From Direct Democracy to Vector Democracy

26 Nov 2010 by Lixiong Wang, 1 Comment »

The “Least Bad” Democracy

The Gallup’s annual Honesty and Ethics of Professions poll in 2009 revealed a thought-provoking absurdity: a majority of Americans actually ranked the members of Congress the lowest in the poll, although the members of American Congress are elected by the American people.

It has never been said that democracy is perfect as we all know that democracy is not as efficient as dictatorship. One of the reasons that people still pursue democracy is that it can avert the potential disasters that might be caused by tyrannies! In the sense that democracy, at least, won’t create disasters, “democracy is least bad” becomes a common belief. However, in the face of the global ecological crisis, the belief is being challenged: human beings are so consumed by their own material desires, which the current model of democracy not only has no power to intervene or mitigate, but also is one of the sources causing the problem.

In a non-democratic society in history, only a few could afford excessive consumption, and the majority at bottom accepted or believed that it was their fate to live a life under limited resource constrains so the total level of resource consumption was confined to a limited level. Democracy has brought equality and liberation to the societies so that the majority now becomes the so-called middle class. On the one hand, modern technologies have increased the ability of mankind to exploit natural resources, and on the other hand, democracy has also provided the possibility for the majority to pursue high consumption. While viewed individually, both can be considered positive progress but combined together, they will push the level of total consumption to an unprecedented scale, which will inevitably result in ecological crisis.

The current democracy could not help but be pushed ahead by the material desires or greed of the majority as it lives on votes. Nowadays, the society goal is a never-ending progress in all areas of economics regardless what expenses or potential crisis behind those improved numbers, who cares about the deluge of disasters in the future?! Leading the human beings to their own tragedy, this democracy is so ironically a travesty of its essence. We should not just shrug helplessly at the absurdity of the Gallup poll; instead, we must think if this “least bad” democracy can be improved, hence better?

The technical limitations of Democracy

The so-called democracy is literally “people call the shots.” Under the current approach, the democracy is achieved through election, namely votes!  When the participants are over a certain amount, the cost of voting will increase, hence it is impossible to vote whenever needed or on whatever matters. At a national level, voting is a colossal effort so the election process has to be simplified: elected representatives will speak on behalf of the people. Election for representatives is conducted every couple of years, so most of the time, except the time of election or referendum, democracy to the publics is actually nominal: the real decision makers are those representatives.

In a representative democracy, the voting process is further simplified, not only on objectives or durations, but also on the contents: only two options “yes” or “no” are provided. Could people making decision together be really this simple? “Yes” and “no” are two polar ends, but people’s thinking or wills are diverse and mostly land in between these two extremes. People in favor of a certain proposal sometimes only represent part of his position, which can often be deflected or off-set by the other concerns in his mind. For instance, if you ask a minority whether he is in favor of ethnic independence, the answer is likely “yes”, but if you ask if he is willing to face war, his answer might well be “no”. In this case, a single question will fail to elaborate the complexity of the matter so the vote based on certain questions can be very misleading hence fallacious. The same observation is also valid in representative elections: for the same candidate, a voter may be 80 percent in favor of one policy, 60 percent against another one, and requires specific modifications on the third… But in representative democracy, all is reduced to either-or.

With the large size of population, it is impossible for everyone to express his complete thoughts or to fully communicate with each other because the operational cost in terms of money and time etc. is unbearable even if it is possible. In addition, it is hard to quantify thoughts or wills statistically, hence to obtain meaningful composite results. Given the constraints mentioned above, the election process has to be simplified by reducing the complex wills of the publics to homogeneous “yes” or “no” in order to be able to consolidate the data statistically, and to bring down the costs to affordable levels.

This approach, taking democracy as the summation of the public wills in the form of “yes” or “no”, resolves the difficulty of operation, but meantime sabotages the essence of democracy. I would like to call it “Quantity Democracy”. The quantity can only represent two orientations of voters (“yes” or “no”), but people’s thinking is vectored and can have as many facets as more than two. The true democracy doesn’t come from “quantity-sum” but from “vector-sum”. “Quantity-sum” is from the pure summation of independent votes, but “vector-sum” is an integrated result of the publics wills. The essence of democracy is obviously consultation rather than statistics.

The problem is how to achieve “vector-sum” in the sense of consultation? Quantity-sum is easy to obtain regardless of how many voters given the calculation is only to sum of “yes” or “no”, but in vector-sum, the vector directions are all different from each other, each participant represents at least one variable in a vector-sum, so the number of variables is at least as many as participants. The computational complexity increases dramatically over the increase of variables.

