On Demopisty

by MikkW1 min read10th Feb 20203 comments


Mechanism design
Personal Blog

There's a word missing from our vocabulary, something discussed by Vitalik Buterin and Glen Weyl in their episodes of the 80,000 Hours Podcast. I'll give this the name "Demopisty", from the Greek "Piste", meaning Trust. Demopisty is the idea that credit should originate from the people, contrasted with our current society, an Oligopisty, where trust only comes from a few people with extraordinarily high power.

Money is a concept that we made up for convenience, to make trade easier- instead of bartering a necklace for dinner, we have Liquid Trust that allows me to get my dinner without worrying about if the farmer has a need for what I have to offer. But Liquid Trust flows and pools up more for some people than others. Demopisty doesn't take away trust from those who already have trust, but gives the community as a whole the ability to put trust in places where the market might not lead it.

Quadratic funding is the quintessential embodiment of Demopisty- each person has some say in where trust goes, but ultimately it is not any individual, not a small group of people, but the community as a whole, who decides where trust goes.

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This feels useful. Do you mind expanding on the relevance to the current EA framwork?

In short, I think the effectiveness of altruism is limited in a non-demopistic society.

My perspective is that markets are a key factor in enabling things to happen. EAs are focused on promoting the social good, but current markets only promote individual benefits, not public benefits. We can either work upstream against the structure of incentives that currently exists, or we can implement systems (such as Quadratic Funding) that align incentives with the public good, thereby making our work easier and motivating more people to work on projects that the EA community values.

Thanks. I'd be very excited to see a full post considering this set of ideas as a cause area proposal, possibly using the ITN framework, if you or anyone else is up to it.

I think that the discourse in EA is too thin on these topics, and that perhaps some posts exploring the basics while considering the effects of marginal contribution might be the way to see whether we should consider them worthwhile. I think this makes this post somewhat premature, although I appreciate the suggested terminology and the succinct but informative writing.