Audrey, thanks so much for your time and providing an inspiring model in difficult times. Really appreciate it, and congratulations on all the great work you’re doing there.
Very interesting. Pol.is and then any other software you’re working on, any other apps to watch out for? Anything that’s being brought into your processes?
That’s interesting, because that deals with the problem of you hand people $1,000, and then they don’t spend it. It creates the velocity of money, which is what you want.
Are there new elements to the system? What innovations are you looking towards, and how many of them are going to be applicable to this global situation we’re heading into?
I’m curious, as you go forward, what systems are you working on now? What developers are you working with? Are you still working with the pol.is people?
My final question is, we talked about pol.is. We focused on that a lot more in the previous interview, the nuts and bolts of that, for any listeners who want to go back and look at this decision-making software, consensus-building decision-making software.
Which countries are doing that? Are you able to say?
Two final questions. Which countries do you see reaching out, saying, “We see that you’ve had this amazing success, and your social order isn’t breaking down. People seem to be on more less the same page about what to do. We’d like to learn from you, and we’d like to ...
Is this something people are discussing? What’s going on in the rest of the world, and how does Taiwan see that?
I just think are there national conversations going on at the moment tooting your own horn, as it were, comparing what’s happened in Taiwan to…? I feel like this must generate some national pride.
Just for listeners who aren’t aware, Taiwan is the closest country to China, and seven deaths total, free public healthcare. This is a model I think everybody should be…Britain has free public healthcare, but somehow has been completely incompetent in dealing with getting people in and protecting people.
That software was developed in conjunction with open source developers, or is it something you do as the government?
I’ve heard a few things. I know you’ve got this digital fencing system.
One of the things I wanted to ask you was just to go through the concrete ways that you managed to…With an early shutdown, an early response to the news coming out of China, what form did that response take?
Obviously, seven is a tragedy, but in the UK, I think it’s edging in on 60,000. This is a tragedy on an unimaginable scale, one that governments seem to be doing their best to just spin it is what they’re doing.
Let me just tell listeners, as far as I know so far, Taiwan has had – as far as when I last checked – seven deaths from COVID-19.
Does this need to have a fresh revolution in order for these ideas to work, or do you see it being something that could be implemented piecemeal?
The US government with their “intelligence community,” the deep state, all these ideas. I guess my question is can you see the old governments – and I mean the British government, even older – implementing these types of feedback loops into its processes without being forced to? [laughs]
I can’t remember what it was like, Blacklist, or Under Cover, or something. The results didn’t seem to represent what people felt they’d voted for. You have this sense of these old, old machineries, like Democrat Party, Republican Party.
Is this something that’s only possible in a new democracy which has had a fresh revolution? For example, in the United States, we saw this deeply, deeply sketchy voting process at the Democratic primaries, where there was this software made by some company with some deeply suspicious-sounding name.
Yet we’re in the opposite loop in many other countries in the world. We’re in exactly the opposite loop. It makes me wonder whether when I see…Again, it’s like this sense that you’re in a new universe.
It’s another feedback loop, isn’t it? It’s a little bit like a game theory thing, where as I suspect, the more you do things like this as a government, and people see this demonstration of good faith, they’re then more likely to believe you the next time round.
Let’s face it, we’re in a crisis, and the outcomes look pretty bad. I think this epistemic crisis is absolutely central to it.
Do you have ideas on how that would look? I think we’re reaching the point now where we’re in serious trouble. If we don’t start evolving some systems to do similar things, I don’t really see…
Do we need to evolve some system like that globally?
I guess what I’m wondering is, is anybody exploiting those loops? Have you experienced any bad actors in there trying to get inside the loops and corrupt them in any way?
Early Bateson, he’s thinking about how you can improve societies by creating feedback loops between the power structure and the civics. It’s like a constant loop, which is what you’re saying, is it’s improving democracy. It’s improving consensus-building.
Have any of your processes been hijacked? You’ve got a lot of open, or more open processes. Essentially, what you’re saying, it reminds me of Gregory Bateson’s ideas from the 1940s, the essential idea of cybernetics.
Connected question. One of the other big infodemic vectors is people accusing each other of being bots, of being manipulated by some external forces. An idea creeps in, and then you hear someone say, “Oh, well, this is the evil World Health Organization.” Or that you can’t believe this, because ...
My question is, A, have you had, or are you having similar conspiracy theory epistemological-level issues in Taiwan, and if not, why not?
You mentioned one piece of infodemic, which is this idea that too much toilet paper was going to eat into the mask production and causing people to stock…That seems a very benign piece of conspiratorial thinking, of panic thinking.
In the United States, you’ve got plenty of people just refusing to wear masks, because they say, “Well, pick your poison. COVID, it doesn’t exist. It exists, but it’s no more serious than the flu. It’s a Democrat hoax,” blah, blah, blah.
In the UK, we’ve seen people burning down 5G masts. I think Vodafone alone had had 14 masts burned down because people believing that 5G activates various things, activates coronavirus, or is causing radiation sickness.
Of course. Look, I think we’ve reached a moment now we could describe as some kind of epistemic crisis, a crisis of knowledge, a crisis of what I hear people calling sense-making in the West.
You used the word infodemic. When you’re using the word infodemic, what do you mean by that?
There’s nobody else, as far as I know, who’s been able to do this. Are you thinking again this is emerging from the revolutionary moment still? This is that same spirit of bootstrap government?
We see this type of quick iteration. This sounds like stuff companies could do. Twitter could do this, or Facebook could do something like this and do it fast, or Google. To hear a government doing it, it’s just unheard of.
I’m listening to you talk, and like I say, it just sounds like you’re in a different universe, where these seem like the type of innovations that…We see this type of innovation in Silicon Valley.
You don’t know where that came from? You don’t know which country that participant was from? It sounds like a Chinese, sounds like a social credit system. It sounds like a social capital.
Tell me about that. Tell me first, how are you using pol.is? Briefly, what’s important about it? Are you able now to say what it is about pol.is that is enabling consensus to form, and how are you using it in the COVID situation?
We’ve talked about this previously, but I want to come back to it. One of the systems you’re using is this pol.is, P-O-L-dot-I-S.
I think what you’re saying is that the deliberate processes that were experimented with then have been incorporated into the DNA of government as it went forward from the revolutionary moment.
Basically, if I am understand, after the Sunflower revolution in Taiwan, when was that now, 2014, 2013?
My second “How the fuck?” question is how and why are you able to take feedback from a Reddit-like forum, PTT, and quickly absorb it into your governmentality? What is the context behind that? Why is that able to happen? Do you have thoughts on why it’s not able to ...
People chat. At some point, they get the chance to vote. Then they vote, and there appears to be a more or less complete detachment between the people who were voted for, the representatives, and the populace, who go on chatting.
And governmentality. Let’s say in the West, generally speaking, what you see is an almost complete division between what people are talking about in the social forums and then the electoral process and governmentality.
My second question relates to this relationship between the Reddit-like message board, PTT?
What differs? Is it just the fact that you had this huge problem with SARS in 2003, right? Or are there other reasons why you’re able to act coherently?
The first “How the fuck?” Why were you able to respond so quickly? Sure, you had the information, but other people had the information.
In the West and in many countries, people just launched into a series of arguments. “It could never happen here,” etc., etc.