For example, In a group with n members, the possible relationships between them is 2n-1 minus 1, which means that the number of relationship will double when there is a new member to join. For a nine member group, the possible relationships is 255; for a fifteen member group, the possible relationships are 16.383, 64 times bigger than that of the nine member groups; for a twenty member group, the possible relationships is 524.287, 2.048 times bigger than that of the nine member groups; when the number of the groups reaches 34, the possible relationships of it will exceed the total number of the global population

The figures mentioned above have nothing to do with reality except demonstrating the explosively growing complexities of the relationships between members in a growing group. Nowadays, most social units are bigger than the sizes mentioned above. Although in reality not all relationships will take place, the number is already large enough even if only one ten-thousandth will occur. Besides, real relationships are not just numbers but also have rich, dynamic contexts, its complexity grows exponentially. Thus, before we can find effective means for vector-sum, democracy is not operable without being reduced to either-or quantity-sum.

The Limitation of Quantity Democracy

The quantity democracy is a huge progress comparing with dictatorship, gives everyone the right to say no. But the more its scale grows, the more its limitation increase, thus, while facing the issues like overall ecosystem of the earth or life styles of beings, it is actually counterproductive.

In daily life, everyone knows to drink clean water, open windows to let in fresh air, do house cleaning and landscaping in the front or back yard. The household nitty-gritty seems trivial but has the very basic elements of environmental protection. You will certainly stop him vigorously if someone urinates in your water tank. But when it comes to public properties as a whole, people become indifferent, or even become one of the spoilers. When facing the macro-environment, individuals become exceptionally tiny: regardless of protection or destruction, their impacts, either beneficial or harmful on individual level are negligible. How much will you be contaminated if someone urinates in the Pacific Ocean? Is it worth it for you to stand up to confront this behavior? In a quantity democracy, people are kept in a large-scale structure in which they are alienated from each other, having very small impacts or effects. While being simplified by quantity democracy, individuals will as well simplify the quantity-democracy: keep 100% personal related in front, only one millionth related on the back. Therefore, in today’s democratic countries, people always give personal income and consume growth higher priorities than ozone holes or climate change. This is not surprising at all! The sum of each individual’s attitude in quantity-democracy structure is inevitably leading to a result: care more about immediate benefits instead of the future generations’.

In quantity democracy, election of leaders is also based on overall sum of simplified individual preferences. Who will win the majority in the election? Since the majority of voters care more about incomes and consumption growth, politicians who promise immediate material goals will certainly win, instead of the sages who will compromise some immediate benefit for long-term ecological balance. One’s inertia, which keeps him from worry until he sees his own coffin, is more vigorous than his vigilant consciousness. In this situation, It is destined that, regardless how judicious, the politicians or the political parties have to bind themselves on the materialism chariot if they want to win elections. This is the inevitable logic of quantity democracy, and this logic will lead to an absurd result: the antithesis between individual well-beings and all human interests.

The same issues in ethnic relations are also very salient. Elected through quantity-sum democracy process, the Hamas government is an irreconcilable enemy of another so-called democratic Israel government. Democratic transition and national conflicts are almost inseparable. Simplifying all issues into yes or no, the quantity-sum never failed to push people to the dead corners, the man-made extremes. Inflaming rage, inciting hatred, wiping off the diverse and constructive factors in the ample middle areas and driving the publics into two separate extremes, politicians feel like home in quantity-sum democracy, just as fish in the ocean. With globalization, mankind is more associated than ever; the scale of society has reached an unprecedented level. Only having two options “yes” and “no”, the quantity-democracy is more and more deficient in the face of richness and diversities from different ethnic groups and countries. It can be said the capacity of quantity-sum democracy has been already exhausted, not to mention to grasp the future.

Vector Democracy

The problem is not democracy but quantity-sum methods. When people are simplified to homogeneous numbers, the sum only overlays a limited view of everyone, thus forms a chasm of limitations. But if people are regarded as different vectors, the summation is to consolidate everyone’s limited view into an overall picture, in which, individuals’ immediate interest will be consolidated into a long-term interest of mankind.

How to achieve vector-sum? It really depends on if we can find feasible methods to carry it out.

