inspired by Inadequate equilibria, and following the 'KickStarter for Coordinated Action' sequence.
This is an idea-dump post for a website i thought of after reading Inadequate equilibria.
Today, tools like Facebook and twitter help us coordinate better and faster. but still, that is not enough to solve problems of "high-inadequacy" - where we're stuck in bad Nash equilibrium, and moving away from it demands many things to happen together.
The idea here is to take coordination much further, so we can solve as much of the game theory problems bound in moving to other Nash equilibria.
The goal is to allow 'Exoduses' from bad Nash equilibria, to better a Nash equilibria.
Note - none of this (at least as of writing this) is being worked on, nor are there currently plans to do so. Though, of course this doesn't mean there shouldn't be, or else i wouldn't have wrote the post :)
big problems can't be solved by a single person. but sometimes even a large group of people who agree on the problem and the solution, and are even motivated to bring the change - can't do it. That is because some problems are more complicated than that.
one such complication is coordination problems - where "everyone is taking some action A, and we’d rather all be taking action B, but it’s bad if we don’t all move to B at the same time." or each individual wouldn't want to take action A unless he knows the rest do too.
solutions to coordination problems include common knowledge (Where all know the intentions of all actors) and pre-commitment. that's the site's goal.
Any user can become a coordinator/initiator by creating a coordinated action (CA), in order to solve some problem. Each CA gets its own page (similar to kickStarter). Any user (unless otherwise specified) can obligate to the action - and here's the catch - the commitment is to be realized if and only if a certain number of other users obligated the same. In KickStarter, we commit to pay, here we commit to take action.
Since reality is very dynamic, a rigid structure will work for few situations and be less useful. So to allow a large array of projects, options for CAs should be versatile. I see it as an ongoing project that will develop next to the community's needs. think of how tesla is implementing features in dialog with their community's wishes. here are some examples of "contracts":
Basic: all of us obligate to some CA if X others do too.
milestones: many actions, listed on the same initiative, which are taken at different amounts of obligations. It is either required to obligate for all actions, or possible to obligate to specific actions only.
Obligation for obligation: a group or individual obligate for something, if a different group or individual obligate for the same or a different action (only one side can be an individual).
Please comment with more types that you can think of, it's very interesting.
And sometimes just committing isn't enough for you, or you support the initiative but done that action (in cases of one time decisions, like going vegan, going zero-waste, getting rid of your car, etc...). So we want to give users a way to support further than just obligating. One example is an option for users would to donate money to the campaign, which will be used to further spread it, through some kind of advertising.
This is where it gets quite complex, but it has to. people don't want a thousand random humans around the world to something with them. they want people from their country, from their city, from their profession/hobby/Interest-area, from their social circle or organization.
That's where communities come in, the ideal is that for every real-world community you would be able to create a community on the site to resemble it, and that if people from that community are already on the site, they will find out that a new community they belong to has been opened, and will join. the reason is, so it's possible to coordinate action with and within certain communities.
When i first thought about how communities will work in practice it reminded me of set theory, but thinking about it more, it ended up merely resembling it (and probably breaks some of its laws). still, hopefully mentioning it helps to visualize.
the communities structure
There are many communities, it's easy and accessible to create new ones, or join existing ones (Unless said community has some requirements). any community is a sub and/or parent community of other communities. The goal is that the communities on the site will be able to reflect the communities in the real world.
some examples of communities: The earth (The parent of all communities until we colonies mars) and the user base*, all regions/continents, and all countries, are some that can be added per-launch. examples for user added communities: cities, EA, farmers is Israel, bus drivers in new York, vegans is the US, LessWrong, etc...
"that's a lot communities..", you say? "like, a ton of communities", yeah, that's true. but that's how it should be.
it might sound a bit like FB, but except the community grouping aspect, there are two more important differences. here we don't want two groups which are basically the same (Cause that's ineffective, if the real world community is divided between them on the site), and the user doesn't have to be aware of all the communities they're part of**, which may feel weird in a online platform, but that's how it is in real life.
Whenever a user joins a community he is suggested sub-communities he might fit in, and is automatically added to all parent communities, which he can manually exclude themselves from (I bet the set theoreticians winched). part of the account creation process would be spotting the user's communities (easy ones, for example, are countries and cities)
not only individual humans are "agents" in this world, but also some communities, like, corporations, non-profits, and any other goal oriented group. organizations will be able to create a community around themselves, but also act as a user on the site. this is important, cause some coordinated actions seek not only the cooperation of single humans, but of the groups they make. if vegans think of taking a coordinated action together, they want to know that the businesses and organizations they support will go with them too. some CAs will be relevant only for organizations, where it doesn't matter how many individuals commit to take some action, they have to have cooperation from their own group.
Motivation and verification
At least until all of our society is nice, educated and rational - We need two mechanisms, one that verifies who really cooperated and who defected, and a mechanism to discourage defecting, and encourage cooperation.
Verification is the much harder of the two. how do you verify that someone tried veganism for 28 days? how do you verify that someone has/hasn't posted certain types of posts to FB? Can you verify whether someone really voted third party? whether they went to work that day? Some stuff are easier to verify, but if we stuck only to actions that are easy to verify, this tool won't be very useful. It's a hard-shell to crack, but it needs cracking - ideas?
In this system it's important that we know user = person, even better if we know user = which person. It can also help with fulfillment verification. There are many ways to do it - Email, phone, face, PayPal(?), ID. it just needs to be. maybe not all users have to be verified, yet still possible for communities and CAs to require verification.
given that we solved verification - motivation is simpler. a few options:
cooperator/defector score: users have a publicly displayed score that shows how they acted on their obligations.
Achievement badges: I envision something similar to khan academy's badges, but harder to get so they're more meaningful. an example of one "good to have: on average, you referred to each coordinated action you obligated to, at least 10 fulfilled obligations." You can display these badges on your profile to signal how awesome you are :)
putting your cash where your mouth is: for each CA, either there's a set amount or the initiator sets it, each user deposits cash against his cooperation - if he defects, he looses that money, if he cooperates, if he wins some extra money. This is a pretty much bound-to-work motivator (unless bill gates starts using this too), But i'd rather incorporate money as a last resort, If we find that we really need this extra motivator, since it makes everything more complicated. It also makes the verification task harder, since if people can use the site as a money-pump, they'll be more likely to look for a backdoor to exploit.
I believe this concept, if it was successfully realized, could bring great benefits to the world.
*yeah, both are all users, but i see reasons to differentiate, sorting wise - communities might have a counter feature of how many people in the real world community are registered to this online community, in the users it's a 100%, in the world.... you'd target different CAs to the user base and "the whole world". and, Sub community sorting is based on the real world, not the website, so the farmers of Israel are only part of the earth community and not the website's User Base. possible sub-communities are active users, contributors, etc...
**Hard to estimate exactly how much, but it's at least a few dozens and maybe more than a hundred