Crowdpol — Key Features, Principles & Ambitions
An Inventory of Present and Future Developments on the
Crowdpol Ecosystem (With a Little Soapboxing Towards the End)
At its core, Crowdpol is a complete system for liquid democracy. You can co-create and publish proposals on any topic in any community and invite others to vote. You can delegate your vote to an individual or an organization, or allow others to delegate their vote to you. Crowdpol also allows users to create polls and petitions and even larger campaigns through our “Red Button Process for Change”
Voting on proposals is only the first step of a sustainable democratic society, the second step is seeing these proposals result in actual changes. Crowdpol provides tools to run campaigns with specific budgets and measurable goals along with processes whereby members can verify that these goals have indeed been achieved.
Collectively deciding on what the issues are that need resolving and contributing to the methods by which to resolve these issues are the first two necessary steps for change. The third step is financing the agreed-upon method to create change. Therefore, Crowdpol will integrate crowdfunding as one of its core features.
Money is going to be a part of our system for the foreseeable future and it is a useful technology when understood and used in beneficial ways, to improve democracy and by regenerating rather than diminishing the commons. In an attempt to shift the focus of money as something that benefits the self to something that benefits others, service to something greater than one’s self being a core tenet of Crowdpol, we have developed The Altruistic Wallet. The concept is very simple, it is a digital wallet which contents can only be spent on others, on projects with deliverable outcomes, as a stipend to specific changemakers.
The corresponding tokens are also be used internally on Crowdpol for micropayments to keep the system running and can be used as rewards, tips or gifts to content creators on the platform. In this latter case, the tokens are simply transferred between the Altruistic Wallets of the involved recipients.
If Crowdpol is to deliver the goods to support democracy and sustain the commons, it must first be economically viable itself. As it cannot rely upon the irregularity of donations and neither selling advertising space or users private data are even remote options it needs to be sustained by its users.
The model we have landed on is that of both free and premium memberships. Basic democratic functions will be available to all, such as voting or submitting proposals, however, members that support Crowdpol financially will get several perks as well as a say in how the platform is developed and run.
Paying it forward
As Crowdpol is not a for-profit organization and has no shareholders demanding dividends, as membership increases the fees could gradually be lowered. However, as it is the goal of the platform to support change and this will require financial support, we have opted for a different route. Instead of lowering membership fees, we will be returning increasingly greater shares of said fees into the individual user’s Altruistic Wallets so that they, in turn, may direct these funds towards projects and people that wish to support or to fund the development of new tools on the platform.
This will give members greater agency and will serve as a template for future democracy where citizens can actually vote not only directly for political proposals but also vote directly with their tax money on where it should be directed.
The Global Fund
Taking all these Altruistic Wallets in aggregate, we will eventually have a fairly large pool of resources. Using the system of delegates that the features that liquid democracy provides, these funds can ultimately be used to take on challenges on a scale that previously would require international agreements. The difference would be that these agreements would be supported by and followed up on by millions of committed individuals across the globe rather than being subject to the whims of a small and fickle political class and slow to react bureaucracy within a system that by and large is captured by powerful special interests.
A Conscious Marketplace
As the network grows further we can allow conscious commerce on the platform. Businesses and individuals that provide goods and services that are aligned with the goals of the network and abide by our agreed-upon guiding principles will be allowed to market themselves and trade.
The fee for access will be ten per cent of each transaction made within the network. However, this sum will be divided up equally between the Altruistic Wallets of both counterparties of the transaction, further funding the system and allowing even greater financial assets to find their way into projects that sustain and regenerate the commons.
The Altruistic Wallets of businesses are likely to grow large enough to fund important projects of their own, given these actors a forum to demonstrate their corporate social responsibility in a very manifest way, and thus creating a deeper relationship with both their value-driven employees and customers.
Taking a step back from the financial model of Crowdpol, and looking ahead towards a future world where money is no longer the sole recognised currency that puts wheels in motion we might look back in time to when money did not exist. Or simply look to those areas of our lives that are not centred around the exchange of currency. Much of our personal life is simply about finding a balance between contributing and receiving.