Since the quantity-sum is a compromise, and has to be simplified in order to be operable due to the explosive complexity out of the large-scale. So, logically, the starting point for a solution is to decrease the scale of crowd as it is a common sense that it is hard to communicate sufficiently or directly in a big crowd. So-called sufficient and direct communication means that anyone can communicate with any other one in the group to reach mutual understanding through full expression. I would like to call this the “scope of direct experience”, which means direct communication. If democracy can be achieved in a scope that where sufficient and direct communication are possible – not having to be simplified as numbers or rely on statistics, people are able to fully consult with each other; the process of consultation is the process of vector summing — the final consensus will be the result of vector sum.

It is, of course, nothing new; vector sum is indeed this simple. In fact, democracy in primitive tribal societies had the characteristics of the vector sum. Without the presence of external force, as long as population size is close to the “scope of direct experience”, vector sum is the natural state. However, the fading of tribal democracy was precisely because the communities grew out of the “scope of direct experience”, and direct communication became impossible; hence the vector-sum no longer existed.

At least, this can give us some inspiration. Since direct vector sum can only be achieved on a small-scaled unit and a large unit is always made up of small units, we can decompose large-scale societies into small units by splitting gradually until all the units are as small so that sufficient and direct communication is possible. Obtaining the vector-sum of each small unit first, assembling the vector-sums into new units with the scale that sufficient and directly communication is possible, reaching vector summing of new units, and continuing the process from small scale to big scale, will we be able to achieve the vector sum of large-scale societies?

This idea fits perfect with the rules of vector addition: dividing multiple vectors into different groups, finding the summation of each group first and then reaching the sum of the resultants of all the groups, you will get exact the same result obtained by calculating the additions of all vectors directly. According to this rule, if the scale of the vector group is big, it can be divided into smaller groups. If the divided groups are still big, they can be continuously divided, regardless how many levels further, until reaching the desired size. The final result by calculating the vector sums level by level recursively is exactly the same as summing all the vectors directly

In reality, the society itself is composed of hundreds and thousands of small units with hierarchical structure that small units form into large unit, and then larger unit… Assuming that scale of group that is feasible for sufficient and direct communication is 17 and group assembling at each layer is based on 17, we will only need seven layers to cover the global population. Indeed, the administration level in real world is around seven or eight layers (group, village, township, county, city, province, country, united nation). Of course, this is just to show the logic induction, doesn’t necessarily mean that societies, organization, or units be divided rigidly by 17. Before addressing the structure in real world on which vector sum can be readily applied, let us take a look first at how vector sum is conducted in a unit, and what requirement are needed for doing so.

How to Achieve Vector Sum

Vectors in a vector-sum democracy represent people’s personal wills over various matters. For different matters, people have different views or inclinations so the will of each person is the combination of many his personal orientations in the forms of vectors, and it becomes more complex if taking dynamic changes into consideration. Therefore, it is not hard to imagine how complex it could be to obtain the vector sum of many a person. It has to meet the following requirements in order to be achieved:

1. Direct Communication

The scale of group in vector democracy depends on how well people in the group can communicate directly. The scale can be bigger if the group is very simple in nature such as internet communities, but has to be downsized if very complex in nature such as the decision-making entities. Villagers who have been living together for many years can quickly reach mutual understanding even with large-scale, but the temporary gatherings can only do so within a small-scale. In theory, the limitation of information load of people defines the scale; in reality, people can always find the boundaries involuntarily.

Everyone has the quest to fulfill his personal wills, as far as reality could permit, which is the foundation for vector sum. Outside the “scope of direct experience”, fulfilling the quest “as far as possible” is very easy to cross the appropriate boundary in reality, leads to insolvable conflicts. In stead, within the “scope of direct experience”, each member is fully aware of other members, able to comprehend all the information within the group and extrapolate his appropriate position on the curves of “competition-cooperation” through understanding the possible reflections or potential limitations of the others and proper compromises he can/should offer. Members interactively consult with each other on the bases of accurate estimates of each other’s strength so that the process won’t stop until reaches the consensus on a precise equilibrium; therefore, the final sum of vectors will be very accurate – the satisfaction of the group will reach the largest average, which, is the standard to judge if the state of a group is at its best.

2. The Use of Tacitness

Consultation can not occur without words, but words alone are not always an accurate expression of personal will. That is why people often feel “beyond words” or “hard to describe” and are sometimes afraid that words might distort the meanings. As for vector sum, the context is indispensable, which gives the words the unspeakable: backgrounds, calculations, differences, insinuations or attitudes etc. The characteristics of vectors of personal wills are more interwoven in contexts rather than words. That is why the vector sum requires to be in the “scope of direct experience” namely context.

