Context: PoliticalStuff

Quora Answer : What would a government designed by engineers and not politicians look like?

Oct 2, 2013

Not that different.

The moment you get a bunch of people together to debate what they should collectively do, they automatically become "politicians".

Politician isn't a kind of personality. It's a "role" that you play. One that largely responds to the forces outside it.

In the "democratic" "west" politicians from remarkably different backgrounds, with remarkably different sets of foundational beliefs get elected into government and start saying remarkably similar things and behaving the same way. Why? Because they're responding to similar situations and exigencies : the requirement to get re-elected, the requirement to keep the media onside, the requirement not to spook the markets, the requirement to be seen to be responding promptly and firmly to current affairs, the requirement not to be seen as uncertain or indecisive, and finally to be seen as serving their constituents.

If politicians in China are any different it's probably less about personality and training than that they don't face the same demands and pressures.

In one sense, you can see governments of engineers inside various technical bodies and international standards organizations. And they still have religious wars (about technologies and standards). And they take an inordinately long time to make their minds up. You can see similar arguments and problems inside any technical company or university. So I don't think you can rely on engineers as inherently wiser or more disinterested than anyone else.

But what if we let the engineers design the government system itself?

Here I think there's some cause for optimism. But not in the traditional "technocrat" sense. In fact engineers are starting to take ideas of governance and social organization more seriously and, consequently, starting to experiment more.

I think that the GNU General Public License is one of the most remarkable and significant documents of the late 20th century. Not just because it's an incredibly important weapon in one of the most important political struggles of the moment, but because it marked the point where engineers successfully attempted to apply a "hacker" approach to the legal / economic system. Since then, engineers have been increasingly interested in how to hack governance in many ways, both with and within traditional government (working on various ways of opening the data up to people, lobbying groups like, through to commerce and finance (Y-Combinator's explicit experimentation with the venture capital business, Crowdfunding like Kickstarter), through to weirder experiments like Debian's neo-medieval apprentice model of managing an operating system.

We are probably seeing more thinking about and design of governance now than any time since the Enlightenment and the French and American revolutions. But you'll be as likely to find the cutting edge at Valve or Github or Wikileaks as in traditional political science.

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