Lawrence Lessig on designing a corruption-resistant democracy for a virtual world

Lawrence Lessig (previously) has spent years articulating the case against corruption of the political sphere (and has written a superb book on the subject); now he's helping to design the political framework for Seed, a multiplayer game "in which players must collaborate (or compete) to rebuild society on a new, untamed planet."

In this interview with the project's creators, Lessig articulates the strange and amazing challenge:

Lessig is also interested in possibly implementing an in-game process in which democracy doesn't depend on voting: "I'm eager to experiment or enable the experimentation of systems that don't need to be tied so much to election." He's thinking of a system described in the book Against Elections: The Case for Democracy, which argues that government officials might be randomly chosen, similar to the jury selection process, through a mix of volunteering and lottery. "I would like to see in games, at least, a wider opportunity to experiment with that system of election. I'd love to see people playing with that."

And a system like this might be a good way to address the larger problem of democratic parties making choices based on vastly different news sources: "There's a real question about how to make sure people are living with a common set of facts so they're not living in epistemologically isolating universes," as Lessig puts it. "You got people who are living in radically different worlds, and they don't even understand the same facts, so they can't even come to the same understanding."

This last point would be intriguing to model. In most games which include simulated voting, the election results are largely based on aggregate sentiment — how happy or unhappy the virtual population is with their economy, civic services, etc. — but it can't be shaped by fake news. (The Cold War-themed Tropico games, which include an ability to influence public opinion through propaganda, are a notable exception.)

Lawrence Lessig On What MMOs Can Teach Us About Real Life Politics [Wagner James Au/Seed Project]

(Thanks, Wagner James Au!)