Crowdpol holds contribution as a value of its own and seeks to develop systems around this that can run in tandem with financial transactions. If a member does not have the financial means to pay for the bandwidth, storage, administration and development though membership fees, there will be other options to contribute and thereby gain access to all the tools and possibilities Crowdpol provides.
Dating for change agents
Where traditional crowdfunding platforms focus on raising funds, Crowdpol as a pro-social network also has the option of raising awareness for an issue as well as volunteers and actual resources. Think of it as a dating site for changemakers. When you create your profile you list your interests, values, skills and whatever resources you might have into a database. This is then used to match you with suitable projects. If a project catches your fancy, you simply contact the project manager in question and take it from there.
Trust as Currency
Through contributing to Crowdpol by writing code, testing features, creating content, moderating communities, vetting data and a host of other needful duties, users will gain points in our trust system. As campaigns give rise to projects needing volunteers, the trust ranking system will evolve into a broadly applicable tool for reliable reputation. Over time, we hope that these points, for lack of a better term, will follow our members in other walks of life, saluting in discounts and other preferential treatment. For after all, should we not honour those among us that work the most diligently in service of others? Certainly, on Crowdpol a stellar reputation will allow access to more advanced features and responsibilities. We should be able to trust those whom we give authority, and what better way than to first have them prove they are worthy of our trust?
The Next Level
Moving up in the Crowdpol ecosystem is not merely an exercise in valueless gamification, when you level up as a user you are trusted with new tools and new responsibilities. For each new tool and responsibility, you need to pass the appropriate test. A bit like needing a license to drive a car or a needing to have paid our dues to become a partner in a firm. As you level up on Crowdpol you actually get more options and have more influence over the platform. In fact, as you level up, your dashboard will get more and more advanced.
True democracy is more than the will of crowds in action; it is the wisdom of crowds in action, and wisdom requires a basis of reliable facts. One of the tools Crowdpol aims to provide is a network verification function where users, once qualified to use the tools in question, will be invited to rate all content making factual statements on a scale from 1–10 for their veracity. This rating will show up next to every post.
This distributed and network-based vetting of content should detect most deep fakes and other unverified data in an organic way, lessen the impact of those who post unverified content as truth and remind users to maintain a healthy sceptical and humble stance towards content in general. A way for the network to hone in on the signal amidst the noise that is contemporary social media.
Seeing the same world
We live on the same planet but in entirely different worlds because we live through our stories, and these differ from place to place and time to time. Reaching a completely common narrative is unlikely, but with equal and common access to data, there is a glimmer of hope.
Crowdpol will provide data feeds directly onto our map-based interface in an attempt to share actual data pertaining to demographics, flows of energy and resources, health, environment and more in an attempt to move the storytelling towards a data-driven foundation. Ultimately, our goal is that every project and proposal feed new data into the system so we can measure the actual consequences of our collective actions. As we converge on the same database we will, hopefully, adjust our stories to the same data and find more common ground.
Differences are not a weakness. To the contrary, diversity is key to survival and, beyond this, thriving. Using basic psychological metrics, on an entirely voluntary basis, we will create diverse groups to look at common issues and see if they can come up with proposals that each member in the group can live with. Any proposals agreed upon by such a group are much more likely to be acceptable to the larger population than proposals designed by more homogenous groupings. An added benefit is that such groups can interact as completely anonymous to each other effectively countering any bias and allowing arguments to be discussed on their own merit.
This anonymity feature can be used in other areas too, such as when putting together a “jury” to discuss transgressions made by individual members against agreed-upon rules of conduct. These individual members would also be anonymous to the jury to ensure completely impartial treatment.
Through the use of distributed VPNs and linguistic features, Crowdpol should be able to protect the identity of users in dictatorships or in other situations of great personal risk, such as being an environmental or human rights activist when this is detrimental to a powerful and unscrupulous business. As these areas transform to more open systems, Crowdpol will have offered a training ground for a smoother transition into a full, liberal-democracy.
