The Intercratic Experiment

February 19 2018
Automating Democracy

Democratic regimes all around the world have fallen under though times. The very concept of democracy is being increasingly challenged by reactionary movements and populist demagogues, who express a general distrust in the system and the established power, and painfully expose its shortcomings. These movements and tendencies defy the ever more globalising and economised politics by suggesting a return to a system that is based on what they refer to as 'better times'. Times when the political apparatus of representative democracy could keep up with the context of the world, or in others words: when simple people could still understand simple problems. 

Of course this logic hangs by a fine thread, since times change and going back would be a nonsensical if not impossible task. However, it does present a very clear issue: the world is becoming ever so complex that we have great difficulty keeping up with this complexity. Rather than attempting to overcome this growing rupture between the local and the global, between the simple and the complex, tendencies as described above choose to oversimplify the unfathomable in the form of yes-or-no questions (referenda), pushing blame onto specific but unknown others (refugees, illegal aliens), finding reasons for failure in the actions of the invisible elite (conspiracy theories) or attacking the alleged incompetence of contemporary power (anti-parties). 

Increasingly, multipolar global politics, economic instability, and anthropogenic climate change outpace the narratives we use to structure and make sense of our lives. Each of these is an example of what is termed a complex system, which features nonlinear dynamics, where marginally different inputs can cause dramatically divergent outputs, intricate sets of causes feedback on one another in unexpected ways, and which characteristically operates on scales of space and time that go far beyond any individual’s unaided perception.1

The Intercratic2 Experiment is an attempt to transcend this individual incapability to grasp the complex, specifically in the political field. The technological advances made in communication and information processing over the past twenty years, such as mobile and smart devices, the internet and an overal wave of automation of the daily life, have found their cradle in economic, social, industrial and corporate spheres of influence, but are strictly avoided on a political level. The Experiment therefor seeks to investigate the possibilities of incorporating contemporary technology into policy-forming and decision-making. 

Through the use of an online platform or network, certain aspects of decision-making can be automated (representation, nationwide vote, coalition-forming). Some parts can be elaborated (discussions, deliberations), others can be augmented (real-time authority, flexible jurisdiction). Most importantly, systems of governance can be completely reformed. For instance, where they are now organised on a varying amount of levels (local, interlocal, national, international, …), with each its own constituency and jurisdiction, the Intercratic system would consider each matter of discussion as a separate and unique case with each a different electoral district and area of influence. 

The main goal of the experiment is to explore the opportunity to bring the complex and the simple closer together, to give the individual the feeling that tangible agreements can be made on a global scale, to get a grip on the near infinite mosaic of opinions and visions that sprout from the members of society every day. Most of all, it is a proposal to think about new ways of organising society, without romanticising the successes of the past. 

1 Srnicek, N. & Williams, A. (2015). Inventing the Future, Postcapitalism and a World Without Work. (Londen: Verso). p.13
2 Inter: between (as in internet); cratic: to rule (as in democratic)