In this site, I write a lot about my imaginary form of government by data and urgency that I call a dedomenocracy. In these discussions, my concept is very specific about a form of government that places the highest priority on collecting observational data about the world and human behavior with as little interference as possible from the government. The concept is to have the best data available about the current resources when it comes time to takes action in times of great urgency. The people’s role in this government is to collect and curate the data, to identify its long terms goals and fears, and to raise the alarm that triggers the government to act. Once triggered, the government uses algorithms to pick the best option that optimizes the long-term objectives with the resources are that are actually available. No human is in involved in this process, not even to override or veto the decision. Instead the decisions always have a short life. After the expiration date, the policies are lifted whether the emergency is resolved or not. The population then has the option to trigger another action.
In my imagined government, triggering government action takes supermajority consensus that an emergency exists. I use the recent (and ongoing) pandemic situation. I can see initially this supermajority threshold may have been reached. If the policies expired a month or two later, there would still be widespread concern but I doubt it would have reached the supermajority threshold. Absent that criteria, the government in effect tells the population to deal with things yourselves. This government quits.
I dislike our current government’s pertinaciousness when it comes to laws passed long ago. Even when the laws have to be renewed, the government almost always renews the law even if the law seems outdated. We have a reverence for our predecessor’s foresight to know what is good for us, even if those predecessors are ourselves at a younger age.
At one point, we feared a terrorist attack, so we adopted a state of government that perpetually fears a terrorist attack. Certainly, an attack could happen, but that is not new. What is new is the expectation that we need rituals that most of the time just reminds us of the threat without actually preventing anything.
The more recent example is the pandemic that initially appeared to threaten a devastating fraction of the population. To our relief, the pandemic was not as bad as at first feared, but now we have perpetual rituals that at best remind us that such a deadly pandemic is a possibility. As I discussed in the last post, this new pattern of public rituals will persist for a long time, almost certainly for the remainder of this decade. Like terrorist attacks, bad pandemics can happen at any time and often when you least expect it, so we have to be forever diligent.
In both examples, the diligence comes in the form of exaggerating suspicion and distrust of everyone we encounter, and especially people we do not know nor recognize. They could be the one that does the deed we’ve been dreading will happen.
I wonder how life now would be different if over the past 30 years we lived under my fantasy government, in particular one that quickly expires its policies and demands the public to reassert their supermajority opinion that a response is necessary. There are a lot of things that should have been forgotten by now.
Many actions were reasonable and appropriate for the immediate circumstances. Once the immediate crisis is under some level of control that lessens our concerns to a more tolerable level, the government neglects to consider it has the choice of withdrawing entirely. Instead, we have a culture that demands a post-mortem review of the entire situation starting with the events prior to the emergency and ending with the final cleanup and recovery. Inevitably, the lessons learned is that the government could have done better job in preventing things from getting so bad and in recovering more quickly. We enact those lessons into new policies and laws that are easier to enact than to repeal. In the end, our reality perpetuates a one-time circumstance into rituals and investments that reminds us of the invisible threat. The threat is invisible because it no longer exists at least in anything resembling the form it took the last time.
In each case when there was an emergency, there comes a time, usually quickly, when the population grows comfortable with the current circumstances. They accept that their lives were disrupted and are they start rebuilding or otherwise adapting. At this point, there is a choice available to withdraw the government involvement.
This choice is not available in a democracy. People demand accountability from government for why the situation happened, got as bad as it did, or took so long to resolve. That accountability translates into new regulations and laws, and new enforcement powers, supposedly to make sure the same mistakes would not be made.
Inherent in the dedomenocracy concept is the recognition that same mistakes will not be made because the same circumstance will not happen again. Again, I am speaking about the specific form of government of my fantasy.
This government takes utmost priority on actual observations instead of theories, and for observations it places higher priority on recent observations than on older ones. I call this bright data to contrast with dark data of theories and post-mortem review findings. In many cases, the actual sequence of events depends on the people and their background at the time. People move on, new people replace them, and those new people have different perspective. Even if the actual event occurred exactly as before, there will be a different population that will deal with it, and they will deal with it very differently than before, because they are different people.
