Claimer: This document describes an idea. It is a current summary (there are many more details floating around which did not make the cut) presentation of a thought process that begun during the summer of 2012. It was written and is offered in a spirit of open sharing, in the hope that others may take an interest in it, in reshaping it and in giving it life. It is offered as a seed to be nurtured.
Oameni means “people” in Romanian. It was inspired by the juvenile simplicity of inaptitude and corruption in Romanian politics, making it a comfortable environment in which to experiment with change.
Oameni is built on the belief that it is better to go around existing broken systems with new and fresh systems (that draw upon the strengths and learn from misdirections of existing systems) rather than to try to fix or improve those that are in place.
Oameni is a vision for an online place (with offline reaches) where a “play government” can be explored and established. It is designed to support actual physical communities and uses content publishing, voting, representation and a social participation based currency where ideas can evolve and leaders can emerge. It may be possible that within a period of 10-15 years, play governments formed within Oameni can mature to a point where they can challenge and replace existing governments.
Core ideas of Oameni:
- Hierarchical Communities – Oameni can be played on any level from local to global.
- Publishing Content – Oameni is founded on publishing content as a means of exploration, debate and consensus.
- Voting – Oameni is powered by a voting system which backs a social currency.
- Social Currency – Oameni includes a social currency backed by social involvement and applicable for … more social involvement.
- Social Funding – Oameni’s social currency gives birth to a means to “fund” social policies.
- Representation – Oameni enables community thought leaders to become “elected officials”.
- Transparency & Accountability – Oameni establishes transparency by design and through it full personal accountability.
- Meta-Governance – Oameni itself can be shaped and reshaped (technically configured) within and by every Oameni community.
- Bottom-Up Constitution – a grounded approach to establishing a social view.
Governed Communities in Oameni correlate with physical communities. For example: I live in a village called Mociu, belonging to a communa (a local authority made up of a few villages) also called Mociu, in Cluj County where the main city is Cluj-Napoca, in Transylvania, in Romania, in Europe on planet Earth.
If a Oameni Commnunity for the communa Mociu was established and I was a member of that community then my membership would also automatically be extended to the communities of Cluj County, Transylvania, Romania, Europe and Earth (if and when they were established).
If a Oameni Community for Romania was established and I were a member of that community then that membership would automatically be extended to the communities of Europe and Earth (if and when they were established). That membership could also be extended to the communities Transylvania, Cluj County, and Communa Mociu (if and when they were established and my membership was confirmed).
Publishing is a core activity within Oameni. Content is published around core subjects within a community such as: education, ecology, money, health, happiness, etc. Each community is responsible for creating and evolving these topics (or embracing content structures from other communities) since these may evolve to become actual bodies of government.
Within each core subject there is a “content-path” through which published content can mature:
- Opinion – these publications represent personal (or group consensual) form on diverse topics.
- Research – these publications represent a more academic/journalistic form – they are more thorough and systemic.
- Proposal – these publications represent an attempt to formulate social consensus by outlining a public agenda.
- Policy – these publications represent social agreement that a community wishes to put into practice
This “content-path” may evolve to include additional forms that serve other purposes in the social dynamics including, for example, reports on actual governance such as how policies have been activated and how they are performing.
Theoretically anyone can publish content though, as will become apparent in the voting mechanism, it is natural that not all members of a community will publish and that the number of publishers will drop as content progresses through the “content path”.
The most basic form of commenting will be voting though content-based commenting may also be applied but will demand more involvement and effort then current popular commenting. Commenting, if made possible, will be viewed as an additional form of content publishing.
When content is published within a community every member within that community is given a voting token. That token can only be used for voting on the published document and only within a given time-frame. A token that is not used (to vote) is deleted and loses its potential power (which will soon be described).
Voting may take on different forms. Though there is much to be said for the simplicity of a “support/oppose” paradigm, there is also much to be said for thinking beyond a dogmatic structure and being open to forms which invite more involvement and better expression.
Voting is always open and transparent. Every vote of every member is kept on record and is publicly available to all other members.
