Niall Firth at New Scientist: “Bitcoin changed the way we think about money forever. Now a type of political cryptocurrency wants to do the same for votes, reinventing how we participate in democracy.
Sovereign is being unveiled this week by Democracy Earth, a not-for-profit organisation in Palo Alto, California. It combines liquid democracy – which gives individuals more flexibility in how they use their votes – with blockchains, digital ledgers of transactions that keep cryptocurrencies like bitcoin secure. Sovereign’s developers hope it could signal the beginning of a democratic system that transcends national borders.
“There’s an intrinsic incompatibility between the internet and nation states,” says Santiago Siri, one of Democracy Earth’s co-founders. “If we’re going to think about digital governance, we need to think in a borderless, global way.”
It’s an attractive concept, but it hasn’t been without problems. One is that a seemingly unending series of votes saps the motivation of users, so fewer votes are cast over time. Additionally, a few “celebrities” can garner an unhealthy number of delegated votes and wield too much power – an issue Germany’s Pirate Party ran into when experimenting with liquid democracy.
Siri thinks Sovereign can solve both of these problems. It sits on existing blockchain software platforms, such as Ethereum, but instead of producing units of cryptocurrency, Sovereign creates a finite number of tokens called “votes”. These are assigned to registered users who can vote as part of organisations who set themselves up on the network, whether that is a political party, a municipality, a country or even a co-operatively run company.
No knowledge of blockchains is required – voters simply use an app. Votes are then “dripped” into their accounts over time like a universal basic income of votes. Users can debate with each other before deciding which way to vote. A single vote takes just a tap, while more votes can be assigned to a single issue using a slider bar….(More)”