Schroeder Degrees Of Freedom

Karl Schroeder story "Degrees Of Freedom" from Hieroglyph Stories.

cf Public Policy Collaboration Ware, Futarchy, Disputation Arena

misc links


STORY NOTES—Karl Schroeder

Wicked Problems

Structured Dialogic Design, which was developed by the Institute for 21st Century Agoras, primarily by cyberneticist Alexander Christakis

An introduction to the process can be found in the book The Talking Point, by Thomas R Flanagan and Alexander N Christakis

Decision Architecture

Chernoff Face-s

Dorians are a natural and intuitive interface for “Quantified Self” apps such as sports and fitness trackers


A liaison is a Dorian that personifies a corporation, government, organization, or group


Padgets are a European Union experiment in democratic technology. Padget stands for “policy gadget.” You can find out how they work at the project website,


The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change shows how large sets of diverse models can be ganged together to create robust quantitative Simulation-s of the future

Gwaiicoin and the Block Chain

Faced with the question of “Who has ultimate authority?” on nearly any matter, the answer no longer needs to be some committee, statute, ministry, board, or person. The answer can be “the stakeholders, directly, using the block chain

Project CyberSyn

Cyberneticist Stafford Beer partnered with the Chilean government of Salvador Allende from 1971 to 1973 to build a new form of government based on cybernetic principles.*

FORUM DISCUSSION—The Future of Agriculture

THE MATHEMATICS OF GAMIFICATION—FourSquare Data Scientist Michael Li



overlaid the agent with a liaison for her company.   This synthesized face summarized the ratings given the company by thousands of customers. Bad reviews made it uglier; good reviews, more attractive. The face he saw was bland and unassuming

Let’s mess the place up a bit and see how it looks.”   “What’s the overlay?” asked Terry.   “Renovator Two. You got it?”   “Just a minute.” Terry and Rob both opened store apps and found the overlay she was using

How’s your Dorian look, Maggie?”   Rob snorted. “Oh, you’ve joined that damned cult, have you?”   “Dad, it’s just more decision-support software.”   “And you need more help making decisions? Pah

It’s an augmented reality overlay that tells you who owns what

wondering how many other people were looking at the city—the country—through the same new lens. This app was a step beyond Nexcity, which merely showed you the future of local real estate. This . . . this was inequality made visible

All the betrayals by the British and Canadian governments over the centuries were visible, shimmering in the sky. Even the currency that the money was counted in—it wasn’t dollars, but Gwaiicoin. That variant of Bitcoin

Fountains View. When he tried it, the skyscape shifted; instead of shimmering walls of light, he was looking at . . . well, fountains. Fountains of money, rising off Indian lands and falling on the city, into glass-walled towers that wore the logos of logging and mining companies like crowns

let’s look at our policy options. Your people have run the padgets?

There were sixteen Canadas up there

Each map showed a different possible future for the country. The damned program provided only multiple futures

Now . . . so much information is publicly available, and with block chains running on mobile phone meshnets . . . we think the Haida are running their own SimCanadas. They’ve been war-gaming this scenario, maybe for months. This isn’t just a bunch of boys who got all fired up and decided to make a roadblock. It’s a calculated power play directed against the federal government of Canada

I used to go to the Davos conferences. Couple years back, the president of Paraguay comes up to me and he says, ‘Do you have any power?’

he says he’s been talking to prime ministers, presidents, CEOs, you name it, and they all say the same thing. Ten years ago, they could have done things. But now? There’s international treaties and grassroots watchdogs, NGOs, churches, even reality shows all tramping around in what used to be our space. Most of all, there’s the block chain, this thing they say runs Bitcoin

That kid in Africa doesn’t need his government—he’s got the Internet.   “Miguel said that everybody’s having the same experience. Either they’ve finally gotten to the place where they expected to have real power only to discover they don’t have it, or they’ve been in power for twenty years and watched it drain away over that time

They’d talked about the need to clean up the Canadian political landscape before, but mostly back in university

All it takes now is a single query to produce a list of enemies plus the grounds for issuing warrants for them. They can all be rounded up by tomorrow

If the bastards we’re dealing with can make an overlay like the one you just saw, they can also make one based on your list. They may not have the list, but they’ll have a pretty good idea who we’re likely to be watching. And you can bet there’s buggers out there who data-mine arrest reports looking for patterns just like the one that’d show up if we did what you’re suggesting

Rob, I don’t think you have anything to do with what’s going on here, but you know somebody who does—somebody, in fact, who’s a silent partner bankrolling a goodly portion of the Haida Gwaii meshnet

They’re picking delegates via sortition from a pool that’s developed using something called”—he squinted—“dynamically distributed democracy

what about this website, They’re insisting that I register. Something about using it during the negotiations. Is this something they’re gonna use to manipulate the process?”   Terry shrugged. “No more than Robert’s Rules manipulates a meeting. Less so, actually

I’m gonna end up with a profile,” grumbled Rob, “and then they’re gonna use it against me. This is like those damned Dorians you and Maggie were using this morning, isn’t it?”   “Nobody’s using the Dorians against us, Dad. Dorians are just little pictures of yourself, one for each major decision you’re thinking of making

Those little pictures of you—the Dorians—look happier or sadder, richer or poorer or sicker depending on the outcome (Chernoff Face)

