownership will become hyper easy to track. Every shirt you wear, all your devices, all your online work, and even your car and home deed. All represented as NFTs, all on a blockchain, and all easily proven who owns them. Stealing IP to even the shirt off your back would become much harder as ownership once someone was caught could be as easy as unlocking the wallet that has the identifying document. A future court could make easy use of this.
They say power corrupts. It is also well demonstrated that too much power in one person’s hands can be the absolute worst type of governance. What if though, in addition to the ideals of democracy, we automate aspects of government? Sure, systems can be set up on blockchains to issue NFT passports and government documents. What about automation of minor court issues? Or writing update letters about the government and key issues? Or running the entire government mail service? Automation serves not to put people out of jobs, but to distribute power. If consensus was achieved in a vote about something, the algorithm would then change to meet those new parameters. While it must be used with caution, I think there is a bright future for AI and algorithms in decentralizing government.
With all the different technologies listed it seems only a matter of time before we reach the first point in history where the collective can truly and fully govern themselves in a trustless environment. The interesting thing about these technologies is that they are going to have to separate attempts to serve as governmental bodies. The first is of course to slowly assimilate an existing government. The second however is slightly more novel: the creation of a digital government with said technologies. This concept is called a “Network State” and is quite simply a nationalized group of people that are together online but separated by geography. In an upcoming post I will detail more about how such a state could in theory work, and how in both government structures some changes and issues that must be contended with.