In addition, consultation using words is often inefficient; lengthy discussions and indecisiveness is a typical state. Different interpretations of words (not to mention game playing in words) create ambiguity; furthermore, the results of consultation through words lags behind the changes as soon as they are reached, can not become a dynamic and continuous process.

In reality, communications between people are more through the tacit, the non-verbal empathy understanding what are in each other’s minds without saying a word. It is tacit that you let the others to understand what you have in mind by insinuations, or implications through other topics; it is also tacit that people act together with only eye contacts; it is tacit as well that people can figure out what the secret agenda is behind the high-sounding speech; candidates’ estimates on the voters’ poll is tacit too. When things are difficult to sort out or to push forward, common solutions such as “postpone”, “wait and see”, “settle by itself in due course”, “let the matter rest,” etc., can reach better results by not only avoiding the lengthy indecisiveness, but also allowing things proceed tacitly. Therefore, vector sum that factors in the tacitness and experiences is more accurate, effective and convenient.

3. Sum Bearer

Tacit understanding in one-to-one relationships can be fulfilled naturally, but it is much harder to achieve in a group. Theoretically, each and everyone can repeat the one-to-one process with all the other members of the group respectively, reach mutually acceptable results and find his own appropriate position by repeated communication, integration or modification; the tacit agreement of a group is considered reached if everyone in the group has  finished the process. Although tacit agreement is easier to achieve than communication through words, it is still unbearably exhausting and time-consuming if doing everything in this way.

One of the solutions, that is not new to us, is to first establish a common point that group members can interact with, to avoid complexity of permutation and combination of a group by simplifying many-to-many relationships in the group to many-to-one relationships between members and common point. The common point is called the “sum bearer” to carry the sum of vectors of the group. For instance, a proposal is one kind of a common point; each member expresses his opinions or views with respect to the proposal, as well amends or replenishes it. The final result of comprehensive interactions, namely vectors between members and the common point is the vector sum. However, a proposal by itself is not able to convey tacit communication or understanding so the interactions between members and the common point have to fully rely on words, therefore it can not overcome its limitation and inefficiencies. Besides, it is also too complicated to follow the process – implement proposal, reach consensus, take actions – on all matters, big or small, of daily operations.

Clearly, a better sum-bearer itself should have the ability to communicate with members through tacit understanding, to consolidate all the tacit agreements into vector sum, and at the same time, consciously adjust based on the feedbacks of its members. This process of vector summing is, obviously, most convenient and feasible, and can be conducted at any time, continuously.

What can be such a sum-bearer? And who has the capacity of tacit understanding? Only people!

4. Vector Election

How do people who will act as sum bearers come into being? Yes, that is right, election! But this election is operated through summing up vectors, instead of numbers in the traditional elections. Vector election is one kind of vector sums, so as well, has to be conducted in the “scope of direct experience” in which direct and sufficient communication is possible. Within this scope, what come out are not simply “yes” or “no” as in large-scale elections through statistics of numbers, but the comprehensive information which conveys the complete messages of each vector.

The elected (known as sum bearer or common point) from the group in the “scope of direct experience” is able to communicate sufficiently and directly with other members of the group. Being able to grabble the requirements of each member, to conceive each step of consultation and compromise, and to extrapolate everyone’s bottom line and equilibrium point of bargaining, the elected can simulate in his mind the whole process of vector summing and draw the vector sum that is approximately close to its true value (deviation can be corrected through the feedbacks of the group members in a timely manner). In this case, it is no longer necessary to conduct actual vector-summing on all matters of daily operations; instead, the elected is able to make decisions in line with the vector-sum of the group in a proactive and effective way. Taking advantage of tacitness, we are not only able to reach vector sum, but also to save high cost of consultation as vector-summing are conducted most of the time by taking advantage of tacitness – this makes vector summing feasible as a daily practice.

5. Election at Any Time

Important question here becomes: how to ensure that the sum-bearer (known as the elected leader or common point), while giving full play to the initiative, will always make decision that is not deviated from its actual vector sum?

For that, only one thing is needed – re-election at any time.

Periodic election is not enough, power is significantly discounted if an emperor can only appoint or recall officials every four years. The main shortcoming of a representative system is precisely because of periodic elections – the elected is not afraid to stray away from the will of voters before next election. It is vividly demonstrated in the predicament of periodic elections that the isolated then-President of Taiwan, Shui-Bian Chen, recklessly ignored the millions of protesters in front of his presidential palace

Election in a representative system runs on a large-scale and high-cost, and can do nothing else by itself except regular election. But within the “scope of direct experience”, the communication with each other is direct and sufficient, anyone has the ability to launch an election: no cost or moderators/agencies are needed thus election can be conducted any time.

