Rather than defining Social Technology, let’s jump right in. Our society implements various social algorithms. Most are poor ones, poorly implemented. We need to design new ones. But what are social algorithms? Some examples:
- Coin Toss
When there is no other acceptable way of making a decision, toss a coin.
- Divide and Choose
Either person, selected by coin toss, cuts the cake, the other chooses the slice. The person cutting the cake will try to make a fair division.
- Best Player to Weakest Team
In sports, it is best if all teams start out roughly equal. To ensure this, at the end of the season, the poorest team gets first choice of new players.
- Secret Ballot
People are subject to social pressure to vote a certain way. This may include bribery and threats of violence. To have a fair election, do not allow anyone to see how a person votes.
These are examples of some good social algorithms, ones which work. What about ones which don’t work?
- Unanimous Verdict
If a jury contains a strong personality on only one side of an issue, the other jurors are often under extreme social pressure to agree with that person’s opinion.
- First Past the Post
In a multi-party election, the person with the highest number of votes is elected, even if the overwhelming majority of voters actually voted against that person.
- Two Party System
The only system in which a First Past the Post rule works is a two party system. But this makes the space of political opinons one-dimensional.
- Poorest Person gets Cheapest Lawyer
The legal system is biased against the poor. Someone without the money to pay for a good lawyer is much more likely to be convicted or lose a lawsuit.
- Incorporation to Limit Liability
By the simple act of becoming a corporation, people offering professional services are able to limit their liability to the value of that corporation, avoiding personal responsibility for their mistakes.
Unfortunately these bad social algorithms form the legal and political basis for our society. We need people to invent and implement new social algorithms to replace the bad ones. For this purpose, I have created a project, the Social Systems Project, which expands on work I have been doing myself for many years. Whether or not anyone takes an interest in this project may depend on my ability to persuade people that there can be a solution to the world’s problems. Several people I know are all out of optimism and believe that the future is bleak. I am one of those who believes in the power of technology. For a long time my main concern has been social technology, which I believe does offer a true solution to the world’s problems. My new website, Making Society Work is devoted to ways of making human society a success, with an emphasis on social technology.