Rob’s heart sank. He could hear it in Terry’s voice, see it in the enthusiasm in his face. Krishnamurti wasn’t wrong. The only question now was what to do

I have Asperger’s. My glasses can recognize emotions on people’s faces and tell me what they are. They say you’re angry right now

Are you on

that’s ’cause it’s part of how we decide things now

Terry had funded this, after all, and he couldn’t quite deny the curiosity of a father about what his son had been up to

There was only one thing you could do on show that you understood someone’s Framing of an idea. There were two text fields, one for a word or concept (very short) and a longer one, for about a tweet’s worth of definition. You could let fly your idea of what something meant and wait. After a while, people would respond with restatements of your definition. If you thought a restatement accurately represented your meaning, you could click the Wegetit button. There was no button for disagreement

somewhere out there were thousands of people who shared his understandings of many basic concepts, even if they might disagree with his politics. Wegetit was drawing lines connecting all those people, and every agreement strengthened the connections

The Haida insisted they needed a daylong scoping workshop to prepare for the real negotiations

Some of the delegates have been dismissed

I guess you did enough agreeing that they were able to tell who would know what you meant

Bill had made Rob minister of aboriginal affairs because Rob knew the government couldn’t help these people. A hundred years of trying had yielded nothing. If you were going to pull yourself out of poverty, you had to do it yourself.

The people coming up to the podium weren’t just random petitioners; they were people who’d used to define an issue

Even Rob had to admit that the problems they described over the next hour were real. Their descriptions were sharply focused, comprehensive, and almost immediately understood by everyone...

One of the founders of Wegetit,” murmured Jeffrey. “Got his start in something called Structured Dialogic Design

What I’m going to do is ask a series of questions,” the consultant was saying, “about the issues that’ve been identified on over the past few days. I want you to put up your hands if you agree

Our software’s been quietly working in the background, doing a Root Cause analysis on all the issues we’ve talked about. Here it is

The tree continued through these too, down to the single root cause that the exercise had shown underlay almost everything else. That flowchart box contained the words The Haida Do Not Control Their Land.

The problem was, the tree was upside down: all those obvious answers should have led to the obvious conclusion, namely that it didn’t matter how the damned islands were governed, individual people had to take responsibility for their own lives. Instead it said the opposite.   Rob had agreed with every answer that had built this tree. How could he not agree with the result?   It had to be a trick; he wasn’t sure how yet, but the game had been rigged

we’ve just learned that the data from it can be used by another set of tools in a system called ‘CyberSyn 2.0.’ ”   “And what does that do?”   Jeffrey hesitated. “I think you’d better ask your son. He’s the CEO.”

The technical term for what we have after two hundred years of tug-of-war between the Haida and the Crown,” he said, “is a wicked problem

With a wicked problem—also called a mess—there

they’ve made MorphologicalAnalysis easy—so easy that we’re going to turn it into a game. We’re going to play the game for the rest of this afternoon. The name of the game is ‘Addressing the Root Cause

Each solution was displayed on the screens as a face. They were goddamned Dorians

We call it ‘rewilding politics

the Internet in the Queen Charlottes. It turns out it’s mostly a homegrown Mesh Net. The islanders aren’t buying their Internet connectivity from Rogers, Bell, or any of the other regulated carriers. They’re using solar-powered homemade antennas and store-bought routers. A lot of those are logging company data relays; they’re piggybacking on commercial equipment. They either pay in Gwaiicoin, or in goodwill. They’re a Dark Net, in fact—a whole Internet outside the official on

He was putting on something that looked like a sleek blue undershirt

He felt a kind of buzz on the left side of his torso; at that instant something bounded from behind a tree off to the left

It’s called sensory substitution. You can replace one sense with another. These vests do something like that, but in this case they’re using all the smart sensors scattered through the forest to identify the animals... (Haptic)

You’re a Haida separatist?”

Dad, this is the twenty-first century. We’re way past separatism here

You’re not trying to build a new government. You’ve already done it

The deciding—that’s”   “Wegetit and the system around it, which we call CyberSyn

Except of course it’s not just for Canada. It’s worldwide

If you could see the whole network of power around yourself, you’d know who to talk to in order to get things done. Even if you were just some anonymous Indian on the street, you’d be able to see what needed to be done, even if you couldn’t do it yourself. And using the block chain, it could all be implemented in a completely decentralized manner. No center of power to take down

We’re running the island because nobody else is doing it.

We use Wegetit and the rest of it to develop public policy that’s actually made by the public and tested alongside official policy in the national Dorian, which is just an open-source version of SimCanada. They’re both Big Data apps. We see which policy works better in the simulations, and then we wait for reality to catch up and see what actually happened in the real world. And either we tweak the national model or we publish the winning policy choice as a padget—you know, a policy gadget like they’ve had in Europe since, oh, at least 2010. The local MLAs have been using the padgets to design policy for a year now; they love it because they actually get good advice for free.

The Midwest United States is emptying of people ’cause the water table’s gone and the president says he’ll invade Canada

The only problem worth solving is the problem of how we govern ourselves

visible through the glasses that everybody was now wearing, was the causal root analysis diagram. Somebody had redrawn it as an actual tree, and as they were done, each story, song, and artwork was being pasted into it as a hotlink

We know the tanker running aground wasn’t an accident

It was obvious now: he’d only been invited out to Haida Gwaii as a courtesy *

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