The act of voting “prints” two kinds of currency:
- Social currency – when I vote for a publication I assign it social currency. A supporting vote assigns positive value and an opposing vote assigns negative value. When many members in a community vote a publication ends up having social value.
- Personal currency – when I vote for a publication I am gifted with a personal currency – a credit that can be used for “funding” other social activities.
Oameni currencies have accumulative effects. As more content is published more potential currency can be “printed”. The more I vote the more personal currency I can accumulate. The more community members vote for a publication the more social currency it may have.
However Oameni currencies are also subjected to demurrage – a negative interest. Negative interest is used to stimulate activity and to prevent hoarding:
- If, for example, I voted 1000 times in a year I have a personal stash of 1000 personal currency. However if the personal currency negative interest rate is 10% a year then if I don’t use that currency (invest it in social activity) then by the end of the year I will only have a stash of 900 personal currency. I am better off investing my personal social currency than hanging on to it.
- If, for example, a published policy accumulated 1000 supporting votes it has a value of 1000 social currency. If the social negative interest rate is 10% a year then that policy will lose value every year – after the first year it will have a value of 900 social currency, after the second year it will have a value of 810 social currency, etc. That means that to keep policies valuable a community would need to revisit, republish and revote for a policy. Otherwise a policy’s value fades. (An interesting point to consider is that social negative interest may also be used to reduce the value of opposition – so that if a policy had a value of -1000 social value it too would shrink after a year to -900, after two years to -810, etc … so that opposition would also fade and/or need to be maintained.)
This begs the question what can be done with these currencies?
For social currency the answer is simpler – it cannot be manipulated in any other way than more voting. It’s accumulation represents measurable social value. Those publications (opinions,research, proposal or policy) with more social currency have higher social value (more members of a community voted in their favor). They also provide a social ranking for individuals – the people who publish content – the people who actively shape public opinion and promote community values. These people are not rewarded for the work of publishing content, they are indirectly rewarded through the voting that takes place around their content.
While any member of a Oameni community can publish an opinion publication or an attempt at a research publication, the same is not true for proposals and policies. These require a basic level of social agreement before they are presented to the public to vote. This is meant to encourage an in-depth process of maturation through opinion and research publications before proposals and policies are discussed.
This means that to publish a proposal (or anything beyond it on the “content path”) requires a certain level of public support. That public support can be earned through a process of “funding” backed by personal currency. Think of it is a kind of social Kickstarter. To present my community with a proposal I would first have to raise a certain amount (set as part of the meta-governance presented below) of personal currency. I could campaign my family, neighbors, friends and ask them to support my proposal. Their agreement would come in the form of “payment by personal currency”.
That gives every member of a community an opportunity to offer different levels of support to different proposals or policies in her community. The more she is involved in her community (= the more she voted on other publications) the more personal currency is available to her to fund proposals or policies. She can give everything she has to one important proposal or she can decide to give to numerous proposals and prioritize them based on how much of her personal currency she dedicates to every one.
This further establishes that to move into more advanced publications such as proposals or policies there needs to first be enough opinion and research voting so that there is enough currency in circulation to fund them. There is no limit to the amount of personal currency in circulation – it is directly related to social activity.
In an active and thriving Oameni community as described above there may be an overload situation. There may be too much content for members to be able to take it all in and to vote on. This is where representation comes in and hopefully lays the foundations for future governance.
For every core subject in the community (see above: publishing content) a member can choose a representative. For example if there is member in the community who is passionate, professional and a thought leader on, for example, education, then other members can choose that member to represent them on votes related to education. This is a direct choice that members can make and change at (almost) any time.
When a member chooses a representative the representative can vote on the member’s behalf. The member’s voting token is “passed on” to the representative. If other’s choose the same representative then the representative may accumulate substantial potential voting power. There may be numerous thought leaders on education who are chosen to represent the voices of many members in the community. Now when something is published about education some members vote directly and others will vote through proxy – giving the representatives more voting power.
