Wednesday, 6 September 2017

When you're a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

And when you write software, everything can look like a technology problem.

I saw and liked this quote because it's kind-of true:

“There’s an intrinsic incompatibility between the internet and nation states,” says Santiago Siri, one of Democracy Earth’s co-founders. “If we’re going to think about digital governance, we need to think in a borderless, global way.”

People connect across frontiers, cultures, ethnicities, religions and age differences. I can't tell if you're gay, straight or trans unless you choose to tell me when you're on a forum. I have no idea if a comment on a blog came from a Goan, Eskimo, Catalan or Tutsi unless there's additional information provided. And we can - sometimes even do - talk freely to each other.

So starting from the point of the quote, it seems that some clever people are trying to put together a voting system that can cross borders and even political parties.

And that's great.

But it completely ignores human nature, which not only revels in diversity, but is still affected by all the differences I've mentioned PLUS by various levels of honesty and of a desire to control others.

My first thought when reading the articles was about how quickly and easily votes could be bought by those with hard cash or actual bitcoins*. How a transparent system like this was bound to very very quickly fail because human nature is corrupt and greedy, careless and arrogant. Yes, there are many thoughtful, loving, kind, gentle, honest and careful people out there, but there's also a lot of stupid, greedy, careless, hard-hearted or even just plain poor or easily misled people out there too. 

You can connect people across borders, cultures and all the rest, but they will still be people, susceptible to all the things to which people fall prey. Any any voting system they use will be susceptible too.

*I first came across bitcoins in around 2010, through the Diaspora network, and had no real idea what they were. The guy running a particular server through which we connected had a computer fail and was asking for donations in bitcoins to help him buy new parts, presumably because of the anonymity aspect/alternative culture of the currency. I slightly wish I'd bought a couple then, but y'know how 20:20 hindsight goes.

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