Once having the potentials of election/re-election at any time, it will create a wonder effect – whenever making a decision, the elected (known as sum bearer or common point) feel like facing a new election even though the election might not actually happen and is just a simulation in their minds. In order to avoid being recalled, the elected will follow directions of the group who elected him, take the initiative to reflect the vector sum of group, be sensitive to adjust based on the feedbacks, and ensure to be the best sum-bearers. This actually helps to keep elections from actually happening – since the elected have been satisfying all the members with everything.

Expansion of Vector Sum

The above said, is to obtain the vector sum within one “scope of direct experience”. What about multiple such scopes? In this case, the vector sum of each scope is regarded as subtotal, and what we need to do is simply get the subtotal of each scope and sum the subtotals. However, the major concerns here are who can assume the role of being the sum-bearer of vector subtotal, and if it can be guaranteed that he will not deviate from the vector subtotal. Other than that, the scenarios of obtaining vector sum of subtotals are the same as mentioned above, regardless of how many levels from bottom up it will grow: simply repeat the process, the scale of vector sum can expand constantly.

As vector sum requires human communication, understanding and consensus, the sum bearer of vector subtotal, who will represent his original group to participate further vector summing at upper level, should be also a human being. To us, they already exist: the sum-bearers are the elected leaders of each group/scope at the base-level, and what they carry are precisely the vector-subtotals, thus, as long as they are also grouped together in the “scope of direct experience” that guarantees direct and sufficient communication, the vector sum of vector subtotal can be conducted the same way as in the base level.

Well, will the elected (sum-bearer) loyally represent his original group in the upper level and not stray away? This is part that most people will doubt or be concern about. In this regard, I don’t want to assume, even slightly, the good natures of the elected leaders; on the contrary, I am very vigilant at the potential evils. What makes me believe that the sum-bearer won’t deviate is “the scope of direct experience” and “election at any time”: with the former, any deviation couldn’t be hidden, and with the latter, the sum-bearer can be replaced anytime.

It is right! While participating in vector summing in the upper level, the elected leader is indeed separated from the original “scope of direct experience”, but after all, these two layers are adjacent to each other so the communication is not difficult to extend. Therefore, group members in the lower level might not know all the behaviors of the elected in the upper level, but won’t miss the major ones. Furthermore, the elected sum-bearer assumes dual roles: member/vector of the group at the upper level, the leader/sum-bearer of the group at the lower level. While representing his original group at the upper level, the elected are also the member of his original group and within the “scope of direct experience”, hence the communication between them is direct and sufficient so any deviation can be detected in a timely manner.

Taking one step back, even if a deviation of an elected leader was not detected timely because of the communication barriers between layers, it would be found out eventually because the deviation would become reality being fed back to his original group. As long as the elected leader can be replaced at any time, fearing being recalled as if a Damocles sword hang above his head, the elected leader will have to loyally represent his original group in the form of vector sum, and to seek satisfaction of the group instead of his own ego. Therefore, the vector sum at upper level appears to be among the leaders (the sum of vector subtotals at the lower level), but, as a matter of fact, it is equivalent to the direct sum of all vectors in the lower level.

However, as the “scope of direct experience” is what keeps horizontal communication flowing, the dual roles of the elected are what keep vertical communication flowing between levels: A leader royally represents his original group at the upper level, and meanwhile brings back discussions or feedback from upper level back to his original group for further vector-summing and reaching a new consensus. Vector-sum of the “scope of direct experience” is dynamically adjusted during the course, hence always up to date.

Then, given the restrictions or controls the a group has over his leader, would the leader only focus on the interests of his original group, not to take the overall situation into consideration, let alone make any compromises, hence drive the vector summing in the upper level into stalemate? Quantity-sum that is a either-or of two polarized extremes often leads to such a situation,but vector sum is to reach equilibrium between two polar ends, has amble space to turn around hence to avoid deadlock. Rational people will not drive the situation to the dead corner as long as there is space for compromise. As the groups in the lower level can reach the vector sum through consensus and collaboration, the leaders, who are now acting as members in a group at the upper level, are supposed to have higher level of sagaciousness – the reason they are elected, therefore know better of the advantages of collaboration and disadvantages of dead-lock, and understand that the best interests of his group is not to “live and let die”, but rather majority-wins of all the parties, namely the maximum average. The higher the level is, the more judicious the leaders are in terms of reaching equilibrium through compromising.

