I believe in the power of technology to change the world, and I thought I’d respond to Lawrence Lessig’s unconventional bid for US President. Here is my letter.
The idea of using the Presidential election for a referendum on citizen equality is great. It is a great platform to draw attention to this overall issue. However, how do you plan to achieve citizen equality in a representative democracy? Fiddling around the edges by “getting money out of politics” may be as wishful as people asking for non-proliferation of AI, drones, or big data. Instead, I want to suggest that the mechanism of voting, itself, is the problem.
Put simply, there is good reason to believe that transparent, publicly overseen polling with true random samples is far superior to voting. Voting favors those who get a higher turnout, or special interests who can spin more campaign dollars. It wastes money as people take a day off (why don’t we have an app for this?) and super PACs spend oodles of money on feverish campaigns. If you want one issue, how about replacing voting with polling. Our government should establish a publicly overseen bureau of public opinion, something that can be done gradually and proven out. It would be actually achievable, unlike a reform that the Executive branch could never do on its own.
Polling would actually get people’s opinion, and gradually reduce the need for representatives at all, representatives who bicker and don’t represent their own constituents because they want to get re-elected or sacrifice their campaign promises in order to gain favors for their pet issue. Polling is a far superior tool that is mathematically shown to reveal what the public really favors. If it was in place, we would have long ago put in place reforms that 90% of Americans favor, such as ending the war on drugs, sensible gun control, etc. And we’d get a government that really represents the American people.
Replace voting with polling. That will achieve true, mathematically proven, citizen equality.