This voting power needs to be earned within the community. Representation is direct and dynamic. It is not global (one leader for everything) nor on a political time schedule (anyone at anytime can choose or dismiss representatives).
Representation makes it possible for people to fulfill their voting potential without having to take in everything that is published directly. Representation makes it possible for members of the community to focus and specialize on things that interest them and to accumulate voting power based on their direct actions. Given time this process may bring into light numerous thought leaders in diverse subjects essentially pointing them out as true leaders in their community.
When this game is escalated to a national or international scale (where both ideas and currency can travel up the hierarchy) then these people may come to form a shadow government. Real leaders backed by real people due to real ideas and real actions in their respective communities. In such a scenario it would be theoretically possible for such a group to go through the bureaucratic motions of forming a political party and running in elections with what may potentially be a sure win. The typical superficial and slow political processes can be replaced by a high paced, totally-direct and substantial social process.
It would even be possible for opening a discussion on a local and national level about the role of central government. “Central Government” can be a topic that is discussed within communities. The discussion could challenge the central power of current governments by outlining a new relationship between national and local. Then, when a “play government” intervenes in the actual political process it could strategically alter (using its newly found legislative powers) the actual balances of power. In such a long-term game local governing bodies may already be prepared for the shift – since they have been working towards it for a long time.
Transparency & Accountability
In Oameni every member would have a publicly accessible profile page. That page would be a public record of a member’s social activity – all publications created, all publications read, all publication voted on, all representatives selected, etc. It would theoretically be possible to extract indicators that expose consistency, coherency, change, stuckness – things that can informally attest to a member’s contribution to / position in her community.
An interest point here is the relationship with acting public officials. One of the problems with corruption is that it quickly fades from the public eye. Oameni can challenge that. Public officials can be invited to partake in Oameni (and in doing so contribute to the blurring of the lines between the “real world” and the “play world”) in which case their activity within Oameni would automatically accumulate on public record.
However public officials who refuse to partake can (because they holding public office and are of public interest), be put on record without their consent. By community choice, profiles could be established for all public officials. Even if they do not participate it would now be possible to keep, if nothing else, a journalistic record of their doings and misdoings. Hopefully, over time, media and people in the “real world” may learn to refer to this public record. Actions of praise and contempt will be on public record forever for all to witness.
There may be many parameters that shape and effect the social dynamics within a Oameni community, some of which have been hinted at in this document:
- Number of founding members (authenticated by official paperwork) required to establish a new community.
- Number of founding members required to vouch for authenticity of a non-founding member’s registration in a community.
- Content Path dynamics
- Publication rules (frequency, editorial, etc.)
- Commenting dynamics
- Voting Dynamics (type of vote, duration of vote, etc.)
- Negative interest rates for personal/social currencies
- Social Funding dynamics (funding required, donation limits, etc.)
- Representation dynamics (minimal representation period)
… and many more will emerge.
Meta Governance is the process of shaping these parameters by every community. Initially it will be in the hands of every community’s founding members. Once a community is established it can be one of its topics.
This alone may be a fascinating global project. Communities may be able to draw upon best practices from other communities. Communities may elect to link with other communities and work towards a unified meta-governance model.
Whatever unfolds, it should not be in the hands of any single person or group of people to decide these things. It is at the core of every community and the responsibility of every community to shape its meta-governance to best suit its needs.
The current paradigm of a country’s constitution is a major commitment in advance to an unknown future. A constitution is typically authored when a country (or community) is founded and from that day on there is a laborious and inhibiting process of exemptions and modifications that create relevance with modern time.
Oameni seems to describe an inverted process. One where only the most basic foundations are laid during inception – how do we vote, how do we choose representation, etc. Then begins a never-ending process of refinement and change in which a society is required to constantly examine and re-view itself. A constitution is then an always changing snapshot of the policies that are currently in place.
Instead of an expensive clinging to past ideas, Oameni offers a potential to shift and change whenever change comes. Complexity at the core creates a constricted playing field from which a society is always trying to escape. Simplicity at the core creates an open playing field into which a society can grow.