A utopia for democratically funded projects

Hello, everyone!

I am posting here a pitch for an idea on how to use existing activism to fund projects with a larger scale and a greater impact. Since julia is a real open-source utopia I believe you could give a good judgment whether an idea could take off (in that case I would need help to build the plane) or is destined for ashes.

So for the beginning, from a heated discussion on twitter last week whether electronic voting can be designed safe and secure I came up with an example - https://security.stackexchange.com/questions/216714/what-is-wrong-with-my-electronic-voting-scheme Sadly the moderator was not satisfied with the scope of the question I made. But, I have an idea of how to test the scheme, though the other things need to work as well.

As we know activism which is a necessary element of a working democracy is a subject to a free-rider problem and that diminishes its power. In the environment we live in, we have a limited capability to finance public goods such as media, open-source projects and political parties. Subscription model just does not cut it. Thus we rely on the state or from the advertisement model. Here I propose an alternative fundraising strategy based on transparent, anonymous, user verifiable electronic voting scheme.

The first step is to establish a git-based repository, where proposals, resulting votes and public keys would sit in. The contributors with merge rights would fill the role of the state, which ensures that all votes are being counted and has executive powers to deliver the result of the democratic choice. For example, ensuring that participating parties transfer funds according to a promise.

The promise of parties to finance the voted proposals is the credit for the democracy. It is thus natural to give the rights of merging motions, votes, and new members to the participating parties as that gives them the power to purge disobeying parties or to fork and purge the ruthless majority as their member entrusted capital depends on their responsible actions.

The technical details

Establishing a Credit

  • A git repo with a set of democracy rules and goals is established.

  • The author of the repository looks for support from activist groups or political parties who are willing to collect and keep funds for the democracy and so establishing credit for the democracy.

  • The activist group or political party is added to the board of members with merge rights.

Establishing a voters registry

  • A potential member founds the website of democracy. In this website, he sees organizations and parties who collect funds for this democracy.

  • He selects the organization which he trusts most and transfer funds to this organization with a note that it is intended for the organization.

  • The person now generates a private/public key pair and gives the public key to the organization, which is responsible for keeping his identity secret.

  • In a batch (could start with 10) the organization creates a merge request for the voter’s registry. The information contains:

  • List of identities.

  • List of public keys.

  • Members of democracy check if identities are real and can be found in donation list hosted by the merging organization. In case of issues, members make comments.

  • A voting process for a proposal to add those members to the group begins. If 51% had been collected the merge request is executed by the board.

Vote on a proposal:

  • A merge request is made by one of the parties on a particular proposal. The proposal contains the question, voting options and possibly specifics on the time period.

  • The merge request is accepted by other members of the board or returned for improvement.

  • If approved the voting process begins.

  • After the vote, the signed options are collected by the board members.

  • The board counts the valid votes for everyone testing if those are signed with a public key from the registry.

  • The board makes a merge to the repo with votes after the count, gives a summary of public opinion and executes the will of members.

References

Envisioning Real Utopias by Erik Olin Wright

Public Opinion by Walter Lippmann

Why Men Fight by Bertrand Russell

The Worldly Philosophers by Robert L. Heilbroner

EDIT
Yesterday I made a laymen type article - http://janiserdmanis.org/blog/democratizing-democracy

In my opinion, I don’t necessarily think that technical design decisions should be fully democratic, since scientific programming is not really a political issue but a technical one.

Just because somebody can finance and vote on something does not make them technically competent. For example, consider the people in charge of the investments at the Boeing company… their safety oversights due to their financial voting incentive caused hundreds of people to die in aircraft.

Could you please list some actual examples of where the current way of maintaining projects falls short? If there aren’t any clear examples for why the current way isn’t good enough, then this might not be needed.

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Funding of open-source projects is only one of applications for such scheme and I in no way am proposing to change the way julia ecosistem is funded. Perhaps this topic is too offtopic. On the other hand Julia would be my choice for implementation and perhaps there are some potential collaborators.

The question whether democracy should be allowed in a technical decisions. I don’t know the answer to such question. The feeling I have that in julia language there had been a small number of cases where public opinion on technical decisions were not gained in the discourse. Thus I consider julia to be a democracy without users needing to explicitly vote.

