True Democracy: World’s First ‘Political App’ Blockchain Party Launches in Australia
Max Kaye is an Aussie with a passion for Bitcoin. He is currently working to bring a novel political party, the Neutral Voting Bloc, into existence using the bitcoin blockchain turning it into a political party of the future.
Max Kaye is an Aussie with a passion for Bitcoin. He is currently working to bring a novel political party, the Neutral Voting Bloc, into existence using the bitcoin blockchain turning it into a political party of the future. He occasionally writes in his free time on subjects within the union of computer science and economics. An aspiring social entrepreneur; Kaye seeks growth in culture and society over account balances, and looks forward to the novel opportunities afforded within a Bitcoin based economy, including exciting restructurings of society.
Kaye describes the Neutral Voting Bloc (NVB) as a “political app.” Elected officials are told how to vote by participants on the blockchain, so voters always control parliamentary actions in an open, transparent way. We could well be on the way to true democracy.
Cointelegraph: What is the overall goal of this campaign?
Max Kaye: The main purpose of the Neutral Voting Bloc (NVB) is to perform an over-the-air (OTA) upgrade to Australia's electoral system, and perhaps the world.
More specifically, it's to instantiate a democratic system that strongly embraces the right sort of epistemological philosophy to produce good policy consistently, or at least more often than our current systems. It also instantiates this philosophy in itself, allowing itself to be upgraded and altered when the time is right. Then end result is that even with a small number of seats the NVB can help produce better policy results.
For details as to why a tiny influence in parliament can produce large benefits see Accidental Politicians (Pluchino, 2011). Curiously, this paper provides an explanation as to why the Rudd/Gillard governments were able to be productive a few years ago while the current Abbott government is not.
The 'right sort' of philosophy is directly taken from modern epistemology. The NVB can improve policy by increasing conjecture put forward, and also by encouraging a culture of criticism to sort the good conjecture from bad. It's critical to maximize both of these for the best policy output. A great inspiration for the NVB was David Deutsch's 2011 book The Beginning of Infinity.
Some of the inspiration has also come from Testing Theories of American Politics (Gilens, 2014):
Multivariate analysis indicates that economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on U.S. government policy, while average citizens and mass-based interest groups have little or no independent influence.
The Neutral Voting Bloc is designed to move the needle in favor of citizens, slowly, and consistently over a reasonable period of time. By embracing the culture of permission-less innovation we can get started right away.
“The 'Neutral Voting Bloc' […] describes the party's prime directive of sorts: not to interfere in policy, but to provide the right environment.”
CT: Where did you come up with the name for the party and what are its politics/policies? If in fact there are no policies, please explain the logic behind this and how you plan to get membership?
MK: I went through a few names first, like 'herd of cats' and 'ROSE' (because the idea is just as good by any other name). 'Neutral Coalition' was another but I thought it'd be a bit too ambiguous. The 'Neutral Voting Bloc' is a functional name that hasn't ever been used before and it accurately describes the party's prime directive of sorts: not to interfere in policy, but to provide the right environment.
I call the NVB a politico-economic structure because it is not designed to function like a typical party. In a typical party there is a strong hierarchy and unified policy platform. When we have large parties this often means that only a few policy platforms are put forward, limiting conjecture and causing abrupt changes in policy and environment.
The NVB, on the other hand, is designed to interact with other parties (at first). Australia uses an esoteric electoral system for our federal senate, which features Group Voting Tickets (GVTs). GVTs not only allow for, but force each party to compare all other parties in an economic fashion, so we present other parties with an economic choice: to rank us highly and be rewarded when we win a seat, or to not participate. In this way we hope to function as a neutral method for sharing the last seat elected in each state without biasing any sociocultural group.
Additionally, participation begets participation in more ways than one. All Australian citizens are eligible to participate as a singleton, so once we have seats in the senate there is an incentive for citizens to become involved as well. By participating in all levels of governance we hope to become broadly attractive and build participation from all levels. This will be especially noticeable when the NVB holds the final seat in a vote. At this point there will be a strong incentive to influence the vote and so a resource war of sorts begins, where the resource is the potential to participate in the NVB.
We're looking for members who are excited by the possibility of altering (for the better) the political environment of Australia, and so far we're finding this is the excitement driving membership. Over time there will be more and more incentive to work with or join the NVB as its influence grows, so that will eventually become the dominant force driving membership.
