Solving Democracy Through Technology: Introducing Wasa2il
Although national Pirate Parties are autonomous and independent, most have come to accept that one of the major problems of the world’s dismal state is that power is becoming more and more removed from the people. This is, perhaps, especially true for those countries that label themselves western democracies. In order to redress this imbalance, Pirates have been designing policies and software that have the aim of bringing citizen participation into politics – using technology and the internet as a platform.
Many Pirate Parties are implementing liquid feedback, as an internal decision making system. Some examples being PPDE, which uses it as a sort of running straw-poll of membership opinion and PPIT which scrapped its board in favor of letting its membership make decisions via liquid feedback. LF is not without its critics and there are plenty of Pirate Programmers and philosophers out there working on developing improved models.
One of the new tools, building on ideas from Liquid Democracy, is Wasa2il. It was begun by Smári McCarthy, in conjunction with the Moroccan Pirates, in 2012 in order to address problems in the current Liquid Democracy systems. Pronounced “wasa’il”, it comes from Arabic, and signifies “means” – the maneuverability to accomplish something. The first part of the word, “waza” means “liquid”-which appropriately describes the concept of Liquid Democracy. Wasa2il is currently in beta and being used internally by the Pirate Party of Iceland. Wasa2il is an open source project hosted in Github and is based on the concept of a polity (a politically organized society, state, city, etc. ). This means Wasa2il is scalable and can be used by any self-governed group from a small society to the largest of nations.
Wasa2il is a meld of philosophy and mathematics. For example, it seeks to find a result to non-binary decisions using the Condorcet Criterion, but if that fails it will need a backup that will push users towards a consensus. Another problem for online democracies is coercion. How to prevent someone being forced to vote in a particular way with a gun at their head. This is prevented by making a vote by anyone who dies in the voting period void and allowing voters to change their secret vote as many times as they wish. This means even a death threat cannot be sufficient to make a voter throw a vote against their own preference.
Leadership of the project has been taken over by James Robb. James was born and raised in Winnipeg Canada, but has lived in Iceland for the last year and is friends with the founders of the Pirate Party there. He is in the process of moving there permanently. He started in game development and has broadened his programming skills to a broader scope and is currently working for a start up called GreenQloud, which provides green cloud computing services. James tells us that progress is slow at the moment as they are in need of programmers, and because Mailpile (another Pirate initiative) is taking a lot of attention for now. Currently they are working on a system for making proposal changes to documents submitted for a particular issue–a document being a formal piece of text to tackle a specific issue. If you are interested in helping James and the team please contact him over Facebook or email.
Wasa2il is not the only Pirate led search to find better forms of democracy and we will be looking at some other efforts in the future.
Featured image: CC BY-NC-SA David T Jones