Similarly, to take advantage of tacitness, we also need to sum the vector subtotals through vector election, which will consequently create new sub-bearers of a higher level. If there are too many vector subtotals, they will need to be divided into smaller groups with the “scope of direct experience”. The sum-bearers of these groups will then participate in vector-summing at a higher level; recursively, stratification can be formed continuously and each layer is made up of sub-bearers (known as elected leaders) of its subordinate level. Regardless at what level, each and every sub-bearer is within the “scope of direct experience” either in his original group or in the group that he is delegated, and the five requirements mentioned above are all applicable. Taking advantage of this progressive methodology layer by layer from bottom up, vector-sum can be expanded infinitely, thereby resolve the technical barrier to achieve large-scale social democracy through vector sum.

Advantages of Late-development

There is no need to worry that vector democracy will require a fresh start of social structure. Vector democracy only aims at public social rights; all the other areas will inherit the current social structures, as seen in realities such as NGOs, civil service systems, the legal systems, and media etc., and run as usual, The only requirement that vector democracy has for social structure is that each unit has to be within the “scope of direct experience” to allow direct and sufficient communication, and in traditional societies the requirement is that authorities can fully manage the subordinates, which, in essence, also demands sufficient and direct communications. As long as an authority in his compass of competency is able to communicate with his subordinates sufficiently and directly, so will the subordinates with each other. Therefore, the structures (the size of unit, as well as the layers) of vector democracy can match seamlessly with the traditional social structure, except having to substitute sum-bearers for authorities: replacing authorized appointment or dismissal with vector election; from-up-to-bottom enforcement with bottom-up vector-summing. Vector democracy will not touch the fundamental social structures but change the methods. So the cost and repercussions from the transitions towards democracy can be kept to minimum.

Democracy development is based on the concept that all men are equal, which leads to a fundamentalism that everyone participates on the same level in the same manner, similar to general election: one man one vote.  Such participation as in general election must be large-scaled, homogeneous, can be only operated in the manner of quantity method and at regular interval. No matter how much progress or improvement have been made towards democracy in the world so far, this fundamentalism has never changed. Limited by the framework of quantity-democracy, the current democracy process can not solve the problem of fundamentalism, and has to stay at the level of “least bad”. However, the implementation of quantity-democracy requires certain social structures; the changes it demands often much bigger than vector-democracy, hence much harder. Thus, if a traditional society that is fighting for democracy can skip quantity democracy, instead, directly makes use of vector-democracy, the difficulty of transition will be much mitigated and the quality of democracy will be higher as well. Is not it a rare advantage of late-development?

It is not the Fault of Pyramid

Vector democracy and traditional society both have a pyramid structure which, nowadays, is considered outdated, thus politically incorrect. Casting aside the political fashion, you will find no justification for a blanket exclusion of pyramid structure. What makes pyramid bad is that it is a from-top-to-bottom power structure; a bottom-up communication pyramid is necessary in order to achieve large-scale communication just as sun and air are the needs of human by nature, which is not only undeniable but also irreplaceable.

Through establishing civic societies, developing informal organizations, fostering various “invisible hands” and so on, can the pyramid of social structure be brought into a plane? The advent of the computer and internet has unprecedentedly extended the scope of communication of people. But can they help to achieve direct communications between all mankind so the spontaneous activities of each and everyone can be just right to fit into the perfect cooperation of the society.

This ideal is the same as Archimedean’s remark: “give me a place to stand on, I will move the earth”; it is theoretically possible but technologically infeasible. The possible connections of one thousand people are 5.35754304 x 10300; it is a 301-digit integer and its magnitude is hard to comprehend with any number concepts on earth. Provided that every one of 6.7 billion populations in the world would possess a Sequoia, a super computer that will become available in 2012 and can handle one quadrillion mathematical operations per second, running incessantly for 4.6 billion years (life of the earth to date), only 36-digit integer operations can be managed. This is just about processing specifics relationships that are simplified into numbers in a group of 1000 people; it is not hard to imagine how impossible it will be to achieve direct communications between billions of real and interactive people.

Technology can help to lower the height of the pyramid, but not to bring pyramid into a plane. A pyramid is not necessarily authorities or governments; its natural attribute is more to act as a structure for indirect communication.

