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Opening the door to fractal governance


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(Editor's note: This is the second of two parts. Read Part One.)

Borders may be diminishing in value, but many countries still use them to insulate their people and mask what’s truly happening behind the scenes. Here are six ways countries are becoming more dysfunctional:

1.) Dysfunctional Laws - With every country adding boatloads of new laws, travelers face literally hundreds of millions of possible laws they can run afoul of.

2.) Technology Exceeds Competence of Government - Failures are showing up daily in areas ranging from identity theft, to corporate hacking, wall street scammers, botnets, banking fraud, pension raiding, and intelligence breakdowns.

3.) The Complexity of Privacy - As transparency grows, we begin to know everything about everybody including their credit card and bank account numbers. Transparency unimpeded will mean we will eventually lose our ability to own things.

4.) Multi-National Workforce - People who do work for businesses in more than one country face double and sometimes triple taxation.

5.) Lack of Checks and Balance - Abuses by too-big-to-fail banks and corporate shenanigans that almost took down the entire global economy have yet to be accounted for.

6.) Technological Unemployment and a Declining Middle Class - Jobs are being automated out of existence at a record pace and those working in middle class workers are losing ground very rapidly.

These indicators along with countless more are pointing to massive failures in global governance and the prospects of civil breakdowns on the horizon.

Adding Artificial Intelligence to Government

We live in a human-run world and the idea of having machines replace politicians, taking an automated driving test, or sitting before a robotic judge all sound rather foreign to the way things are done today. But changes like this are right around the corner.

If we return a library book a few days late and a machine assesses a $2 fine, most people are okay with that. Similarly, taking a dog to a robotic vet that does automated testing, diagnoses the problem, and prescribes a cure will come as a welcome relief to many.

But having an automated online policy wonk listen to seven hours of testimony from industry experts and synthesize an entire new referendum feels sinister and creepy. Yet systems like this will remove political favors from the mix, remove campaign contribution bias, and take lobbyists out of the equation.

Paving the Way for Fractal Governance

Using this preamble to set the stage, I will attempt to describe the type of entities that I envision evolving from our current nation-state.

Since technology is exceeding governments ability to manage it, new global systems, or fractals, will emerge to offer a solution. Each fractal will be highly automated, and come with its own management structure.

I refer to them as fractals because each of them represents a tiny bit of order in an ocean of chaos. As fractals catch on we will begin to see new patterns of governance emerge.

Fractals represent the intersection of national and global governance.

I’ll begin by describing the Privacy Fractal which will only deal with privacy issues, but it will manage these issues in every member nation it manages to recruit.

Starting with a “Geneva Convention on Privacy,” the organization will establish global guidelines to deal with legal definitions, establish limits, handle abuses, and develop monitoring tools to signal whenever there is a privacy breach that has occurred.

In much the same way ICANN is the global authority for naming and numbering systems related to the Internet, the Privacy Fractal will establish itself as the global authority on privacy.

Fractal Governance will serve as a checks and balance to national governance, but only in a very limited scope.

Fractal Governance Defined

A Fractal is a narrow spectrum of global authority managed by an independent organization that operates outside of the control of individual nations. Member nations will assign representatives to the Fractal’s advisory board but the organization will operate outside of the control of any one nation.

Some Fractals will be mandated by large international assemblies such as a G20 Summit while others will originate organically, recruiting member nations on their own. Fractals will be funded through nation-based membership dues. Once a Fractal reaches critical mass, somewhere in the range of 20 member states, there will be a tendency for it to serve as the default authority in all matters related to its scope of governance.

Types of Fractal Organizations

The full range of possible Fractal Organization is only limited by our imagination, but the earliest ones will be those that address a specific problem for countries today.

Since countries don’t know how to deal with cryptocurrencies, we may see a “Cryptocurrency Fractal” mandated at the next G20 Summit. But that may be too broad of scope and a separate authority may be needed for Bitcoin, Litecoin, Dogecoin, and each of the cryptocurrencies gaining traction around the world.

With the concept of ownership being muddied by governments and police claiming authority to seize property, an “Ownership Fractal” may be needed to sort out all of the issues related to ownership around the world. Simply claiming rights based on the “spoils of war theory” needs to go away.

Fractal Governance will cover a wide range of topics from concrete to esoteric. Here are a few to help stimulate your thinking:

  • Global Accoungin Standards
  • Business Ethics
  • Time Zones
  • Nanotech Measurement Standards
  • Incarceration Fractals
  • Ocean Pollution
  • Asteroid Mining
  • Marijuana Policy
  • Language Archive
  • Patent and Intellectual Property
  • GPS
  • Telepresence Networks
  • Identity Standards
  • Wind Rights

Over time, turf battles between nations will be replaced by turf battles over the range and limits of Fractal authority.

Final Thoughts

There are many benefits to having separate countries around the world. They can preserve cultures and help spawn new industries,

But the biggest benefit is the competition that takes place between countries. This competition is pushing our standard to living to increasingly higher levels.

Done correctly, countries will welcome many aspects of fractal governance because it demonstrates attention to growing problem areas. People will have confidence in these expert-run systems as opposed to the political generalists, with lobbyists in the background, that are making decisions today.

Admittedly, this is a half-baked idea at best. These descriptions are crude and the overall concepts still rough. Does this sound like the direction we’re headed or am I way off base? For this reason, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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Thomas Frey

Thomas Frey is the executive director and senior futurist at the DaVinci Institute and currently Google’s top-rated futurist speaker.  At the Institute, he has developed original research studies, enabling him to speak on unusual topics, translating trends into unique opportunities. Tom continually pushes the envelope of understanding, creating fascinating images of the world to come.  His talks on futurist topics have captivated people ranging from high level of government officials to executives in Fortune 500 companies including NASA, IBM, AT&T, Hewlett-Packard, Unilever, GE, Blackmont Capital, Lucent Technologies, First Data, Boeing, Ford Motor Company, Qwest, Allied Signal, Hunter Douglas, Direct TV, Capital One, National Association of Federal Credit Unions, STAMATS, Bell Canada, American Chemical Society, Times of India, Leaders in Dubai, and many more. Before launching the DaVinci Institute, Tom spent 15 years at IBM as an engineer and designer where he received over 270 awards, more than any other IBM engineer.

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