Democracy on the Blockchain
My mind is having trouble processing the paradox that there is a Hitler wreaking havoc by waging a WWII style warfare, with his finger on the nuclear button, while plunging people of two countries into horror (Ukraine already and Russia is well on the way), while the world leaders are delicately attempting to navigate in an effort to dislodge him without setting off nuclear war. This is absurd. It should not be possible. And yet…
Why should it not be possible? Why is it happening?
First, whatever the polls say, I suggest that we start with the idea that most Russians are just normal human beings. They simply want to live and be “decent “ human beings. The definition of “decent” is a product affected by information exposure, fear, bias, education, curiosity, culture, etc.
For example, the few people who believe that Russian war is justified also believe that it is the decent thing to do to “denazify” Ukraine and some go as far as to explicitly refuse to believe that Russia is shelling civilians.
This is very important — for this argument it is not important that they believe something absurd. What is important is that either their heart is in the right place, or they are scared for their lives, or both.
Consider that up to 2% in the US believe that the earth is flat (source).
Consider that there are now reports that soldiers who retreat end up being shot by their own (source). This is a classic tactic that was used in WWII by Stalin, which explains why so many Russian soldiers died during that war.
So society right now is a bit like an elephant, or a cow — an insane amount of muscle that is easily directed by a physically inferior animal.
So what we are seeing is that “Russian” government, with a relatively small number of people, are able to control the dumb mass that is the majority — to steer this beast as it wishes. And Putin seems to have successfully implemented the lessons of the Soviet regime along with that of a few wars (that the West has turned a blind eye to) — all in an apparent effort to isolate the New USSR from the world. Let’s call it NUSSR.
NUSSR is 1984. NUSSR is North Korea. NUSSR is a brutal Stalinist regime based on fear and intimidation. And it should not be possible, because most people in Russia are not bad people. And here there is a neat trick that is used by authoritarian regimes — fear that, if you dissent, you are alone. So 90% of the people could be strongly opposed to Putin and his regime, but if each one of them believes that it’s only 20% and the remainder will kill them if they find out — well, you have what we have today.
So how do you change this balance? How do you turn Russia from a dumb beast into a sophisticated society that would not allow tyranny? How do you make it possible for people to see that most people don’t want to inflict suffering and fear?
The US had a solution that was put into the foundation where the government has built-in checks and balances with three branches leading to a system that has worked surprisingly well. This is an option for Russia only if the oligarchs or the military are able to physically remove Putin from his throne. Then the likes of Navalny and Khodorkovsky could lay a foundation similar to that of the US. Possible, but what if there is a better solution?
Enter the Blockchain.
Blockchain is a way to establish and maintain shared knowledge — a consensus. What makes blockchain unique is that it does so without relying on a central authority, thus making it near-impossible to compromise.
Elections are a process to establish and maintain shared knowledge about governance.
Thus would it be possible to run polls and elections in a credible manner without central authority? Would it be possible to have shared consensus about governance using the blockchain?
So here is my proposal:
A new phone app, which does two things:
- A digital wallet: the Ruble is going the way of the Zimbabwean Dollar, so there is a dire need for a reliable way to store value. One of my friends in Russia has been frantically buying up crypto, as he understands that he will not be able to retain value in his current assets. I am sure this is the case for many at the moment.
- A voting system: a system that enables deceralized management of polling. This is where things get tricky and there is a lot of room for error, but what if you could simply throw a vote into society. Then, as you interact with people around you (passive or active), they get to see and participate in the polls / votes that are picking up momentum. This enables propagation of ideas and establishment of consensus.
The wallet them becomes the source of capital that enables operation of the blockchain (i.e. each over has a cost to ensure that it is properly counted). This is what makes the system incredibly expensive to try to hack.
So what would be the consequence?
A leader doesn’t need to be removed. They can be simply made irrelevant.
If everyone says “we are not playing along with this”, the entire system comes to a grinding halt, as a new system forms organically to replace it.
So what would make Putin irrelevant? Would it be sufficient if 90% of Russians to state publicly and anonymously that they will not play along? Would this cause the military and police to fall apart? Would knowing that you are not alone create sufficient activation energy to, overnight, change the nature of Russian government?
I don’t know, but seems that this is how society should function. Then again, this is a simple idea, but, as the saying goes, devil is in the details.
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