RE: External reference semantics

From: Thomas Buckner (
Date: Fri May 28 2004 - 00:25:41 MDT

--- Ben Goertzel <> wrote:
> Who defines the voting scheme across all sentients?
> Is it consensus or
> majority rules? What about the potential for
> tyranny of the majority?
> The manipulability of democratic systems is pretty
> clear...
> ben g
> An 'external referent' to "*my* friends conception
> of Friendliness"
> cannot be fully external because they are *my*
> friends. What if you
> take out the self-referential bit and make the
> external referent as
> close to fully universal as you can get ie. "Your
> supergoal content is
> an approximation to [ friendliness as would be
> maximally acceptable to
> all sentients everywhere ]
> This is a bit like a super goal with external
> referent: "Do unto others
> as they would have you do unto them (while not
> turning yourself into a
> slave!)".
> Cheers, Philip

I have been trying to work out a system I call the
Random Mandarin which would be a debugged form of
democracy. Some science-fiction writers have suggested
ideas of this sort, but not gone into much detail that
I know of. Here's a brief rundown of how it would

In an Random Mandarin system, policy-setting
public-servant jobs would be completely separate from
career civil-servant jobs. One could actively pursue a
career position, but such positions would never set
policy, only carry made by Random Mandarins.

Policy-making positions in the United States today
include the President, his Cabinet, the Congress, the
Supreme Court, state legislatures, other judicial
positions, mayors, and so on. These are either elected
officials or appointed by elected officials. The
system is now completely rotten. Clean campaigns are
inherently impossible. Elections are routinely stolen.
Money buys power. I like to say that our system
selects candidates for their ability to be selected.
They don't have to be any good at the actual job, they
just have to be good at getting and keeping it.
A Random Mandarin government would have much the same
organizational structure as now, but Presidents,
Representatives, Senators, etc. would not be elected.
No elections would ever be held again. Instead each
job would be filled at random from qualified
applicants in something like a jury pool. Getting into
the pool for higher positions would require a
certificate that one has passed minimum requirements
of sanity and education. Terms of office would not
necessarily need to be changed, but new rules to make
it easier to oust incompetents might be needed. I have
not decided how repeat terms should be handled. One
does not wish to show talented leaders the door after
only one term, but one does not wish to have Jesse
Helmses hanging around for decades either.
One-term-only rules might be necessary if the
retention issue opens the door for corruption.
The selection process would need to be jealously
guarded against manipulation, to keep it truly random.
State lottery games seem to provide a model. And it
would have to be highly illegal to tamper with the
selection system. I am even tempted to suggest that
the Constitution be amended to read that the Random
Mandarin system be permanent and irrevocable, to guard
against attempts to revive older, discredited methods.

Under a Random Mandarin system, political parties and
power blocs would wither. Office holders would be
beholden to neither public opinion nor private
interest and would truly vote their conscience. They
might wish to steer pork toward their home districts,
but their jobs would not depend on it. The most one
could do to influence them is sheer persuasion.
Under present rules, tyranny of the majority is the
rule. If you are a liberal living in a very
conservative district (or vice versa), you will never
get elected to the House. Under a Random Mandarin
system, it is merely improbable. Recently I saw an
example of the tyranny of the majority in a driveway.
People living in the District of Columbia do not have
congressional representatives, since D.C. is neither a
state nor a territory. The Republicans have opposed
all efforts to create a seat for a D.C. representative
since this very black district would surely send a
Democrat. Congress as a whole administers the
government of the District and does so in a
parsimonious way. The slogan on a D.C. license plate
which I saw reads: Taxation Without Representation.
Well, anyway. I am convinced that a system like the
Random Mandarin, engineered to remove all possible
avenues of corruption, would yield better government
for all humans; its only serious flaw is that I see no
way to get it installed. The people who make the
decisions now would have none of it.
Tom Buckner


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