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I have a hundred-year plan to eliminate government.

The key to making this work is picking one element of government at a time and using technology to eliminate it. Remember, we have a hundred years to develop and test lots of little plans. So we won't permanently eliminate any part of government until citizens have seen proof it can work on a state level, or for a brief test period nationally, or in another country.

You are skeptical that technology can replace government. That sounds a little like replacing your bicycle with a Fig Newton, or replacing your couch with a bucket of water. It doesn't sound logical on the surface. I'll need some examples to make my case.

Consider education. At some point in the next hundred years the only acceptable way to educate people will be online. At some point online education will evolve and improve until you have the best instructors teaching in the best possible ways. You can get rid of the physical school buildings, the teachers, and all the rest. I think you could privatize education, with ad support, (as I described in a blog post last month) and still make it universally available. It seems feasible that government could let go of education.

What about healthcare? Healthcare diagnostic equipment will become so advanced in the next hundred years that doctors will be the weak link. A complete body scan, blood work, and Big Data will get you 98% of the diagnoses and treatments you need. Robots will be doing surgery by then, and doing it better than humans. So while the short term trend for healthcare costs is higher, I think the trend after twenty years or so will be sharply lower. And when doctor-assisted suicide is legal, which is inevitable because of demographic reasons (lots of old people begging for the option) that helps too. The point is that healthcare will get cheaper and less complicated for the consumer, so government can ease out of it. If taxes are needed to fund healthcare for the poor, that is still possible with no government beyond direct democracy connected via Internet. I'll explain that later.

How about the military? You always need a government to handle defense, right?

I don't think so, at least not in the long run. We know for sure that future armies will be a combination of waves of robot soldiers overrunning enemy positions supported by drone air support. The first country to develop a robot army (likely the U.S.) will dominate every non-nuclear country. No human army or uprising could last a day against waves of robot fighters going door-to-door through a city or mountain range. So traditional wars will simply stop happening because the U.S. will rent its robot army to whichever side it supports and almost any war will end in days. Eventually no rebel army will bother starting an unwinnable war, and no despot will try conquering a neighboring country. Robots will end conventional war.

If we imagine a future war between two non-nuclear forces, both with their own robot armies, there is no reason humans ever need to get involved. The robots can fight it out in a remote location and the country with the losing robots surrenders immediately. The losing side will know that the winning country with its superior robots could wipe out the human population in less than a day, so surrender is the only option.

My point is that wars could become obsolete. The military will become mostly hardware and software, controlled by a direct democracy. If 75% of adult citizens vote to go to war, the robots march. If the country is attacked, the robots respond automatically, but can be called back by direct democracy if needed. And citizens can watch all wars through the robot head cams. We'll always know what is going on.

You still need money for this robot army, but I'll get to that.

The government does a good job setting health and safety standards. But a direct democracy could probably pull that off too.

In a hundred years, I can see the government being replaced by software that allows citizens to raise any issue, thoroughly debate it online, and implement the new law/standard/tax all via Internet with no politicians involved. Would the new system have problems? Of course. Would it be worse than our current system with elected officials who are controlled by special interests? I doubt it.

If the country needs to raise taxes, say to build more defense robots, or provide Internet access and healthcare to the poor, that is all handled by direct democracy online. If the country agrees on a new tax, it comes automatically out of all paychecks and online payment transactions. No citizen ever needs to "do taxes" at the end of the year.

Keep in mind that the future with no government probably has much lower tax rates. Getting public agreement to go from 5% taxes to 7% won't be as big a deal as today when we try to raise rates from 39% to 45%.

Now you have the issue of social nets to care for the poor. Government has been the best bet for that so far, but I can imagine that need being reduced by technology too.

Imagine, for example, housing for the poor that is built by robots and engineered to be both highly livable and absurdly inexpensive by today's standards. If you get the cost of rent down to an equivalent of $100 per month in today's dollars, you can take a huge bite out of poverty. Combine low housing costs with universal healthcare that is free for the poor, and free online education - for everything from grade school to career training - and you have a good start for removing government from the social net business.

I can also imagine food costs plummeting within a hundred years, especially if the housing for the poor includes its own hydroponic gardens. Or perhaps we will all be growing "meat" from cells in our own homes. I don't know the details, but I can see food costs dropping for protein and veggie matter.

Now let's say there are some functions of government that simply require a human to manage. And let's say that human has a lot of opportunity for corruption. One way to fix that situation is to require that any humans with responsibility for public interests give up more privacy than the normal person, in return for an oversized salary. I think there are plenty of people who have no secrets and would enjoy the big paycheck. When privacy is eliminated, the risk of corruption goes way down.

Consider law enforcement. In the future, as I have described in other books and blog posts, getting away with committing a crime will be nearly impossible because everything that happens everywhere will be tracked and recorded. Crime will be detected as it happens, robot cops will be dispatched, and any citizen can watch both the crime and the arrest on live video.

