Infomocracy: A Novel by Malka Older
Summary What would happen if Neal Stephenson were a policy wonk? I believe that this book is the answer to that question. The plot follows an election cycle in a world were a giant search engine runs the election of a variety of micro-democracies who collectively contribute to a global government ruled by a super majority.
Rating Worth the read, if mostly to tickle the part of your brain that can think more generally about political structures and how technology might change politics.
Speculation One thing I’ve often wondered about is scale in governance. To see what I’m getting at consider that the number of people represented per representative in the U.S. House of Representatives has grown from about 30,000 per representative at founding to 700,000 per representative today.
In a numerical sense, at a federal level, you are less well represented today because you are a smaller proportion of a representative’s flock. One thought is that we need another layer of representation, in which you have more say at this level, but which then aggregates upwards. While the end result is essentially the same in terms of representation, the impact you can have on a larger chunk of representation is greater, in that the lower layer must be more responsive to your demands. In a sense this is what state governments do, but largely because the constitution cedes orthogonal concerns to the states, the issue under federal guidance don’t directly aggregate from states. In Infomocracy democracy is practiced on a small scale, each person in an very small area votes for their local government. In the story various political parties arise which, in some sense, represent another layer of government, and then there is a final penultimate layer of who controls the supermajority of all these small democracies. Some quick back of the envelope calculations show that this jumps many levels to the highest level in a way that doesn’t have good even scales at each level. In a world where voting is easy and at such a small scale, aggregation could also be quite transparent, so that more layers of representation could be supported, and indeed a base level of the multiplicative factors could be set in stone and more or less layers adjusted as needed. Computers are good for added layers of abstraction, could this contribute to better political hierarchies?