The Other Side
No matter how open, well-informed and enlightened we consider ourselves to be, and how reliable the data informs our world view, we still view the world through our own bias. Most of the algorithms that spoon-feed us our experience on the web do so not for malicious reasons but to give us more of what we want. The flip side is that this cements our bias and lessens our abilities to understand issues with a broader perspective. Crowdpol will offer a number of tools to encourage its users to step outside their intellectual comfort zones, to actively follow the opposing view in each topic, to occasionally see things from the other side, as it were. To remind us all that the world from our perspective is only this and nothing more, and knowing this, encourage us to reach out across the abyss to create common ground.
Digital Self Defence
Though most algorithms seek to cater to our interests, keep us happy or at least engaged enough to keep clicking away, this is not true for all. The technology of manipulation is light years ahead of the general populations understanding of it and keeping up with its rapid development is difficult enough for those who can dedicate themselves entirely to it. We need help.
Crowdpol does not use any secret algorithms to manipulate the feeds of our users, let alone to manipulate your behaviour, all our tools are above board and user-controlled.
In the future, we will design a digital avatar that follows you wherever you go and, using machine learning, will highlight any discrepancies between how a text, graphic or video are presented to you and others, along with a warning that you might be being actively manipulated. Crowdpol will go where you go and if not keep you safe, then at least keep you informed.
As noted, the individual is the atom of democracy, and as atoms, we have the right to our sovereignty. But the magic happens when we join and become molecules, in the community. On Crowdpol the community is the operative level. We have designed the platform around communities but also ask our communities to form around a purpose or an activity. Each community sets its own rules but must agree to common rules if they are to interact with other communities. They can exist on their own as virtual entities, as physical communities on a map or as a sub-community nestled into a larger one, much as a municipality might be part of a city. Each community has its own proposals and its own projects.
Local to global
In order for local community activity to have a coordinated global impact, local projects can be linked to global goals, such as the Sustainable Development Goals proposed by the United Nations or The Planetary Boundaries developed by The Stockholm Resilience Centre. By collecting the data from a plethora of local projects, Crowdpol aims to demonstrate the impact local communities can have on global issues when actions are taken in a coherent way. In this way, the global consequence of local actions become apparent, as well as the true power of community as an organizing force.
Community is an active process much like a garden it needs constant tending and attention. And however close-knit a community is, there is always some dissonance, some opposed wills. This is necessary because no community can survive without a degree of flexibility, opposing opinions born out of different perspectives. In smaller, local communities such differences are a lot more easily worked out than on larger virtual ones, where differences in opinion soon lead to open conflict and entrenched positions further fueled by the rules and algorithms behind the online forum in question. Conflict excites and engages our mental makeup, but it, unfortunately, does little to resolve issues in a constructive and respectful way.
To avoid locked positions, negative conflict and unnecessary animosity, Crowdpol employs rules of engagement to foster a constructive dialogue. To further the quality of the debate, we will also use more sophisticated tools to allow users to evaluate both content and conduct.
Freedom of speech
Restricting conduct might be argued to be a form of censorship. This is a valid point as certain messages will not be permitted to be posted or removed once they are detected, such as personal threats. There are two reasons for this. Firstly, threatening people is in itself an age-old method of limiting the freedom of speech of another. Secondly, allowing such conduct will effectively destroy the kind of open and respectful debate climate that is necessary if we are to solve common problems together and make constructive use of our different experiences and perspectives. The goal is to make change, not to make enemies.
Freedom of reach
However, for those that do not want to run communities with no constraints on conduct, there will always be the option to start a private community or to run a version of the platform on their own server. Also, Crowdpol will not censor public content, provided it does not break the laws of the nation which is currently hosting the platform. This does not mean that every post will be displayed to everyone on the platform. Individual users are welcome to block any content creator they chose, or use their dashboard to only see content of sufficiently high quality in their feed. Users can post whatever content they wish but the better crafted a submission is, the more likely it is to reach a wider audience. Users will be offered continuous feedback on their impact in order to improve it. Impact is the name of the changer game, and to achieve impact one must first achieve a decent reach. Which one does by respectful conduct and well-crafted arguments.
