Ideas wanted: democracy in an Em world

by Stuart_Armstrong1 min read6th Jun 201364 comments

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One person, one vote - a fundamental principle of our democratic government. But what happens in a world where one person can be copied, again and again?

That is the world described by Robin Hanson's "Em economics". Ems, or uploads, are human minds instantiated inside software, and hence can be copied as needed. But what is the fate of democratic government in such a world of copies? Can it be preserved? Should it be preserved? How much of it should be preserved? Those are the questions we'll be analysing at the FHI, but we first wanted to turn to Less Wrong to see the ideas and comments you might have on this. Original thoughts especially welcome!

To start the conversation, here are some of the features of idealised democracy (the list isn't meant to be exhaustive or restrictive, or necessarily true about real world democracies). Which of these could exist in an Em world, and which should?

  • Democracy grants legitimacy to the government.
  • Democracy is fair and egalitarian - each person has a single vote.
  • Democracy aligns the interests of the rulers with that of the ruled.
  • Democracy is stable - powerful groups can generally seize power within the structure, rather than overthrowing it.
  • Democracy allows the competition of governing ideas.
  • Democracy often leads to market economies, which generate large wealth.
  • Democracy often lead to welfare states, which increase happiness.
  • Democracy doesn't need to use certain coercive methods, such as restrictions on free speech, that other systems require to remain stable.
  • Democracy stops a particular group from hanging on to power indefinitely, which can reduce corruption, inefficiency and excessive use of state power for private purposes.

EDIT: For clarification purposes, I am not claiming that democracies achieve these goals, or that these are all desirable. They are just ideas to start thinking about.

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