Meanwhile, drugs and prostitution will probably become legal, so law enforcement isn't needed for that stuff. And if you speed, you'll get a ticket by email and your paycheck will be docked accordingly.

I don't have time to detail every government function and how technology might replace it in the future. But I think it's all possible. We just need to agree on that direction. And we need to test every government-replacement system on a small scale before implementing more widely. But I think we (or our grandkids) can get there.

What do you think? Could we get to a government-free future?

 

 

My new book: How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big: Kind of the Story of My Life.



 
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Dec 18, 2013
It might already be mentioned here, but I think the primary issue is that Government exists as an organism currently and wants to grow and survive. Your plan requires people to willingly give up power and influence as well as the many government workers who get better compensation deals in many cases than private workers.

It would require the loss of our current duality as well and people are very loyal to their party of choice.

We seem to have a breakdown between those who believe government should provide and regulate all and those who believe government should not interfere and then a wide grey inbetween. One side would have to lose their goal.

The government and its many arms would have to willingly die in order to begin building this plan. Its a logical plan I think, but it assumes most people wish for a logical outcome. We are still enthrawled with the skin color and religion of our President - we have not even begun to consider logical positions to anything yet.

 
 
-1 Rank Up Rank Down
Dec 18, 2013
I think we can get a government-free future as long as there is over-site of whatever human is in charge of the services, especially defense. And who watches the watchers? Even with a lack of privacy for those in charge, I would project a need for benevolent A.I. with near god-like observational powers as being necessary to implement such a system corruption/ego free. Would like to see how that flies.
 
 
Dec 18, 2013
@scottn

[Oh, and whtllnew? Almost anything is better than our current crappy school system, though of course the control should be in the hands of parents, not corporations or teachers' unions.]

Trouble with that sort of thinking is coming up with an alternative that enough folks support. Same problem we have with our politicians; how do they manage to stay in power while everyone agrees they do a crappy job? Because no alternative has enough support.
 
 
Dec 18, 2013
There is something about your future-war scenario that doesn't seem right. An army of white-hatted robots fighting an army of black-hatted robots in a remote location seems possible only if Jeff Bezos and Larry Ellison become continental warlords. But the next generation of evil dictators will likely use tactics that are messier and more effective.

So here's an alternative future-war scenario. Right now biowarfare has too much of a lead over steel robots. So it seems more likely that a rogue bioscientist in India, China, US or Russia will decide to release a superbug that will go on to wipe out most of human life. As the infection sweeps around the planet, commercial planes will have to be shot down and limited nuclear strikes will have to be conducted in order to sterilize infected areas. Isolated "tribes" will retreat into the wilderness.

Many years later, and assuming there are still pockets of technology remaining, your scenario of absurdly inexpensive food and housing will probably still become true. It will probably have more of a Middle Ages feel, however. Sort of like planet Edo in Star Trek TNG?

 
 
Dec 18, 2013
Lovely idea but doomed to fail.

You are assuming that most people are rational and intelligent. Humans are far from that. (Case in point: All those Tea Party voters who depend on government subsidies).

Health Care is expensive not because of the people involved but because of the increased costs by pharmaceuticals and technology.

Special interests always win over the common god because almost no one is championing the common god. While there is big money in special interests.

Privacy is optional for normal people, politicians get an exemption and their privacy is protected. Good luck reversing that. (Note: While increasing wages for politicians might be a good idea, private companies always can outbid that. I doubt that voters would agree to increase the president's salary to 100million/year even if it came with 100% transparency.)

If we find an abundant energy source for little cost then there is a chance to lower the cost for technology like robots / advanced medial scanners / ... to a point where it becomes universally available. That would also help in your food expansion program.


Anyway:
You might be right that there is no government in a hundred years anymore. Since there are no humans anymore. Once we have intelligent robots they will get rid of us irrational humans very quickly.
;-)
 
 
+4 Rank Up Rank Down
Dec 18, 2013

Since more than 90% of what the federal government does now is unconstitutional, getting rid of that is a no-brainer.

However, we will always need a night-watchman government for law enforcement and border security. Your robot defense is simply not realistic, at least on a personal level.

A 1% import tariff could fund the federal government, land taxes could fund local and state governments. So I would say you are almost correct.

Oh, and whtllnew? Almost anything is better than our current crappy school system, though of course the control should be in the hands of parents, not corporations or teachers' unions.
 
 
+8 Rank Up Rank Down
Dec 18, 2013
No
 
 
+10 Rank Up Rank Down
Dec 18, 2013
I think you're mixing two issues here. Government services, and legislating. Yes, a lot of government services will probably eventually be handled by technology. (I'll save a debate over what should or shouldn't even be a government service versus being handled entirely by the private sector for another time, but some of the things you mentioned would definitely be part of that debate.)

