So I don’t sleep much. My issue is that when the lights go off and I climb in bed, instead of my brain thinking that it’s time to sleep, it think’s that it’s now time for an un-interrupted thought session.
Last night, at about 2AM I turned to the other person in my bed and announced that I might have solved democracy with an application of Google’s search algorithm. Fortunately for me, I wasn’t greeted with a pillow to the face and I was given an opportunity to explain what I meant.
When defining democracy, it’s essentially a system of government by the people, for the people. I don’t see a fundamental flaw in that regard, but I do see a fundamental flaw in our application of democracy to the election process. Even with variations like the electoral college system, democratic elections are still determined primarily by the popular vote – and that’s the problem.
Back in grade 9, I ran for student council. I was the representative for the grade 8 class, so why not. I was one of two people who were voted in. The second was a classmate named Collin who was egged on by the popular crowd to run. The problem is that Collin had very few intentions of actually participating on the council. He was elected, partly as a practical joke and partly as an act of defiance. This was the first time I had experienced a failure of a democratic election and certainly wasn’t the last.
If we agree that the purpose of a democratic election is to collectively select the leader most capable of leading, then we have a fantastic starting point. Where that falls out of line with the democratic process though, is that all votes are counted equally. That makes the assumption that everyone is equally capable of selecting the most capable leader. Effectively, someone who has put no effort into understanding who’s most fit to lead has an equal vote to someone who’s put in a tremendous amount of effort. That’s strikes me as an efficient process.
Imagine if a company’s CEO was determined by the popular vote of its employees and customers. Sounds fun, but how qualified are those individuals to make that decision? A search for a major CEO is a highly strategic endeavor in which significant resources are dedicated to finding the absolute best candidates, and vetting them to the nth degree. Would it not make sense to apply a similar strategy to electing a president or prime minister? For most companies, the CEO is elected by a board of directors and the board of directors are elected by the company’s shareholders. Effectively, you have people who are highly educated on the operations of that business, have had a chance to review all the candidates personally, and have selected the person who’s best capable of leading that company – in theory.
I certainly wouldn’t be the first person to suggest applying business principles to government, but I think this approach falls short of the end goal as well. Let’s use the states as an example with a 320 million person voting base and let’s say that this hypothetical board of directors that would be responsible for selecting a president was 20 members deep. So the 320 million Americans would elect those 20 board members and those board members would elect the president, but this doesn’t solve the issue of people choosing someone they don’t know, whose policies they don’t understand, for a role they don’t entirely comprehend. That board of directors becomes another exercise in the popular vote, but now they’ve also been given the autonomy to select someone who may not be in the public’s best interest. Somehow, the elected leader needs to be reflective of the general population’s best interests, but be selected by those who are capable of making such decisions. Enter Google.
I suspect that the majority of people who use Google know that it’ll do a fantastic job of helping you find something, but they might not understand what’s happening behind the scenes. The way it was explained to me was with a soccer team. How do you determine the best player on the team? Is it the player who scores the most goals? Is it who the crowd cheers loudest for? Probably not as defense wins championships and fans are fickle. Based on the Google Algorithm, a player’s value is determined by the passes they receive. Effectively, if they receive more passes than the average player, they’re simply identified as a more important player. The best player is simply determined by which player receives the most passes from the most important players.
Makes sense right? Well let’s take that one step further and recognize that what Google has really done is created an algorithm that identifies and then prioritizes trust. The best player on the team receives the ball more more often from other top players because they trust that player to be more capable. This trust factor is important when discussing the relationship that most voters have with their candidates. Most career politicians seem to have issues with integrity and keeping promises, yet every cycle, millions of voters talk about how they trust their preferred candidate. Personally, I think it’s unreasonable to trust someone you’ve never met, let alone seen how they behave when their morals and integrity are challenged. The reality is that it’s unfair to expect these individuals to choose a leader simply because they’re not equipped to do so. Another unfortunate reality is that the political system and media are fully aware of this and it’s why every few years, the circus comes to town and the status quo is maintained.
In order to make an educated decision for the leader of a country, you need to have a deep understanding of how government works and you need to have a deep understanding of who that candidate is. I think I’d be safe in assuming that 99% of Americans who participated in the last election were unqualified to vote by those standards – but they absolutely still deserve a voice. Time to deploy Google’s algorithm.
The idea is that you may only vote for someone you know and it would be encouraged that you simply prioritize character, integrity, and vision. Neighbourhoods all over the country would then put their trust behind a few key individuals who would then put their trust behind other key individuals. Through 6 degrees of separation, this algorithm would include just about everyone. Eventually, the algorithm would produce a group of peers who are effectively the most trusted and capable individuals in the country, and through their votes, they would elect the individual who they deem to be the most capable and trust worthy.
Earlier we agreed that the purpose of a democratic election was to collectively determine the individual most capable of leading. Democracy solved.