CT: Who is your target audience?
MK: At this stage it's anyone enthusiastic about trying something unique and innovative. The inaugural meetup is being held in Sydney on June 2 and I'd encourage anyone curious or skeptical to come along.
Closer towards the election we'll be focusing our communications on other parties.
“[NVB needed] anti-censorship properties and immutability - the only electronic structure on the planet I'm aware of that can do this is the Bitcoin network.”
CT: Why are you using the blockchain? What type of blockchain are you using?
MK: Because we intend to facilitate a variety of parties some of them will necessarily disagree strongly. To maintain integrity we need each party to be able to independently verify the voting record, and each vote. Furthermore, there are anti-censorship properties, and immutability. The only electronic structure on the planet I'm aware of that can do this is the Bitcoin network. (Although there are other blockchains, they are not immutable enough because their hash-rates are so low). Another advantage is that by using CoinJoin we can implement anonymity features (voting and identity transfer).
At this stage we're using a Satoshi blockchain, though moving to Ethereum or other currently esoteric chains might be an option once they are more secure than the Bitcoin blockchain. Even if we were using the Ethereum blockchain we would not make use of their scripting system, at least not until there was a great deal of testing to ensure compatibility. Our primary motivation is the security of the blockchain, not the feature-set.
CT: Please explain how you incorporate Game Theory into this? Can this be applied to other movements besides voting?
MK: When game theory is mentioned we're talking about the choice we are offering to other parties. Our proposition is crafted so that cooperation should offer greater incentive than the old way of managing preference deals. Of course, this still needs to be tested in practice and fine-tuned to maximize participation.
One way to think of this is to imagine preferences as resources, the lower the better. The value of the preference depends on the support the party has. Parties trade these amongst themselves and eventually one candidate is elected from a large population. By acting more like an economic construction, the NVB hopes to act as a nexus for preferences to gravitate to. Preferences rapidly decay in value when they are distributed, but they are still very useful if they all coalesce.
Unfortunately this method isn't even very applicable to other forms of voting. Only because Australia uses GVTs (which force economics compassion between parties) are we susceptible to this sort of benevolent hack.
A more detailed description on the mechanic can be found in this blog post.
“The NVB will be a federally registered party and intends to run candidates in the 5 promising states at the next election[.]”
CT: How can someone get involved in your party? Will it extend to all of Australia? I notice you are running in New South Wales.
MK: Anyone can express their interest through the 'join' link at the top of nvbloc.org or keep up to date through the mailing list on the Contact Us page. The NVB will be a federally registered party and intends to run candidates in the 5 promising states at the next election, not just NSW. I'm based in NSW, which is why the meetup is starting here, though I hope other interest groups will form around the country.
The ability to register as a non-member voter will be implemented after we have active representatives in any level of governance.
CT: Talk about blockchains. What is the bitcoin blockchain good at? What is it bad at? What other types of blockchains do you think will be used? Anything besides voting that interests you when it comes to using blockchains?
MK: At this stage we're simply using the Bitcoin blockchain to embed data and then using a python module to read out the OP_RETURN data and treat them as votes and instructions. The ability of Satoshi chains to mix many inputs and outputs is useful as a weak method of anonymity, but provides more than account-based systems like Ethereum.
There are a number of features I can dream up that would make life easier if they existed, like storing OP_RETURNs in a Patricia Merkle Trie indexable by OP_RETURN prefixes, but that sort of thing is unlikely to happen soon. Until standards settle down in regards to using OP_RETURN and there is broader acceptance I think the community would be unlikely to embrace a feature like this.
In terms of other blockchains I only see potential for Proof-of-Work chains to hold any data of this importance. I've expressed my skepticism over Proof-of-Stake before in terms of maintaining immutability.
Blockchains are fascinating to me and I have a number of half-started ideas. Marketcoin was my first which was designed to facilitate atomic cross chain exchange. Another was Quanta which turned a blockchain from a linked list into a DAG to facilitate instant transactions at the cost of them being about 500kb each (PoW was attached to each TX and each TX was a block in and of itself). Needless to say I think they possess amazing potential that will be expressed in ways we can't even fathom today.
CT: When is the election and are you looking for volunteers for the campaign?
MK: The next federal election will likely be sometime in 2016 and absolutely we're looking for volunteers. If anyone is interested they should use the expression of interest form on nvbloc.org or add their email address to the mailing list through the form on the Contact Us page.