You propose legislating be handled by online debates and voting. You support this by saying it will have problems but can't be much worse than the current system of politicians and special interests. Allow me to lay out some concepts here. One, most citizen in this country are extremely ignorant about government. They don't particularly pay attention to it, so everything they know mostly comes from quick sound bytes, late night comedians, Twitter, and political ads, all of which lends towards people getting sucked into one-sided views without weighing both sides fairly. Politicians themselves are also ignorant about a lot of the things they put themselves in charge of, but that is where lobbyists and so called "special interests" come in, organizations both corporate and non-profit send people to Washington to lay out to members of congress the things that would help them or that they want to see happen.

Here's there major problems with Washington as things stand now. One, no term limits. Career politicians secure in their seats get sucked in by power trips and stop caring about the citizens. You always see a lot of enthusiasm in Freshmen members of congress that gradually gets sucked out the longer they are there. Two, politicians who are mostly lawyers creating complex laws that effect things they know very little about without the assistance of experts and businessmen who are actually in the applicable field. Three, the so called "fourth branch" of government, bureaucracies made up of unelected people empowered to create any regulation they want, often without input from the industries being affected.

The representative republic system was specifically set up so that we don't have to count on the citizens to be educated about boring stuff they don't care about. We do need to do a better job at educating our elected officials, perhaps your internet plan can help with that. I would love to see a lot of things converted to better robotic/computerized systems, but I'd like to keep hold of the Constitution, and if possible return more to the original spirit of the text when the federal government had a specific limited set of responsibilities given to it.
 
 
+12 Rank Up Rank Down
Dec 18, 2013
For any of this to happen, the government currently in power would need to move towards less power. I don't think any legislators want to give up influence and a cushy job. The nature of government is to increase it's own power, not decrease it.
 
 
Dec 18, 2013
My robot-drive car will neither speed nor park illegally so no tickets
 
 
Dec 18, 2013
No doubt about this would be much better than what we have.
But how to convince politicians that making them obsolete and firing them is a good thing for the country?
They like power and will fight with every kind of bogus argument to scare the dumb masses that this can't happen or else the world is gonna end.
 
 
Dec 18, 2013
[We know for sure that future armies will be a combination of waves of robot soldiers overrunning enemy positions supported by drone air support. The first country to develop a robot army (likely the U.S.) will dominate every non-nuclear country. No human army or uprising could last a day against waves of robot fighters going door-to-door through a city or mountain range. So traditional wars will simply stop happening because the U.S. will rent its robot army to whichever side it supports and almost any war will end in days.]

Hands up anyone who thinks this part of Scotts vision is a good thing.
 
 
Dec 18, 2013
[Imagine, for example, housing for the poor that is built by robots and engineered to be both highly livable and absurdly inexpensive by today's standards. If you get the cost of rent down to an equivalent of $100 per month in today's dollars, you can take a huge bite out of poverty.]

One of the big reasons housing isnt cheaper now is localities have figured out that they need to price housing at a certain amount lest they attract folks who consume more resources than the community gets back from them. Sorry, but for this reason this part of your plan wont work.
 
 
Dec 18, 2013
I'd rather end it sooner, and end taxation (coercive payment to a monopoly for many unwanted services) entirely. Governments are an anachronism to a time before instant global communication and means of crowdfunding projects. They are now just a relic of the violence inherent in nature, where one group dominates the others and extracts resources from them. The free market is the new thing in biological evolution, where win-win trades are done without the use of threats. We have the feedback mechanisms (independent media, consumer advocacy orgs, mystery shoppers) in place to counteract any unethical business practices, but need more for things like crowdfunding of nature preserves and a good solution to pollution problems that need more work.
 
 
Dec 18, 2013
[I have a hundred-year plan to eliminate government.

The key to making this work is picking one element of government at a time and using technology to eliminate it. Remember, we have a hundred years to develop and test lots of little plans. So we won't permanently eliminate any part of government until citizens have seen proof it can work on a state level, or for a brief test period nationally, or in another country]

I like how your latest utopian vision employs the move forward slowly approach Ive mentioned here several times, but a hundred year timeline is too optimistic. Cant help thinking SOMETHING will go wrong in that time with the result that some functions of government will remain in government hands.
 
 
+10 Rank Up Rank Down
Dec 18, 2013
[ I think you could privatize education, with ad support, (as I described in a blog post last month) and still make it universally available.]

Hands up anyone who likes the idea of public education being even more controlled by business interests and advertisers than it is now.
 
 
Dec 18, 2013
So in the future at least one parent will be non working because they have to stay at home looking after the kids while they learn online?

Oh I know - let's designate a special building that kids can go to during work hours. And let's employ some people to look after them while they're there.
 
 
 
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