Breakout room 2: dReps: A critique of representation based on traditional African paradigms


Slides by Mermoz Dzubang and Felicien Fotio Manfo of Wada

The 2 main democratic routes we have are: direct democracy (people vote directly) - it’s time-consuming (lots of referendums for small unimportant issues) and not v efficient, swallows a lot of resources representative democracy (people vote for representatives, who vote for laws) - reps can manoeuvre better on small issues, but don’t capture the diversity of views - they might vote AGAINST the interests of those who delegated to them.

The voting system in a modern democracy is very linear - there’s no complexity.

The African paradigm says: a system that doesn’t include complexity is doomed to failure. Linear systems are not antifragile - remove the middleman, and the system breaks. But complex systems work because if one part fails, the rest are still there.

Complexity in African context = fractals (infinitely complex patterns that are self-similar across different scales). See Ba-ila settlements in southern Zambia - layout of whole village is the same as layout of one house.

Role of a dRep (delegation representative) is to vote for things that individual voters don’t WANT to vote on. (People will vote directly for things they really care about). Usually, people don’t like to vote on loads of things.

African system is like having many breakout rooms, where people can engage where they are interested.

Representation is dynamic in the African paradigm (whereas it’s not in a trad democracy). African approach moves between knowledge-based representation and interest-based representation.

Knowledge-based representation is a contrast with typical democracies, where those making decisions are often NOT knowledgeable about the specific issue, especially not “lived-experience” type of knowledge). In a knowledge-based approach, those who decide on THIS issue will be different from those who decide on THAT issue. Those closer to the criticality of an issue make the decision cos they have more info - e.g. with a school of fish, those who are closer to the predator decide the evasion strategy - there’s no “being a senator” and having a role in every decision.

Interest-based representation means the representatives are those with a high level of interest in the topic, and are able to provoke that interest in the community

Note: Who you are, matters. You can’t represent a group you’re not part of. dReps can’t go too far towards anonymity - community needs to know who they are, what their identity is.

Also: a rep has to capture the whole complexity of the group’s beliefs. It’s about the whole identity of the group. Like a biological cell - need clarity on what the boundary of a cell is, and what is (and isn't) included in the cell.

There needs to be an identifiable “culture of Cardano” so we have an identity. But there will also be subcultures within that.


Question: Identity: people have to know who someone is before they can be confident to choose them as a rep; but in Blockchain, often we don’t want identity in the traditional sense. How do we deal with this? Can we be a dREP as a group? An individual can be personally attacked, but in a group, less so. Answer: People knowing who you are is not always comfortable. But in the society I grew up in, the leaders were well known. I have a hard time imagining things otherwise. Answer: You can’t be a dRep without some level of exposure of who you are. But it could work if there’s a group of people - a subculture within the Cardano culture, not just a group of random individuals - so you can conserve a certain level of anonymity. But the people within the group do need to know each other - this is possible if they are physically near to each other, but if not, maybe it doesn’t work.

Question: In complex systems, how do we know who is knowledgeable about a specific decision? Answer: In Africa when we want to create a culture, and transmit it, we have schools. People discuss at a level appropriate to what they know (e.g. by age). To do this in Cardano, we need lots of discussions, and maybe a system that tracks who was present; what level of information someone has been exposed to; what they know; how much time they have spent on a topic. Just the time you put in, even passively listening, is important. We could use "amount of time put in" to determine someone's influence - maybe thoise who have put in more time get more time to express their view, even if it doesn’t give them more decision-making power (altho maybe that as well).

Question: So it’s like a contribution system based on time? Answer: Yes. We need a way to verify people’s level of experience. If we think of it like a village, maybe it’s easier. Answer: Cardano is a complex system. We need some criteria for affinity (bounded context around specific interests), which could weigh in on how we define interest and skill. We need to identify what we do here on the ground, the money and resources a person puts into the system; and we need to form small groups around interests. If, for example, someone goes to lots of different Town Halls and presents things - how do we capture all these contributions? Taking knowledge from African systems for how to do this, and applying them here, is because they work - they have been tested over centuries, it’s rock-solid.

Question: When we look at Africa’s traditional governance structures, the chiefs and village leaders - if we had not adopted Western / foreign patterns of governance, we wouldn’t be in the mess we’re in! Answer: Yes. One of the biggest advantages of our traditional fractal systems is, we can easily reach consensus in small groups. Once you have your identity in place, your shared experience, you can discriminate on what is helpful for the community and what is not. The stronger the subculture and its values, the easier it is to define what is right for us, and what is not - people will be quick to analyse, and quick to reach decisions, because they see eye to eye, and the ground-base for making that decision is the same - experientially people are coming from the same standpoint, so consensus decision making is more efficient, rather than all this branching out and then trying to align. Answer: More important even than the size of the group, is having an affinity of interest. People that do the same thing, come together (proverb).


In Africa, let’s put on our traditional lens to look at dREPs. There needs to be affinity: groups where people have the same level of information and background, and can reach consensus.

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