Let Rights Return to Communication

Since it is hard for large-scaled group to communicate directly, we have to adopt the tool for indirect communication. A pyramid was supposedly just a tool for indirect communication, but while forming structure of indirect communication along the course of ever-increasing social scale in the human history, people who initially took the pivotal positions controlled the communication and then determined the social structure from their individual wills and for their own interests, hence eventually change the pyramid from a communication structure to a power structure.

Given the complexity of large-scaled communication, all the members seem like being placed in a convoluted maze without clues of the overall picture. When cooperation is required between people who do not know each other, there will be no other choice except conforming to the communication structure. So-called authority comes into being through controlling the structure of communication, is embodied in the obedience of people.  The number one factor leading to obedience is no other choice, power enforcement is the second. However, if you take a closer look, you will find that, after all, power has to be enforced through the control of communication structure (for instance, operation of forces, monopoly on weapons etc.).

Those who have controlled the communication structure will take possession of social rights as their private properties. When communication is alienated into one-way direction – a few manipulate the communication, and all the others are just “being communicated’ – the society will be polarized into two groups: the dominating or the dominated. When the pyramid is taken into possession by the dominating group, communication will then be mutated into domination and become a tool for dominating: only serving the needs of the dominating group in stead of the publics. Therefore, as the symbol of the dominating, the pyramid is inevitably abhorred by the dominated.

However, it is not the fault of the pyramid, but the fault of alienation from communication to power. Denying the pyramid is as though you threw out the baby with the bath water. What we need to do is to restore the pyramid: from top-to-bottom domination to bottom-up communication, and amalgamate the two polarized groups back to a whole.

Those who negate the pyramid always like to use the current internet – covering the whole world with its planar structure – as an example to prove that the world is moving towards a plane. But if you take a deep dive into the issues we are facing with internet: information overload, that good and bad are intermingled, difficult to consolidate, polarized oppositions etc., you will see that they can all be traced back to its planar structure. As the Internet continues to surge in popularity, the public participation has reached to an unprecedented level due to the introduction of web2.0, and consequently the planar structure has been stretched beyond its fullest. As a matter that only emerged for a few decades, and became very popular for only more than a decade, internet is far away from its maturity and it is more like jungles in the era of pre-historical chaos, having all the attributes of the jungle law: natural selection, survival of the fittest, good and bad intermingled etc., and expecting to go from chaos to higher civilization.

In terms of returning to communication, the internet is likely the first one to break through as it was born for communication, has all the potentials to meet the requirements of vector-democracy by nature. With the introduction of vector-sum process into the planar internet of web 2.0, the pyramid of communication can automatically grow from bottom to up – starting from the base layer, each layer is evolved from its subordinated layer so it is able to keep uninterrupted continuousness – hence will not break up into polarities. Powers will have no more chances to play any roles and be eventually dissolved into communication.

Implementing such a structure on internet will not only bring a new era for the internet, but also become an educational sandbox for social changes and incubator for social reformers.

Rationality Refining and Interlayer Protecting

In summary, so called vector democracy is to implement democracy in the “scopes of direct experience” plus the right to elect at any time; the elected then forms new groups with the ‘scope of experience’ in a higher level, and will also implement democracy and have the right to elect at any time… Recursively progressing as such, vector democracy can be extended to the whole society. This approach sounds simple, but the changes it can bring about should not be underestimated. Today, various countries claim democratic election, but the difference in election method (with or without campaign) can lead to two essentially different societies. However, the differences in election methods – in the “scope of direct experience” vs. beyond the scope of direct experience; vote at any time vs. vote at regular time – are equivalent to the difference (with or without campaign), so the changes it will bring about can be believed tantamount: will lead to a transcendence – an essentially completely different new society.

The mechanisms that were developed in the past can not cope with the global ecological crisis that we are facing. After all, they were implemented for the purpose of liberation and exploitation, but human development has reached so far so that restraint becomes necessary. However, the restraint can not be achieved by relying on people’s “consciousness” as it is far to reach if not impossible for everyone to have global view. The limitation of individual cognitive ability should be considered normal; what needs to be done is to place ecological issues in the scope so that each individual can relate with his direct experiences such as his own water tank. Compared with the global ecological system, a water tank is indeed too insignificant to mention, but it is a vital matter to its owner – zero tolerance to any damage or pollution. The sense of protection over the water tank, through vector-sum, will amalgamate to the level of protection over the well in the village, then extended to regional rivers and so on, and eventually reach to the level of ocean. Along the process of vector–democracy, mankind, beginning from protecting themselves first, can develop the restraint for the collective behaviors as well as for each individual, including moderation of consumptions.

