I’m so fed up of elections! In the UK, we’re lucky if there’s only one a year to vote in. I’ve just voted in my local area elections, voted in the EU Referendum last year and voted in the parliamentary election the year before. And there’s another parliamentary election to vote in later this year. Not only that but the news is full of other elections - elections in France, America, South Korea etc. etc.. Why are we so obsessed with elections? They're exhausting, time consuming, fill my media and extremely costly. And at the end of it, do I get what I want? Even if I vote for a winning side, I can find the promises - even if plastered on the side of a bus - turn out to be 'alternative facts’ and 'alt truths’. I don’t feel much more in control of the place I live in despite all these elections. And I am fortunate enough to live in a democracy! But as Winston Churchill said: “Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others”.
But is that really still the case? Perhaps not. In 2008 the mysterious Satoshi Nakamoto published a white paper that introduced the concept of ‘blockchain’ into our thinking. So what is ‘ blockchain’? Essentially a blockchain consists of blocks of records chained together cryptographically so they can’t be tampered with or revised. Blockchains are public ledgers of those records - although anonymous. They offer a way of storing records that does not rely on a central body but is decentralised and distributed over a network of computers. Clear? No… OK, maybe this example will help: So imagine you are in a pub with 10 friends. You and your friends agree to put £20 each into a central pot of money to buy drinks. Good idea you say! Save time fiddling around with lots of change. So in front of your friends, you would put your £20 note on the table. Job done! But that’s not how things work in the financial system is it? Under the current financial system, you would need to call someone from your bank to come and join you at the pub, then give him your £20. The banker would then hand the £20 over to another banker, who also had to be invited down for a drink, and that banker would hold the money until it was requested. And, thinking about it, both bankers would also no doubt need to bring a group of their colleagues to the pub to deal with internal authorisations. In return my friends and I would have to buy all the bankers a drink or two for their trouble. Crazy! You just want to hand over £20! Blockchain enables that. It is peer-to-peer, public and transparent.
So how does this help me with voting? Well the voting system can seem rather crazy, either involving taking time out of my day to queue up and tick a box; or involving a postal vote that includes filling out a series of forms, stuffing them in the right series of envelopes and hunting down a post box. In either case, my vote is then delivered to a large hall somewhere and counted with all the other votes by groups of volunteers who have discovered that there’s nothing on the telly apart from elections. There must be a better way! And indeed there may be. Blockchain voting would be done online - no strange voting cubicles and tiny pens; no worrying I’ve put the wrong piece of paper in the wrong envelope. Unlike some online voting, the blockchain would be open to scrutiny so I could all see any possible interference that may be attempted. And not only that, but also I could all count the votes myself as the records would be public (though anonymous). That would save time and money and I’d have full confidence the results were accurate.
That’s great, but that’s only part of my issue. Would the elected officials truly represent me? There are no guarantees right now. But using blockchain, a mechanism could be set up whereby any one could inform the elected official what their views are on a particular topic. The official could then be compelled to act or vote accordingly. And indeed just such an initiative has just been launched by the Flux Party in Australia. But blockchain can do even better than that. It could cut out the middle persons and do away with the need for elected officials entirely. According to how the blockchain votes are cast, actions could be automatically authorised and actioned. No elected politicians and no Government needed - meaning no elections! What’s not to like?
But hang on, there’s still the problem of my being outvoted on issues I feel strongly about. That’s the problem with democracy. Over half voting Americans didn’t vote for Trump after all. And what if I don’t like what’s going on in my country? Which quite often I don't. For instance, I want a better Internet connection at home, less people in front of me in queues and compulsory custard for supper. Well, I could try and find a more enlightened country elsewhere and emigrate I suppose. But that does sound like a tremendous hassle. Yet again blockchain to the rescue! Estonia allows anyone to join its e-residency programme which is based on the blockchain. You can become an e-resident of Estonia wherever you physically live and register your marriage, birth certificate, business contracts, and much more on their blockchain. And Estonian companies don’t pay tax on retained profits, so a good place to locate my business as soon as I make bigger profits... And all this without actually moving anywhere. Pretty good, I have to admit. But even enlightened Estonia’s way of government may not always be to my tastes. There are weird laws over there, like pedestrians have to wear reflectors on their clothes at all times. Would I have to do that … even virtually? Not a terrible thing, but who knows what other laws they might pass about safety apparel and I don’t know their views on custard? What I need is a new way of governing where I can live as I wish to.
Step forward Bitnation. Through Bitnation, I can create my own virtual nation based on blockchain. And I can run it how I wish. Custard for everyone! At least virtual custard… So who’s up for it? A new nation free of tedious politicians, corrupt governments and endless elections to validate them. A nation that we will govern together on principles we all agree on and…. hang on, it’s sounding a bit like a democracy again. And would I have to vote on everything…? Maybe Churchill was right after all. I think I’ll take £20 to the pub, invite some bankers along and have another think about it.
Innovation is out there
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