Canning the Spam
The freedom of reach on the internet has led to a huge amount of spam, ranging from five to eight emails out of ten according to different sources. The countermeasure to spam has been the spam filter, but this, in turn, has led to genuine communication getting lumped in with the spam.
On Crowdpol, where the objective is to maximize signal and minimize noise, spam and other unsolicited and unwanted communication is countered in a few different ways. First off, one needs to be a member of Crowdpol and have a completed profile to post any content, let alone send someone a message. Secondly, interactions beyond voting and posting proposals or projects also come with a small fee, to further limit frivolous use of our shared information channels, the commons of Crowdpol, as it were. Thirdly, any inappropriate messaging, be it spam or hate mail, can be flagged in the same way as any other content with similar consequences to the sender.
Spamming the network, posting low-quality content, as defined by other users, and sending unsolicited messages all impact a users trust ranking, reach and thus impact. There is simply very little to gain and everything to lose for the changemaker that abuses the Crowdpol commons.
With sought after changemakers and other persons of interest that have made a name for themselves through their activities, making contact is an issue. Such individuals receive far more emails than they could possibly respond to, and most can’t afford designated staff to sift through their various inboxes and requests. On the other side, those of us who might want to establish contact find ourselves without any practically viable means to do so. Yet, having a well-known changemaker offer input and perhaps even an endorsement of a project can have a massive benefit for reach and impact.
To provide a clearer channel of communication, Crowdpol will offer verified changemakers the option to put a price tag to any communication. In effect, any member can put an arbitrary price for their time tied to the sending of a private message. One the message is read and responded to, the funds are drawn from the sender’s account and deposited in the receiver account. This service runs on Crowdpol but will be made available to anyone as a plug-in, and is therefore not run through Crowdpols systems of Altruistic Wallets. However, a minimum of ten per cent of each transaction will be used to fund both parties Altruistic Wallets, and the receiver may choose to donate as much as they like on top of this.
Trust in Action
There is a valid argument to be made that using money to gain access to high net worth changemakers is fundamentally undemocratic. Equal access to the commons is a basic democratic principle after all. On the other hand, individuals, however sought after and influential they are, are not part of the commons. We simply have no right to their time or focus.
In order to bridge this gap, a free-market solution is deployed, but this market can be funded with more currencies than just the traditional monetary one. Thus highly sought after individuals can set a price tag not only in the monetary currency of their choice but also using any other value system available. For instance, the monetary price tag can be balanced against the trust reputation of a member on Crowdpol. The higher trust a person has achieved, the lower the monetary input required to answer a message. The rationale being that the more trusted a person is on Crowdpol, the higher the quality of their communication is likely to be and the less risk of being a waste of time and drain on resources to the receiver.
Proof of Humanity
With a strategy for spam and hate mail as well as fake news and low-quality content and the reinforcing of personal bias, we are left with the final major challenge of the social network — fake accounts. With machine learning on its rapid trajectory it only a matter of time before artificial intelligence will be able to pass any test of humanity we can come up with. However, since any member of Crowdpol that wishes to create content and have an Altruistic Wallet will need to provide a basic membership fee, there is little financial incentive to create fake accounts, even if this could be easily automated.
Proof of individuality
Proving humanity is one challenge, but so also is proving one’s individuality. How can we be sure that a person uses only one account? And if someone breaks the rules by threatening another member and gets suspended, what is to stop them from creating a new account and do it again?
Certainly, a cost in both money and time will limit the number of accounts a person or organisation might set up for whatever ulterior purpose they might have, but this is clearly not a guarantee that whomever you are communicating with on Crowdpol is who they say they are? Also, it is conceivable that fake accounts might be used in the future to create more Altruistic Wallets and use the contents from these wallets to fund fake projects run by fake volunteers.
In order to counter such an eventuality, any project manager will need to provide verifiable proof of identity such as a national identity card or a passport.