Dedomenocracy works where democracy fails because dedomenocracy observes the actual people present right now and makes decisions according to these present resources. In contrast, democracy ends up with policies that assumes that the current population is identical to the prior ones that we determined needs specific rules to prevent their mistakes.
It seems obvious to me that a new generation will not make the same mistakes as the older ones. Some of this may be the result of learning the lessons, but some of this is the simpler explanation of them not having the same past experiences. Each new circumstance provokes a reaction of the population at the time of the circumstance. It is impossible to provoke a reaction of a population that no longer exists.
Democracy inherently has the expectation that there is a permanent absolute truth about human behavior. With each new situation, we learn more information to add to what we already know about human behavior. Each new situation progressively gets us closer to the absolute truth about what humans will do depending on their position on the society or economy. There is an expectation that this Truth actually exists, and eventually we will know the Truth fully, even it it takes a few centuries to do so. In other words, we are around a quarter of a millennia closer to the Truth about human nature than the founders of this republic.
Dedomenocracy expects nothing from a theory of human behavior. It effectively dismisses the possibility of such a Truth or the possibility of knowing it. More fundamentally, it just does not care. Dedomenocracy governs by observations of what is on the ground right at the moment.
One of the prerequisites for a dedomenocracy is extensive and exhaustive sensor network that feeds a data store that captures nearly everything about the current world. With that much information, it does not need a theory of human nature, or a theory of human behavior when confronted with a particular dilemma. It has actual observations of actual people in the positions they currently have. Dedomenocracy makes decisions based on what can reasonably be expected from individuals given what has already been observed from these individuals.
A democracy presumes, or even expects, that the individuals living today will behave exactly the same way as their predecessors. The rules are in place to correct those prior misbehaviors. The expectation is that the current population is prone to the same misbehaviors. This is ludicrous, in my mind.
One of the justifications we use is that human nature is a product of evolution. We behave certain ways in the modern world because of behaviors naturally selected to survive through more primitive times. This theory gives us confidence that there is a predictable human nature, and the prediction is that humans will behave in ways that would be more beneficial in the primitive times than in modern times. As a result, we need laws to restrain and to direct these behaviors into what is more appropriate for the present. By and large, we can not expect individuals to figure out this themselves. The reason is that there hasn’t been enough time for evolution to select for modern behaviors.
I propose that government does not need this kind of theory, or even an expectation that a theory is possible. This approach was convenient short-cut to government when we lacked data. As with all dark data, this theory of human behavior is a substitute for the lack of observational data. Until recently, it was impossible to document each individual’s aptitudes and attitudes. Having a theory of human nature is a convenience for when data is lacking. There are arguments that the theory must be pretty accurate because basing government on the theory does appear to work.
I make the counter argument that the evidence of people finding ways to mess things up even with all the laws that supposedly prevent it. The democracy answer is that we need to update the theory. The dedomenocracy answer is that we just need to pay closer attention to what the current crop of individuals are like. Such data is available now.
In this age of data, it is insulting to be assigned a label that comes with expectations of behaving consistently with the theory of human behaviors for that label. People leave an observable record of what they are like. That record should be sufficient to know what to expect, and even to predict where they may falter. No theory of ape ancestors living in trees is needed.
There is an alternative approach to something like our current situation that we call a pandemic. The government could just quit. More importantly, the government must quit. People are now aware of the situation. Now is the time for government to sit back, observe, and report. Certainly there will be new cases, and new deaths. The rate will fluctuate over time, location, and demographic. The important information is whether the population is tolerating this, and whether they are adapting. To get this information, the government needs to stand down and watch.
Had government done this earlier, we would have averted the current social prohibition era that we will be stuck with for a half generation, at least. Now that we are here, we need government to get out of the way and let society grow around the fact that people are acting in new ways and the fact that people are dying in new ways. Unless the disease poses an existential threat to civilization, there is nothing for government to do. Even if this were such a disease, the government’s actions more likely than not would be futile. Beyond basics of providing information, government is more of an hindrance and detriment to the population’s adaption of the new reality.
This can not happen in a democracy. We demand that government assure our safety. When then expect the population to obey the democratically decided recommendations. What a shame.