Powerful Design Principles for Next-Gen Governance

In my last post, I deconstructed a number of core assumptions that we tend to take for granted as true, and that most of our tools of governance are built around. I didn’t mean to just stop there without getting to the good news, but the post was getting long.

If things we’re used to leaning on to organize ourselves don’t work, what can we count on? Let’s establish some powerful principles to work from.

Baseline: Governance is for and by Humans

Let’s just tell the truth about ourselves as humans. We’re not perfect. We’re not rational. We even often have conflicting beliefs, desires and commitments. We’re kind of a mess.

I know, most of us imagine ourselves as on less messy end of that spectrum, and stare slack-jawed at the craziness of others. Yet, there are others looking at us that way on occasion too. So, let’s be clear, governance for people who are a mess will be messy too.

If you think I’m going to provide some neat and tidy, mathematical, mechanistic, or computational solution for the perfect model of governance, than I’m pretty sure you haven’t been tracking my work. I’m never about ONE way of doing things, but favor having the adaptive capacity to choose between a number of ways as circumstances require.

I know that might sound complicated, actually, it’s beyond complicated it’s complex.

Any system of governance that does not work well FOR people will If you think machines are going to solve the problem…

If you think arriving at an answer which an algorithm says is best, but doesn’t feel right to people…

Baseline: Governance is for and by Humans

  • We’re messy
  • Governance will be messy too
  • I am not going to propose a tidy solution, because the way we need to operate with the world is too complex for any prefabricated structure (including our Constitution).
  • Cynefin quadrants
  • Cynefin S curves

Guidelines and Principles

Self-Selection and Levels of Participation

  • Pull Not Push signal/noise

Building Alignment before Agreement

Feelings are as valid as Reason

Values before Facts

Optimize for Wisdom

  • decisions are not in isolation

Optimize for Agency

Cascading Logarithmic Proxies

Fail Fast then Iterate!

Context & Culture (for trans) Awareness(Values/Reason/Intent)/Protocol


You’re just a techno-utopian!

Yeah, yeah… If you need to throw some label on my to invalidate what I’m saying rather than consider it, do what you must. You might want to check if you’re blindly clinging to assumptions about governance that are simply not true.

I don’t think technology will magically solve our problems. PEOPLE have to do that work. Remember, language and currencies are technologies we use every day to coordinate on massive scales, just like DNA is a technology our cells use to coordinate on massive scales.

You’ve got to use the right tools for the job. In the case of P2P governance, some of those are new computing and cryptographic technologies. It’s probably a good idea to get used to it.

It’s Oversimplified

This is an introductory article. For most people reading it, these ideas and approaches are novel and probably seem complex. Please don’t assume that because I don’t drill into great detail about every piece, that there are no supporting details. I’d invite you into the inquiry with me about those tangible details, just because I have some, doesn’t mean they’re right.

It’s too Complicated / You’ll never get people on board

When our current system comes down, they’ll have to choose something to believe in. Let’s look at some indicators of how hard it would be to get people onboard for something like this, using Moore’s model of crossing the chasm.

Crossing the chasm – distributed tech

78% of the US Population are active Facebook users. That is a much higher level of participation than happens in government, even just voting, even in controversial presidential election years.

100 million bitcoin users not to mention other blockchain tech. Billions going into it this year. Banks… etc. Decentralized crypto systems have reached mainstream.

So you get to decide the algorithms?

No. You do.

For me the point of this approach is not to establish some new technocracy where the geeks rule the world through their manipulation of the technology everyone uses for decision-making. Replacing the current banksters with geeksters won’t really solve our problems.

In fact, this is why I’ve spent much of the past decade designing and building decentralized, uncorruptable architectures with no dependancies on centralized services of any kind. This is our greatest protection from corruption.

Target Alignment before Agreement

Optimize for Wisdom

So much of political theory is about POWER. Checks and balances to prevent its abuse. How to seize it. How to hold it.

concentrations of power, wealth, information

Pull Not Push

Not about pushing your voice, but pulling who’s input we really need for good decisions.

Optimize for Agency



Cascading Logarithmic Proxies