Of course, a large part of the global population does not have access to such government issued documentation, for whom other means of identification will be needed. What we will be experimenting with is secondary identification, i.e having a verified user confirm that an unverified account is indeed owned by someone they know to be a physical person. Basically staking their reputation behind the person and account in question. The more connections an account holder makes though collaborating on projects, the greater the validation by the network. Clusters of users that are not validated by anyone outside the cluster can thus be assumed to be fake clusters. Over time, as blockchain based self-sovereign identity alternatives become more widely used, this will most likely become less of a problem.
The individual is the atom, the smallest part of our ecosystem, but the part that in aggregate makes all the decisions. Within Crowdpol we have designed many tools to improve the quality of said decisions, but at a deeper level it is all about increasing personal connections and accelerating personal growth. Without a clear idea of who we are and what we truly want, we will always be easy prey for the forces that seek to manipulate us for their own gain and purpose. Therefore Crowdpol needs to support each member on their private and personal journey. This we do through developing a private profile page that is designed to be a conversation with you and your self. A mirror of who you’d like to be and an invitation to create a path to get there. But this is strictly between you and you, and until we can guarantee that level of privacy, we shall tread very warily indeed. Still, the profile page presently provided will be plenty pointfull!
Crowdpol’s Sustainable Goals
The United Nations spent time and effort to define 17 development goals drawn from suggestions from all member nations. These goals were then signed by the member nations in 2015 as a blueprint for peace and prosperity for people and the planet, now and into the future. These goals are ambitious but also quite diffuse and will most likely be respected to the same degree agreement between nations are when push comes to shove. Which is to say, not very much at all. Within Crowdpol we invite our members to pick the goals they believe in and these goals, in aggregate, will become the goals of Crowdpol. The expression of the will of the people across the globe. What these main goals will be only time will tell, but in our initial work on Crowdpol as a vessel to refine these most common goals we have picked the following:
- The equal right of access to the commons, digital and physical
- The right to privacy, the right to your own secrets
- The right to freedom from manipulation, to not be constantly nudged by algorithms away from whatever destiny you would choose if you had a free choice
- The right to sovereignty, to make up your own mind and decide over your own body
These goals and more you can sign up and adopt as your own on Crowdpol. As civic technology catches up, we will provide you with the tools to actually take the conscious actions that lead to and support these goals. If we are to get there as nations we need to first get there are communities, and to get there as communities we need to first get there as individuals.
A Race to the Top
Over the past century, our technological development as a species has been staggering, and there is no indication that this pace is wearing off. To the contrary, though advancement in computing and greater access to the tools it provides development is increasing in speed. This rapid development has not been mimicked by the sphere of business, or at least not in a way that is aligned with the purpose of many of our crucial institutions. To mention just one, the media, whose role it once was to monitor and question power is now more or less entirely in the attention business. In similar ways businesses that were once chartered only if they could provide a good to the people now focus only on the bottom line, satisfying shareholders and other investors no matter what the external costs may be. This has led to a race to the bottom, to produce where workers are the cheapest, where regulations are the loosest, where unions are the weakest, where the commons are most easily exploited etc.
The story is pretty much the same across the board and as a result we find ourselves not in the golden age of deep democratic engagement that our technological advances should have led to but rather the opposite, a world where we the vast majority have less and less power and resources and are more and more spied upon, manipulated and ultimately controlled. But clearly it doesn’t have to be this way. By joining together, taking responsibility for ourselves, our communities and our planet, by creating local solutions that can scale globally, by sharing ideas and knowledge freely and by supporting each other with the surplus that we create, we can begin a race to the top. It really isn’t that complicated. There will be a lot of initial effort and the old system will not go down without a fight. But then old systems never do. Something new will grow out of the debris of the old, whether we like it or not. So why not focus on creating something we might actually like? And this is as good a starting place as any.
In fact, it’s probably a lot better than most of the current options. So let’s join together and make whatever is going to happen happen faster and better and the way we decide it is to happen. These are the tools, claim your space. Make it happen.