Post-Truth Politics and Parenting

Some of you might have noticed that there’s some kind of voting thing taking place in the US today. And as ever there’s a battle raging to mobilise supporters of both persuasions to get out today and vote since whoever gets the voters out, wins the election. It’s easier said than done. But’s it’s kind of the way things work…

But a couple of things to consider. Let’s start with Time Magazine’s Word of the Year for 2016, ‘Post-Truth’. We’ve already seen Twitter take action in deleting 10,000 bot accounts and Facebook has blocked, er, 115 accounts that were attempting to influence the results. But if all that is happening is that you are managing to get people out to vote who have been misinformed by fake news, then does that ultimately deliver us a better world?

It’s become a real issue and yet another thing to add to the list for any parent as they try to guide their offspring into a world that is vastly different from their own experience of youth. Surveys have shown that often it’s the youngest who can be attracted to populist positions (see cynicism, authoritarianism, nativism and xenophobia) and it’s obvious that the YouTube algorithms will reward the most extremist views in front of anyone, not just the young.

Without going in over my head into the depths of political science, I did find this idea of continuous voting by Steve Randy Waldman fascinating. Part of the problem is that elections are predictable – you know they’re coming and that gives the power brokers the ability to attempt to manipulate the narrative by crafting a variety of high-profile and factually inaccurate media stories in the run-up which reflect favourably on a particular candidate.

This thought experiment suggested having 5% of the electorate vote each month on candidates; then the results of such elections only being delivered according to the random flip of a virtual coin resulting in heads. Put simply: no politician knows when he or she may be replaced, which encourages each one to work with his or her constituency to provide value over the long terms, rather than focusing on the more superficial ‘marketing sprints’ that we tend to see in democracies around the world these days near election time.

Bitcoin and Transparency in Politics

So it’s General Election day. Maybe it’s me but it all feels a bit anti-climactic here in Scotland, coming as it does hard on the heels of the Referendum. Regardless of which side you were on in that process, it feels different when you’re voting ‘just’ for the next five years (as opposed to the indefinite future) of your country.

But while we’re on the subject of politics, I wanted to just flag one thing up quickly which has intrigued me about the political process this time around that’s new. And (surprise!) it relates to Bitcoin.

Some of you might know Gulnar Hasnain as one half of the team (together with Pamir) behind the awesome CoinSummit conferences. Interestingly, during this General Election campaign, Green Party candidate Gulnar became the first UK politician to start accepting Bitcoin donations. It’s a great example of how the transparency of the blockchain can be used for good in an area that’s not always known for, shall we say, impeccable behaviour.

For example, you can see every donation that was made as part of the campaign, recorded permanently and publicly here. Every. Single. Donation.

Of course, it’s not exactly taxing for anyone to follow funds donated in this way moving forwards. And for any others to audit donations in order to provide any necessary checks and balances within the electoral system. Develop the potential a little further, scale it up and then unleash that (free) technology on a country that went through the parliamentary expenses scandal in 2009.

So, if you still don’t think that Bitcoin helps with real-world issues, it’s worth having a think about this. I predict that if we do end up with a government by the morning that can govern for a few years (far from a certainty at this stage) then by the time we go through the next major political event, this kind of transparency should be something that’s expected – and demanded – by the electorate.

Now where’s the popcorn? Looks like it’s a long night ahead.