The proposed scheme perhaps could be useful where multiple parties recognize that they need the same tool, for example, a better GPU support, but have a completely different interests on it’s use. It is perhaps also possible that because of diverse interests the funding in julia goes so well. Let’s consider a case where we have two competitors A and B who would benefit from the same tool.

In a present situation A sees that the tool is needed and thus funds it’s development. But soon competitor B finds about this new tool and uses without requirement to pay. The company B thus had gained a competative advantage. A classic free rider problem.

I also don’t quite see the “problem” that you are proposing to solve. The example you gave doesn’t quite cut it because if a company wanted better GPU support for their Julia code and was not willing to fund the project for everyone (because of competition), they can just hire a developer to create a package for in-house use only that does what they need.

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Exactly! For in-house use. Imagine how many packages there could be if all in-house packages would be developed publicly!

Loomio is open source, run by a workers cooperative, and seems to provide the voting mechanisms you describe:

https://www.loomio.org/

The Cathedral and Bazaar by ESR is a pretty good read on philosophy of open source governance.

4 Likes

Cool! A competitor :slight_smile: The difference I think would be that they are offering authority services for small democracies. One needs to trust that they are counting votes correctly and does not reveal identity of a person. One also needs to pay for that.

You can run your own loomio server: https://github.com/loomio/loomio

It works great for organizations such as Makerspaces where you are constantly battling the “tragedy of the commons” as you describe.

What is their business model? From the website, it looks like they are offering to host organizations.

This sounds like a DAO, have you explored Ethereum-based DAOs? They are pretty built out and tested at this point, with Aragon providing a decent template as I understand it: https://aragon.org/

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Thanks! Another competitor :slight_smile: Blockchain generally is susceptible to 51% attack thus I had not looked on Ethereum as an option. I will have a look on that now…

I still think that blockchain is over hyped.

I think the fall of The DAO in 2016 is what makes Ethereum the best platform for DAOs actually, as they had their trial by fire and are currently in a bit of a DAO Renaissance of innovation. There are many models being tried, some DAOs with millions of USD at stake (Maker DAO being a critical part of the DeFi infrastructure) and some with extremely innovative models (Moloch DAO’s “rage quit” functionality in a grant giving organization is pretty intriguing). And I wouldn’t worry about 51% attacks in larger blockchain networks with a lot of hash power, much more concerning are bugs in the smart contract code (like the bug that took down The DAO or the one that locked up funds in the Parity wallets awhile back). But I think you’ll find the Ethereum community, much like the Julia community, believes in the overall vision and system enough to not sweep issues under the rug but rather face the issues head on :slight_smile:

But my 2 cents is that a DAO or anything like this would be overkill for Julia, especially given the current structure has been so successful to date.

To conclude, electronic voting is considered unsafe for a good reason - no one had shown a trustworthy design. Two different branches had emerged to solve the problem. The first one as used on Estonia relies on the honesty of authority which set’s up the system and so excludes people from the process. Other ends are blockchain solutions which, apart from being environmentally unfriendly establishes trust on the basis that people have the most significant economic power to protect the network. The latter certainly is not true!

I think my electronic voting design is a nail to a coffin of those two branches. I am currently founding a startup…

Proof of stake systems (which ethereum is moving to) are not environmentally unfriendly and there are many voting approaches in blockchain that range for simple majority of tokens to holographic consensus to one person one vote (Humanity DAO), fitting many community’s custom needs.

But as this all goes to show, we need lots of innovation because the orgtech space is clearly not solved, so good luck with your startup!

Humanity DAO is the right direction. It feels like that Ethereum perhaps could work if it monopolizes all world. But then we would have a monarchy. My approach on the other hand builds trust in the opposite direction - from small communities to large international movements.

I do not agree with your assessment, and as we’ve seen, it is usually the conventional tech startups that go on to be the big bad Facebook monopolies. You can avoid that path with an open source approach as Julia Computing has taken, sort of the Red Hat model, and I hope you do :slight_smile:

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