Democracy is Dead. Let’s Try This Instead . . .

If you have questions about this iterative design approach, and the practical considerations, I’ve gone into more detail on this page.

This was a weekend project that came to mind in the shower and I haven’t worked out all the details. I welcome new ideas, constructive feedback and ruthless criticism.

More about iterative design using the “Happy Optimization” design flow

The system is designed to work with people, to nudge us forward.

People only live in a prototype city if they choose to be pioneers (no one is forced to be a lab rat).

The prototype city only survives if it maintains a good score on fundamentals of well-being and sustainability.

In simple words, “Survival of the Happiest”.

The Happy Function is used to score the societies so they evolve in the right direction (like fitness scores animals in natural selection).

The Happy Function I’ve proposed is based on the Happy Planet Index, but it could be anything in society you want to optimize for that can be measured: E.g., maximize freedom, minimize number of laws, minimize infant mortality, minimize billionaires with monocles, minimize carbon footprint.

If we were orcs we might choose to maximize war, imperialism, pollution and tar, and we’d evolve in the same direction humans have the last 100 years.

With mainstream society focused on maximizing black gold, I think we need experiments like this happening on the sidelines.

One possible problem is that if pioneers are very forward thinking people, a society adapted to the pioneers may not be ideal for your average Joe in the real world.

Would pioneers of failed prototype societies be kicked off their land?

Pioneers may need an incentive to take on risks, and being loaned land with a high chance of eviction is not much incentive. A more human-sensitive, but less efficient experiment, is to let these low performing societies continue with their original land, and get new land for the new societies.

I would expect that most people would try to leave if the society is truly unhappy, but it’s likely there would be some tenacious pioneers remaining. Perhaps the awarded land mass could shrink if the population dramatically reduces.

In the case of a particularly backward society, outside societies could stop trading with them, and they’d need to be self-sufficient in their little bubble to survive. If they do survive in a bubble like this, it would at least mean they’ve figured out environmental sustainability.

Minimum land and population for the experiment

We already know suburban sprawl is unsustainable, so we don’t need space for it. This could be a constructive constraint. But, we do need land for food production, resources, etc.

For housing, we should assume higher density than suburban North American (Europe is a good example), but allow extra room for farmland.

Efficient food production can be done entirely in an urban environment, but this depends on the climate, soil, skills and technology available (permaculture, etc). I’m not the right person to define the farmland needed, so anyone who knows better, please chime in!

Let’s say the minimum size for a prototype society is 5000 acres (20 ㎢), which is the size of Victoria proper, BC.

Victoria has 80,000 people in this area, but with some of this land taken up by agriculture and timber the sustainable population would be lower (maybe 10-20,000)?

To start off, I’m guessing we would need 50,000 acres (200 ㎢) for 10 prototype towns of 10,000 people each.

Maximum land for a successful prototype society

There should also be a constraint on the maximum land (Amax) given to a successful prototype society. A possible value for Amax is 15,000 ㎢, which is half the size of Vancouver Island. Bear in mind: I pulled this number out of the ether.

A population constraint would follow organically from that.

Funding and economics

Obtaining land is the biggest hurdle I see up front.

We have loads of crown land that we’re destroying with reckless projects in Canada, so Canadian (or Russian) government land would be ideal. The problem: The government owns it.

It may be possible to lease crown land for such a project (companies do this all the time when they rip into the tar sands).

A prototype society would have to be able to handle its own economics and be economically sustainable.

A land grant starting out would be a helpful incentive to get pioneers to take on the risks, but to ensure a strong foundation they should be bootstrapping their economy. I.e., creating value, that lets them trade with other societies.

Having a source of high value income generation would be key. Otherwise, the societies would be at the mercy of whoever bestowed land and resources to get them started… and without items/services of value to trade, interaction with neighbouring communities or countries would be difficult.

That is, unless they want to live in a low-tech bubble. This would be okay if they can survive and thrive that way, sustainability, but I would hope at least some societies want to experiment in a modern world context.

It would be convenient if there were wealthy doners or a hugely successful fundraiser, but we can’t count on that. It could be a global “science” project, like the Large Hadron Collider, but that seems overly optimistic.

The easiest way to start would be to look for interesting societies that are already out there (e.g., Rojava), and see if they’re interested in participating in the experiment to increase the sustainable well-being in their own society. This way, we could gain some experience with the measurement methods before committing virgin land to the experiment.

And the first society design contest could start tomorrow.

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Democracy is Dead. Let's Try This Instead . . . by

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Tim Perry About Tim Perry

Sustainable design lover. Sauron hater. Tim’s vices include ogling architecture, creating elvish-themed startups (don't ask), exploring ideas on guitar for hours without actually playing a song, and daydreaming about community design, permaculture, natural building and primitive bushcraft.
 
After studying engineering at UVic, Tim started Arqen.com, an acoustic design business. But ultimately, he wants to help advance sustainable development in the Victoria region (and beyond). So, Tim’s brain asked his heart if he should start the Victoria Vine. His heart's impulse said, “Do it, frood”. And here we are, talking in third person.

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