Consumption is at personal level, but the ecosystem is at general level. The higher the level is in a vector-democracy pyramid, the farther away it is from consumption and the more concerns on ecological system it will pay. Therefore, along with the level progression in a vector-democracy pyramid, it is bound to shape the overall restraint on consumerism.

People might wonder: if majorities are pursuing consumption and the consolidated result derived from quantity-democracy is also in favor of consumerism, why does vector-democracy derive an opposite result: restraint on consumerism? Which link in the process has led to such a change? How is the conclusion that is against the majorities’ desires drawn from a bottom-up, so called democratic system?

First of all, the majority said to have been violated here is not a vector-sum, but quantity-sum; the wills of people are rich and multi-faceted. There could be a huge gap (might well be totally opposite) between quantity-sum that only focuses on certain aspects and vector-sum that covers the over-all pictures. Therefore, when this type of quantity-sums is highlighted as wills of the majorities, they must be rejected by the elected leader, the bearer of vector-sum through vector democracy.

Quantity-sum and vector-sum are often contradicting or even conflicting with each other in many areas. For example, to address the issues of global climate changes, when proposing to raise the price of resources and to constrain the economic growth, you will inevitably see widespread dissatisfaction if you try to understand the publics’ reflection through quantity-sum process. In this case, the layers in vector-democracy will play an important role of “interlayer protection”. In vector-sum, the quality of the elector and the elected at the same level is close, so it is easy to reach consensus. Nevertheless, the quality of the elected is slightly superior to the electors so people at the higher level have improved rationality. Recursively, progressing the same way from bottom to up layer by layer, vector-sum will obtain ever-refined and ever-elevated rationality. Since the leaders at the top are not elected by the publics, do not have to face the public pressure, they will feel free to follow their sagaciousness and make more judicious decisions. Meanwhile the direct subordinates of the top leaders are only one level lower,  have the close level of rationality, will support the decisions as well, and might even encourage the top leader follow the vector sum to veto the quantity-sum.

However, this does not necessarily mean that the top leaders are detached from the publics at the base level. Regardless how different the leaders, elected through vector-democracy process, might seem from the publics, it is, in essence, the difference that one has reached vector-sum and one hasn’t yet. It looks very chaotic, limited, short-sighted and irrational at the mass level, but the decision at this level will be actually the same as the top leaders’ once it reaches its vector-sum.

As human abilities are ever-strengthening, ecological crisis are increasingly aggravated and the level globalization are getting higher and higher. Self-restraint is inevitable in order for mankind to avoid the self-destruction. When more regulations become so necessary, it is exceptionally important for us to keep vigilant to prevent tyranny from being reincarnated. However, restraint should be an excuse for dictatorship, and we can not stay away from dictatorship by only “shielding the mistakes” of democracy. The dictatorship will certainly attack from behind if we are not seeking the methods of restraints along the democratic ways. In this regard, vector democracy, which has the progressively refined rationality layer by layer from bottom to up and interlayer protection, is able to rectify the mistakes of quantity-sum, and hence becomes significantly meaningful.

Difficulties and Transcendence

In the history, political institutional changes were always pushed by a small number of people. This is what will cause the chasm between theory and practice of vector-democracy. The operation of vector democracy is not difficult, but the point is where the motivations come from?  So far, all the successful institutional changes were promoted or enforced by certain groups or classes who were driven by the faith that they would get greatest or better shares of interests. Given the momentum for the changes comes from uneven distribution of interests, vector-sum is just a mechanism to achieve average benefit and will not bring any privileges to any interest groups or classes – this is a rare advantage, but in the mean time, the root cause to impede its development. In terms of changes for mean interests, the privileged groups or classes will certainly oppose, and the ones in the weak positions will rather take free rides. When there are no groups willing to push forward for such changes, then changes are just empty talks.

Fortunately, there are still such a group of people existing in this world; they do not belong to any classes or interests groups, but have the same genes – idealism. In the past, they were separated by deep solitude as diamantine in desert. With the advent of internet, they can finally reach each other, congregate and take it as an ideal place to cultivate. It is not known yet what such a congregation can do at this point, but at least, the driving force for social changes are no longer just for the sake of benefits or interests.

Dec, 2009 ~ Jan, 2010, in Beijing

One Comment

  1. Lixiong Wang says:

    Welcome to the world of Democracy 2.0

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From Direct Democracy to Vector Democracy

“Revolution doesn’t happen when society adopts new technology, it happens when society adopts new behaviors” – Clay Shirky

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